In the space of four years, the NBA has welcomed two UFOs to embody the future face of the league, with Zion Williamson in 2019, then Victor Wembanyama in 2023, who will face each other for the second time this season this evening, in San Antonio.
Their remote duel should be closely scrutinized again, particularly by Tre Jones, which has the particularity of having played with these two physical phenomena. Only Devonte' Graham has also played with both players, but Tyus Jones' little brother is the only one to have started a match alongside them, in 2018/19 at Duke for Zion Williamson, and this season with San Antonio for “Wemby “.
The leader is therefore well placed to discuss the potential of these two phenomena, both impressive and extraordinary, while each having their own specificities. For Zion Williamson, it was his domination at the physical level at the university level that logically impressed him the most.
“The speed he had, his explosiveness… Some of the things he did were crazy and probably even crazier than some of the things he did when he was still in high school.”, he remembered. “It was just incredible. We can't really explain what he was doing on the pitch. It was just his athleticism and his strength and everything else at the same time.”
For Victor Wembanyama, beyond his size, it is the Frenchman's playing intelligence and his way of thinking which made a greater impression on him, from his first training sessions alongside him this summer.
“I think what struck me the most was his way of thinking about the game. You can give him the ball anywhere on the pitch, he reads the pitch very well,” he added. “He sees the cuts, the open guys, he sees the two-hander coming right away. Even though the game is a little different, he’s able to have that level of thinking at a very high level.”
The two also have similarities, and for Tre Jones, from his point guard position, there is notably this ability to position himself perfectly in the air, to catch a pass and finish. Or in defense to go for improbable counterattacks. Like when “Wemby” recently invented the “no-look block”, by blocking Tre Jones’ brother, Tyus, during the last game against Washington, without looking!
A similar way to position yourself in the air
“I don't think there was a single time at Duke where I threw him a lob and Zion didn't catch it. It's the same for Victor. Of course he is already very tall, but he has this ability to spot the ball in the air and catch it. No matter where he is, no matter who is around him, he manages to get the ball, one way or another.”he continued, before mentioning this famous “no-look block” in front of his brother. “He didn't know where his player was, so he turned to find him, and then he didn't see the shot go, but he raised his hand and still managed to block it with the other side. We’ve never seen that before.”
Tre Jones also noted the shared ability of the two players to put themselves at the service of the collective.
“They know they can dominate the game in so many different ways, and still, they're able to make others shine sometimes, depending on how the opposing defense defends on them, how much attention they get on the field, or the two-person takes that we're going to send them. Instead of forcing, they will know how to make the right choice to put the team in a position to win.”
During the first opposition, the Pelicans of Zion Williamson (15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists in 26 minutes) had largely won over the Spurs of Victor Wembanyama (17 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks in 31 minutes). And this evening, while the Frenchman seems to be improving visibly?
How to read the stats? MJ = matches played; Min = Minutes; Shots = Successful shots / Attempted shots; 3pts = 3-points / 3-points attempted; LF = free throws made / free throws attempted; Off = offensive rebound; Def=defensive rebound; Tot = Total rebounds; Pd = assists; Fte: Personal fouls; Int = Intercepts; Bp = Lost balls; Ct: Against; Pts = Points.