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Wembanyama already showing signs of competing with Giannis and Embiid to be Africa’s primary NBA star

April was the first month in which Victor Wembanyama kept pace with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid in terms of the level of his NBA performances over a sustained period.

The season ended up as a major disappointment for the San Antonio Spurs, who missed the playoffs with a 22-60 record.

However, Wembanyama, the Frenchman of Congolese descent who is the clear favorite to win Rookie of the Year and also a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, lived up to the lofty expectations of a 7-foot-4 generational talent.

Wembanyama got better month-on-month as the season progressed. Cameroon-born Embiid remains Africa’s best homegrown star in the NBA and Greek-Nigerian star Antetokounmpo up there with him as Africa’s most loved hooper, but during the last few weeks of the season, Wemby gave fans a hint that within the next year or two, he might be ready to surpass even these two NBA MVPs as the best player in the league of African descent — if not the best overall.

Wemby leads the way for Africa in April: Perhaps partially out of determination to seal the Defensive MVP, Wembanyama put in some of his most impressive defensive shifts throughout his five appearances in April.

He also stepped up the offensive side of his game and posted his highest monthly league averages for points per game (25.0), rebounds per game (12.8), assists per game (6.8) and blocks per game (5.6).

In terms of his April productivity, this puts him on par with the best players in the league.

Moment of the Month

Wembanyama also had the most memorable single-game passage of play of the month if not the season as he scored 17 points in less than three minutes to inspire a San Antonio Spurs comeback against the Denver Nuggets.

Wembanyama made four three-pointers in that timespan as the Spurs cut an 81-60 deficit against the defending champions to 87-79. The Spurs then went on to take control of the game and win a thriller 121-120 – a result that would be instrumental in denying the Denver Nuggets the top seed in the Western Conference, which ultimately went to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

For Wembanyama to make such light work of an extremely robust defensive outfit and outshine another generational talent, Nikola Jokić, speaks volumes of just how far he can go in the league.

Africa stars in the playoffs

Although expectations of him are set to a level that is extremely difficult to fulfill every night, Embiid has done Africa proud again through his playoff performances for the Philadelphia 76ers, particularly given the strain he has been under.

Embiid was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy — a neurological condition which causes weakness or paralysis on one half of the face. Through the 76ers’ play-in win over the Miami Heat and the subsequent playoff battle with the New York Knicks, Embiid has sought to persevere through the pain.

He has not been vintage, perhaps, but he nevertheless managed the thrilling 50-point game which put the 76ers on the board in the Knicks series in a Game 3 win. That can run Wembanyama close for Africa’s standout moment of April.

His Cameroonian countryman, Pascal Siakam, has been similarly impactful for the Indiana Pacers in their ongoing series with Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks.

His strong 36-point and 13-rebound performance in Game 1 could not bring his side victory, but he was decisive in a Game 2 win with 37 points and 11 rebounds.

Bucks head coach Doc Rivers said that Antetokounmpo was ‘very close’ to returning from a strained left calf that has kept him out of the series to date. If Siakam faces up to Antetokounmpo in Game 6 — or Game 7 if it goes that far, then expect it to be an African battle for the ages.

Regardless of how it pans out, Siakam has already proven that his exit from the Toronto Raptors was far from the end of his star status.

Speaking of players who have left Toronto, keep an eye on OG Anunoby, the Knicks forward who was born in London to Nigerian parents.

His 16 points and 14 rebounds were key in the Knicks’ Game 4 win over the 76ers and if Embiid is to lead his side to the promised land and brings them a long-awaited championship, it will likely have to involve a monumental effort against a stubborn Knicks defense.

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