NBA favorites in the first season of the Wembanyama era.. but his team is far behind

The Frenchman from the San Antonio Spurs is the big news in the League, but his team is far from the level of the teams from Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee and, above all, Boston

The Frenchman from the San Antonio Spurs is the big news in the League, but his team is far from the level of the teams from Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee and, above all, Boston
NBA Celtics Wembanyama

San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama, in the opening jump with Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, last Friday.

The image of the NBA preseason was left by the opening jump of the game between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs last Friday. Stephen Curry, the point guard who has turned the Warriors into the most successful team of the last decade, faced Victor Wembanyama, the new sensation of the league. A player of 1.88 meters compared to another of more than 2.22. He was somewhat of a joke, but it could also be interpreted as a symbol of a change of era. Although both will attract attention in the season that begins this Tuesday, Curry’s best years seem to be behind him and Wembanyama’s may still take a while to arrive. With the permission of Nikola Jokic, who led the Denver Nuggets to their first title in June, this is presented as the year for the Celtics, favorites of bets and experts, who have not won the ring since 2008.

The NBA has had five different champions in the last five seasons (Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets) and none had been the best in the regular phase. Without a clear dominator, any prediction runs the risk of being derailed, but the preseason games, with all their limitations, have allowed us to glimpse the power of the Celtics with their signings.

Newcomers to Boston, center Kristaps Porzingis, and point guard Jrue Holiday, are good three-point shooters, as is the team’s star, Jayson Tatum; his squire, Jaylen Brown, and the other two who aspire to a position in the starting quintet: Al Horford and Derrick White. This gives them great versatility in attack that joins their rocky defense. And although they have lost Marcus Smart, Grant Williams, Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams, the team still has a depth of wardrobe.

The survey of general managers of NBA clubs places the Celtics as favorites along with the champions, the Denver Nuggets of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. The managers are betting on Jokic as a candidate for best of the season. He also tops the list of those they would want to sign if they could choose among all the players in the NBA.

The second on that list is the Frenchman Wembanyama, the number 1 in the draft, called to mark an era in the league. He is a center taller than 2.22 meters with the agility of a point guard. In preseason games he has shown himself to be a relentless blocker, with a good scoring average and an acceptable 3-point shot. On offense he has felt more comfortable playing as a tall forward than as a post player. The San Antonio Spurs don’t give him a team with options. What he can aspire to is to be the first newcomer in the draft to play in an All-Star game since 1998, when another Spurs player did it: Tim Duncan.

10 can't-miss Victor Wembanyama games in 2023-24 |

Wembanyama is the most notable addition to the NBA, but the star signing of the summer has been Damian Lillard, 33 years old and seven-time All Star, who after a long career with the Portland Trail Blazers comes to the Milwaukee Bucks to be able to fight for a title. With Antetokounmpo as leader, the Bucks are the third in contention among the favorites after a disappointing end to the season in which they finished as the best in the regular phase to fall in the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat. In fact, with the signing of Lillard, they seemed the favorites, but the consequence of that transfer was that their player Jrue Holiday, given to Portland as part of the price, ended up in Boston.

In addition to Lillard and Holiday and Porzingis (Boston), the other notable signing is that of Bradley Beal for the Phoenix Suns, the main alternative to Denver in the Western Conference with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker at the helm. Bradley Beal leaves the Washington Wizards (who have also lost Porzingis and in which Jordan Poole will be their star) and now aspires to make the leap with the Suns, who may miss Chris Paul (Warriors), DeAndre Ayton ( Portland) and Cameron Payne (Bucks).

Las opciones por detrás de esos cuatro equipos punteros son menores, especialmente en el este, que parece cosa de dos. Los Philadelphia 76ers tienen a James Harden en rebeldía (no se descarta un traspaso de última hora), con lo que Joel Embiid, proclamado mejor jugador de la pasada temporada, se quedaría muy solo. Los Miami Heat fueron la sorpresa la temporada pasada de la mano de su entrenador, Erik Spoelstra, considerado el mejor del campeonato, y de su estrella Jimmy Butler, que se crece en las eliminatorias, pero pocos confían en que puedan repetir siquiera la hazaña de ser finalistas. Cleveland y los New York Knicks tienen cosas que decir, pero están lejos del nivel de Boston y Milwaukee. El resto, cumpliría con meterse entre los ocho primeros para llegar a las eliminatorias.

En el oeste, los Warriors y los Lakers siguen dependiendo en exceso de Stephen Curry y LeBron James, pero son candidatos a meterse en la final de su conferencia si los Nuggets o los Suns se despistan. Los de Los Ángeles acabaron en forma la pasada temporada y apenas se han renovado, mientras que los Warriors, donde ha recalado el español Usman Garuba, han traspasado a Jordan Poole y fichado a Chris Paul. Con Curry al frente y Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson y Draymond Green en el quinteto inicial, no se les puede dar por muertos antes de tiempo.

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