GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Derrick Rose once was the prodigy, with schools scrambling to obtain his services and then his hometown Chicago Bulls snaring him with the first overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He was the Rookie of the Year and then became the youngest player in league history to win the MVP award.
Asked what he thinks of 18-year-old French standout Victor Wembanyama, Rose shook his head.
“Amazing,” he said.
The 7-4 prodigy with small forward skills opened eyes of his soon-to-be competitors as he played two exhibition games in Las Vegas this week, scoring 37 and 36 points against the G League Ignite.
It was the way he did it — raining in three-point field goals, moving like an NBA wing and defending with the size and skills of Rudy Gobert — that has players' jaws dropping.
“That’s unreal,” RJ Barrett said. “It’s like [NBA2K], you make this giant guy and you want him to be shooting and all that stuff, and he’s doing it in real life. So it’s crazy, and then just to see how he came back and followed it up with 36, he’s definitely very talented. It’s unreal.”
Wembanyama handled himself in the spotlight and confidently spoke of his place as the certain No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, barring injury. While the hype already seems to have gotten out of hand, with teams potentially tanking for a shot at him and some touting him as the greatest prospect ever to head to the draft, he certainly seems to have everything that you could want in a young prospect.
With that comes pressure.
“Of course. But I think he has the attitude,” Rose said. “His energy is kind of different. For him to come here and not shy away from the moments — and you can look at who he is playing against, but it don’t matter. He’s not shying away. That’s what I look at it. It shows he has heart. You look up and he has 40 or 50 points on you. And plays defense. And wants to be great. It’s a feel. I think that’s what a lot of people call the ‘it’ factor. You don’t know what it is. But it’s something. Something about him outside of his game. It’s something deep where you can tell he wants to be great.''
Knicks fans may recall another player of similar size and skills — Kristaps Porzingis, who arrived in New York heralded as a unicorn.
“Yeah, but he moves different. Even from KP,” said Rose, who was with the Knicks when Porzingis came in as a rookie. “Like, all right, how [Kevin Durant] was the model 6-10 guy. But for a dude to be 7-4, 7-5, he’s like the new model for guys over 7-2. Like the way he’s moving — he’s moving like he’s a KD type of guy. You’ve never seen a guy move that light being that big. And skilled. And his feel for the game. I never saw it before.”