Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama gets an eye-opening take from Bill Simmons: ‘Ceiling is off’

The Sports Guy has spoken: Victor Wembanyama has no ceiling

San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama and The Ringer's Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons knows a thing or two about hoops. The man who is called an “NBA-hole” by frequent podcast guest Cousin Sal Iacono and wrote “The Book of Basketball” in 2009, which spent over 700 pages throughly breaking down the elaborate history of professional basketball, is one of the preeminent voices in basketball media. Simmons has devoted lord knows how much of his life thinking about the intricacies of NBA history, so when he says something along the lines of “the ceiling is off” when discussing San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama, the basketball world is instinctively going to listen.

“There’s going to be a 25 to 40% bump from rookie year stats to apex stats. Which means if you just look at his rookie season and then try to translate it, does this mean he’s gonna average like 28 (points) 17 (rebounds) and 6 (assists) with 5 blocks a game?” Simmons asked Ryen Russillo on Sunday night’s episode of the Bill Simmons Podcast, just two days removed from Wemby’s first career 40 point, 20 rebound game. “I don’t even know what the f***ing ceiling is. I just know I’ve never seen anybody like this guy before.”

Simmons went on to offer even more praise for Wembanyama, saying that Best Center Since Kareem is a reachable goal for the presumptive NBA Rookie of the Year.

“I just think that for me, the ceiling is now off. I don’t know what to expect, but if you told me he’s going to be the best center since Kareem, I would be more prone to believe that than to not believe it. So that’s going to be the number one thing I say we learned this season is he’s even a better prospect than he was hyped.”

Rookie Wemby versus the All-Time Greats 

Let’s start here, with a comparison of Victor Wembanyama to four of the greatest big men of the last forty years in each of their respective rookie seasons. As you’ll soon see, Wemby stacks up just fine against each of them. I should note that the reason why all-time greats such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell weren’t included in this exercise is because, A) Numbers from pre NBA/ABA merger are skewed because of pace and league makeup, and B) Certain stats (blocks, steals, and Box Plus/Minus) weren’t yet accounted for when Kareem, Wilt and Russell were rookies.

2023-24 Victor Wembanyama – 21.2 points, 10.5 rebounds (12th in league), 3.6 assists, 3.4 blocks (1st in league), 1.3 steals (16th in league), 23.0 PER (11th in league), 4.8 Box Plus/Minus (17th in league)

1997-98 Tim Duncan – 21.1 points (13th), 11.9 rebounds (3rd), 2.7 assists, 2.5 blocks (6th), 0.7 steals, 22.6 PER (5th), 4.6 Box Plus/Minus (13th)

1992-93 Shaquille O’Neal – 23.4 points (8th), 13.9 rebounds (2nd), 1.9 assists, 3.5 blocks (2nd), 0.7 steals, 22.9 PER (7th), 3.5 Box Plus/Minus (17th)

1989-90 David Robinson – 24.3 points (10th), 12.0 rebounds (2nd), 2.0 assists, 3.9 blocks (3rd), 1.7 steals (20th), 26.3 PER (5th), 6.9 Box Plus/Minus (6th)

1984-85 Hakeem Olajuwon – 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds (4th), 1.4 assists, 2.7 blocks (2nd), 1.2 steals, 21.1 PER (13th), 2.1 Box Plus/Minus

Slice those numbers up however you like, and you’ll come to the same conclusion that I did: what we’re seeing out of Wemby is not at all normal. Pending good health, he’ll go down as one of the most dominant and prolific centers — and players — in the history of the NBA. And as usual on matters such as this one, Bill Simmons is right… Victor Wembanyama is operating without a ceiling.

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