Victor Wembanyama has dominated local, national, and global headlines since the San Antonio Spurs secured him with the number one overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft. And with experts labeling the 7-foot-3 teenager as the greatest prospect in basketball history, it makes sense that the club has rolled out the red carpet for him to take his rightful place as the newest face of their historic franchise.
It is no surprise that every player in the league has lived under the enormous shadow of the towering center as of late, and San Antonio's second-round selection is no exception. The Spurs have done as much as possible to welcome Sidy Cissoko, but he has still gone relatively overlooked. While he is far from the most popular Frenchman in town, fans should be ecstatic about his tantalizing upside.
Versatility is the name of the game if you want to win a championship in the association, and General Manager Brian Wright has been an open book when it comes to talking about his desire to construct a roster full of pieces that Head Coach Gregg Popovich can plug into a plethora of roles. Standing 6-foot-8 with genuine ball skills, Cissoko fits the archetype the front office is searching for, making him a worthwhile long-term investment during the next phase of their rebuild.
Cissoko is at his most dangerous when he gets a head full of steam in transition. Because he spent so much time with the ball in his hands overseas before signing with the G League Ignite, the 19-year-old forward is comfortable grabbing rebounds, weaving through traffic in the open floor, and going coast-to-coast. If no one picks him up, it's an uncontested slam. If a defender steps in his path, he can lower his shoulder, initiate contact, get to the line, or finish with either hand.
His 224-pound frame and functional handle make him a mismatch nightmare for unset defenses, but his passing chops are what set him apart from his positional peers. Sidy is a rebound-and-run threat who pushes the pace, surveys the court, and delivers dimes on a dead sprint. Whether it is a bounce pass between bodies, midair wraparound, or lob to a rim runner, Cissoko has the awareness to make the right read the moment a second man commits to over-helping on the break.
The Saint-Maurice native is also a fantastic connective tissue playmaker, where his processing speed shines as he maintains advantages his teammates create. Moving the rock quickly has so much value at the highest level of competition, especially since an window can vanish in the blink of an eye. While Cissoko can be overly ambitious, he can hit minuscule targets. Station him at the elbows or top of the key and watch him find cutters and open shooters within the flow of the offense.
When you watch Cissoko facilitate from so many areas on the hardwood, it is tough not to see visions of a younger Boris Diaw. He can dish from the post, drive and kick on second side actions, execute an exquisite shovel pass to the dunker spot, and manufacture space as the screener on dribble handoffs with his well-defined physique. Perhaps nothing is more entrancing than the boundless creativity that he displays when he manipulates defenders with his eyes and fires no-look assists.
Supersized playmakers can make scheming a migraine for opposing coaches, and one of the biggest bonuses Cissoko offers is his dependability as a pick-and-roll initiator. His past as a point guard made him well-equipped to dribble in a crowd, allowing him to keep his head up so he can use his significant height advantage to see over the defense. Sidy is an excellent pocket passer for his age, and some of his skips to the weakside corner are enough to leave you swooning over his ceiling.
Being taller and stronger than your average ballhandler means Cissoko has an edge over a handful of the defenders teams will throw at him. Though he has so-so burst off the bounce, he can bully his way to the basket and freeze opponents with effective hesitation moves. Developing a serviceable pull-up jumper and extending his range should be on the to-do list for Sidy, and if the Spurs can round out his game, he could the next steal in their illustrious line of draft-night heists.