Victor Wembanyama, a trending topic nowadays, was just drafted by the San Antonio Spurs last month. Everybody, by now, knows that he is from France, which probably got fans wondering about their own team’s history with French players. Let us start with teams from the Southwest region of the NBA and see how connected they are to Wembanyama’s home country.
San Antonio Spurs
Before the Wembanyama mania, the Spurs had Tony Parker, who played a big role in four out of San Antonio’s five titles. If Parker, who became a naturalized French citizen when he was a teenager, doesn’t count as someone born in France, fans would have to look at Nando De Colo and Ian Mahinmi. These two players were also drafted by the Spurs.
Rodrigue Beaubois has to be the fan favorite. He had a four-year stint with the Mavericks and was a part of the 2011 team that won the title. The Oklahoma City Thunder originally drafted him, but a trade sent him to Dallas, where he averaged around seven points and two assists while playing close to 16 minutes per game.
If Houston’s fans want to talk about drafting French players, then Nicolas Batum should be mentioned. During the NBA Draft back in 2008, the Rockets got Batum but traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers. Fans of the Rockets shouldn’t worry, though, because they can still say that a Frenchman played for them. William Howard, who was born somewhere in the middle of France, had a short stint for the Rockets in the 2019-2020 NBA season.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans drafted David Michineau in 2016, but he never got to play for New Orleans. That means Alexis Ajinca would have to be the next “French Connection” for the team. Ajinca was a Pelican for four years. It would have been five if he did not miss the 2017-18 season due to injury. You can also add Axel Toupane, even if he only played two games for the Pelicans.
Joffrey Lauvergne was drafted by the Grizzlies in 2013 but was traded to the Denver Nuggets. Players of French nationalities, like Joakim Noah and Yves Pons, had playing time for the Grizzlies, but they were not born in France. Fans would have to point at Killian Tillie for their connection. Tillie, born in Paris, had a two-year stay in Memphis from 2020 to 2022.
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