The Wemby Wave: A flood of talent from France is following Victor Wembanyama to the NBA

Victor Wembanyama took the NBA by storm long before logging his first minute in a Spurs uniform. The league streamed all of Wembanyama's games while he was playing for the Metropolitans 92 in France's LNB Pro A league, and every basketball fan knew who the 7-foot-4 unicorn was heading into the 2023 NBA Draft.

Viewership only increased on the NBA App and NBA League Pass internationally, as fans tuned in to watch Wembanyama's rookie season. He didn't disappoint, running away with the Rookie of the Year award — averaging 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.6 blocks per game — and finishing as the runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting. The Spurs were the most watched team in France this season, increasing viewership by 189%, according to NBA Communications.

Wembanyama is a generational player, and he's lived up to the hype. But his presence in the NBA has perhaps overshadowed another exciting development:

There is a wave of talent following Wembanyama out of France.

(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports Illustration)
(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports Illustration)

Last year, Wembanyama's Mets 92 teammate, Bilal Coulibaly, went No. 7 in the draft to the Washington Wizards (and he has added some muscle to his frame this offseason preparing for a breakout sophomore season). Next week, three French players could be picked in the top five of the 2024 NBA Draft: Zaccharie Risacher, a 6-8 wing who played for JL Bourg; Alex Sarr, a 7-1 center originally from France who played in Australia this past season; and Tidjane Salaun, a 6-9 wing, who played for Cholet.

Risacher and Sarr are projected to be the first two players off the board. Salaun could go anywhere from 5-12. And there is even the possibility that either Risacher or Salaun could join Wembanyama on the Spurs, who have options with the Nos. 4 and 8 picks in the draft. Meanwhile, Pacome Dadiet, a 6-8 wing and one of the youngest players in the draft, is a potential first-rounder and Melvin Ajinca, another 6-8 wing, is a second-round sleeper.

"I'm just happy to see all these French guys coming into the league," Sarr told Yahoo Sports at the draft combine. "It just shows all the potential we have in France and how good the development is overseas."

Both Risacher and Salaun played 50-plus games this season in the LNB Pro A French league, Eurocup and Basketball Champions League all the way to the end of May, giving NBA scouts and executives additional time to see them in 5-on-5 action after the lottery was set. Risacher helped lead his team to the second round of the playoffs and had one of his best games of the season against Nanterre, posting 28 points (5-for-9 from 3) and six rebounds. Salaun also played well in the playoffs for Cholet, averaging 13.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in the second round against Paris Basketball.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 28: Zaccharie Risacher of Bourg en Bresse Basket looks on during the Betclic Elite match between Paris and Bourg en Bresse Basket at Adidas Arena on April 28, 2024 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
Zaccharie Risacher is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Risacher and Salaun played in the same league that Wembanyama and Coulibaly played in leading up to the draft. They also played with and against Wembanyama at various points in their young careers. Those experiences have helped develop their decision-making, pace and physicality heading into the NBA.

“Playing against Victor growing up, he is just so different, and it was so good for my shooting just trying to shoot over him," Risacher told Yahoo Sports at Nike Hoop Summit last year. "The way we play in France and Europe is different than in America. For some of us, at 14, you can already be playing against professionals.”

Dadiet, a projected late first-round pick, played this season for Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany and has great size at 6-8, 210 pounds. Dadiet doesn't turn 19 until July and has tremendous upside stretching the floor and playing inside-out.

Ajinca isn't getting the same draft buzz as the other four players, but he produced at a high rate during the first round of the LNB Pro A playoffs against ASVEL. The cousin of former NBA player Alex Ajinca averaged 11.5 points and eight rebounds and turned the ball over only twice in 33 minutes in the playoffs.

The French talent doesn't stop with the 2024 NBA Draft class. Next year, there is a projected top-five player, point guard Nolan Traore, whom NBA scouts and executives watched at the Nike Hoop Summit in April. It was the first time the American players in a loaded 2025 NBA Draft class had a chance to play with and against him, and Traore left a lasting impression.

“Nolan Traore is the best point guard I’ve ever played with, and I learned so much from him and how he sees the game ... plus he's fast as hell," Baylor guard VJ Edgecombe told Yahoo Sports. "Every country has hoopers. It’s becoming more universal and there’s talent coming from everywhere now, not just the U.S.”

The 6-3 point guard plays for Saint-Quentin in the LNB Pro A league and capped off his season on a high note when he finished with 45 points and nine assists against Barcelona during the ANGT Finals. In a highly touted draft class that features Duke forward Cooper Flagg and Rutgers forward Ace Bailey, Traore is another French player who's slowly climbing the ranks.

Immediately following the 2024 draft, NBA scouts will travel to Istanbul, Turkey, for the U17 FIBA World Cup. Outside of the stacked U.S. team, headlined by A.J. Dybantsa and Cameron Boozer, scouts are curious to see another French prospect playing up two divisions, 6-7 wing Nathan Soliman. Soliman, who just turned 15 years old in May, is already turning heads with his ability to read the game, his passing and his upside as a perimeter shooter.

"There's a lot of young talent coming up in France, and a lot of kids now are playing basketball because of Victor and what he's doing in the NBA," Coulibaly told Yahoo Sports over All-Star Weekend in February. "It started with Tony Parker and just growing up and watching what he did in the NBA, it gave me and other players confidence that we could get there too. Now we're part of that next generation inspiring the young kids in France to chase their dreams."

Basketball fans here in the U.S. might have initially paid attention to French basketball because of Wembanyama, but it won't stop there. The domino effect, the Wemby Wave, has begun — and there will be a continual flow of elite talent hitting the NBA for years to come.