NBA

The NBA landscape will change as teams chase Victor Wembanyama’s dream

The NBA landscape will change as teams chase Victor Wembanyama’s dream

Zach LaVine didn’t get a chance to meet Victor Wembanyama in Paris last week.

While the Bulls point guard didn’t get to face the 19-year-old, he definitely noticed him sitting courtside at the Accor Arena.

So how could LaVine miss him?

“I had to look up there,” LaVine said Sunday, pretending to look skyward in reference to Wembanyama’s height.

Asked if he’s seen highlights of what the top prospect brings to the court, LaVine said, “Oh yeah, we all have. He’s 7-foot-5, he can shoot the ball, he can handle the ball, he’s a monster.”

Wembanyama is actually 7-2, but the point was made.

The big man is an organizational game changer. A generational talent that can turn basement dwellers into potential championship contenders and do it fast.

Wembanyama is also the reason why the landscape of the NBA is about to start changing in the coming weeks.

With the Feb. 9 trade deadline looming, this is the time of the season where teams start to show what they’re all about. Are they about to throw themselves at Wembanyama? Are they looking to make a blockbuster deal and make a career? Or could they just stick with their hands, perhaps with a depth adjustment?

All these answers are coming.

“Every year is something different, and I think we’ve seen over the last couple of years that it can change to see what teams are all doing, who’s really shallow, so we’ll see,” LaVine said. “I don’t understand what’s going to happen. One way or another it can be interesting if it starts to move.”

Veteran teammate DeMar DeRozan agreed.

“Everybody in the league is going to do what they think is best for them,” DeRozan said of the next few weeks. “It seems to me that for us we are right there. We have to take advantage of the opportunity in front of us.”

What does this mean in terms of timing? DeRozan had no idea. He doesn’t like trying to read minds. But he does know what he means to the Bulls on the court.

With Paris in the rearview mirror, the Bulls used the last few days to refocus on the business of basketball, sitting at 21-24 and in last place in the Eastern Conference. However, they are 10-6 in their last 16 games, playing some of their best basketball of the season.

This not only needs to continue, it needs to get even better.

They dug themselves into this hole, and now it’s time to start climbing. That means a quick dose of reality, hosting Atlanta on Monday, then a three-city trip with games in Indiana, Charlotte and Orlando.

“We see standings,” LaVine said. “Every one of these games ahead is important because of the circumstances we’ve put ourselves in, and we’re ready to face the challenge.”

They better be, because the Bulls aren’t in the Wembanyama draw and aren’t expected to pivot in that direction. Back in the preseason, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas set this team the goal of reaching the second round of the playoffs, and that bar has not been lowered.

The NBA landscape might be changing, but there’s a good chance that very little will with this Bulls roster.

“We’ve had an up-and-down first half of the season,” DeRozan said. “Now is the time to turn everything we’ve experienced this second half into something positive. We are right there. This week is a great opportunity to play one game at a time and write our own story. That’s all we can worry about.”





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