Former Cavs forward claps back at Victor Wembanyama for saying NBA is ‘less physical’ than European basketball

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Former Cleveland Cavaliers forward Sam Dekker questioned San Antonio Spurs No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama for saying that the NBA is “less physical” than European basketball.

Dekker has experience playing in both the NBA and overseas during his professional career. In the 2019-20 season, he played professionally in Russia and in the 2020-21 season he played in Turkey.

He then returned to the NBA in the 2021-22 season, appearing in one game with the Toronto Raptors.

Wembanyama, who played professionally in France before he was selected in the 2023 NBA Draft, had his first taste of NBA action at Summer League this offseason.

He struggled in his debut for the Spurs, shooting just 2-for-13 from the field against the Charlotte Hornets. While it was an unceremonious debut, Wembanyama quickly turned things around in his second game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

In that matchup, the French phenom scored a team-high 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field. He also added 12 rebounds, one steal and three blocks in the game.

That performance was enough for the Spurs to shut him down for the remainder of the summer so he can get ready for the 2023-24 season.

During the 2022-23 season, Wembanyama played for Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92. He appeared in 34 games, averaging 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.0 blocks per game while shooting 47.0 percent from the field.

He should be in contention for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year honors in the 2023-24 season.

While overseas basketball and the NBA certainly seem to be different, Dekker clearly believes that the idea that NBA basketball is “soft” or “easy” is incorrect.

As a player who struggled to earn a major role for a team in his NBA career, Dekker certainly knows how tough it can be.

A first-round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Dekker played for the Cavs, Raptors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Wizards in his NBA career. He appeared in nine games for Cleveland in the 2018-19 season.

It will be interesting to see if Wembanyama’s opinion of the NBA’s physicality changes once the regular season starts this fall. He has yet to face complete NBA teams as many rosters in Summer League feature players who won’t make the final roster for the 2023-24 regular season.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.