Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick, officially declared for the 2023 NBA draft on Friday and has submitted paperwork to the league office, he said on ESPN's "NBA Today."
"Declaring for the draft ... it's something crazy I'm not realizing yet," Wembanyama told ESPN. "I realized pretty young I wanted to play in the NBA but it becomes a reality more every day. I'm so lucky to have this dream within the reach of my hand."
Wembanyama is the most anticipated prospect since LeBron James, making the NBA draft lottery on May 15 revealing which team gets the No. 1 pick one of the biggest nights in years for the NBA's non-playoff teams and the league as a whole.
Wembanyama told ESPN in January that "there is no wrong team," when discussing the teams with the highest odds of winning the lottery and presumably selecting him first.
"I am not worried; there is no bad organization. I never tell myself I don't like to go there. Every organization is so careful about their players that there's no wrong destination."
At 7-foot-5, with an 8-foot wingspan, Wembanyama will immediately be the tallest and longest player in the NBA, but he also brings the skill set of a guard, regularly being tasked with bringing the ball up the court for his team, initiating offense and shooting 3-pointers from all over the floor. The timing, instincts and anticipation he shows defensively with his ability to cover ground fluidly and change the geometry of the game with his dimensions give him game-changing potential on that end of the floor as well.
Wembanyama is in the midst of a historic season in France, averaging 21.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 2.3 assists per game and leading the French league in virtually every statistical category despite being only 19 years old, making him the runaway favorite for MVP honors. He has surprised many by leading one of the youngest teams in the league to a 19-10 record that puts it in second place currently, potentially setting up a deep playoff run that could extend past the date of the NBA draft on June 22.
His team's decision to send starting point guard and second-leading scorer Tremont Waters home in the midst of locker room strife has only increased the amount of offensive responsibility Wembanyama has been forced to shoulder over the past few games.
Although scouts point to his gargantuan frame and the poor historical track record of players of similar build in staying healthy as the biggest concern they have for him reaching his full potential, Wembanyama has yet to miss a game this season, playing 47 consecutive contests across all competitions since September, a testament to the considerable amount of work he puts in daily on rest, recovery, activation and injury prevention.
"I've been working more than ever on my body with my personal trainer Guillaume [Alquier]," Wembanyama said. "I'm ready to go over all sorts of obstacles. So far it's worked pretty well. I haven't missed a game yet. I've been there for my guys every game.
"There's so many games in a NBA season. It's hard to play all 82 games, some players are built a certain way. Others got to rest. My goal is to play the most games I can, and help my team as much as I can."
Wembanyama's performance this season -- especially in two exhilarating exhibition games his team played in Las Vegas in October against Scoot Henderson and G League Ignite, scoring 73 points in 70 minutes -- has all but locked up the No. 1 spot in the draft for the French player. His team has five regular-season games remaining before embarking on the playoffs, which will determine how quickly he's able to arrive in the U.S.
Wembanyama's announcement that he has officially entered the NBA draft should come as a surprise to no one considering his status as the consensus No. 1 pick, but it does mark another milestone in inching him closer to his stated lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.
The NBA draft's early-entry deadline (Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET) falls exactly 60 days before the actual draft on June 22. Wembanyama's announcement comes 24 days away from when the world finds out which team will be granted the rights to the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.