Victor Wembanyama has undoubtedly become the center of attention this season. While the first overall pick in the NBA Draft usually garners significant attention, Wembanyama’s entry into the league has been nothing short of extraordinary. His domination of France’s top league as a teenager and the immense hype surrounding him placed him among the most anticipated prospects in NBA history.
In his eagerly awaited debut with the Spurs, Wembanyama showed glimpses of his potential. He truly made his mark in an overtime victory against Houston. Although he faced a tougher challenge in the loss to the Clippers, he still showcased several remarkable plays, including a display of his versatility on the court.
This brings us to the film room!
In a notable play, Russell Westbrook advances the ball for the Clippers after a 3-pointer from Keldon Johnson. Before crossing halfcourt, Westbrook passes to Paul George, who then swings it to Robert Covington at the top of the 3-point line. Despite being a proven 3-point shooter, Wembanyama strategically creates some space for Covington by positioning himself at the top of the free-throw line circle. His towering stature and an impressive 8-foot wingspan allow him to give shooters more room, making it a daunting task for opponents like Luka Doncic or Paul George to shoot over him.
As the play unfolds, Kawhi Leonard shifts from the left side of the court to the right, clearing the path for Ivica Zubac to receive the ball in the post from Covington. While Zubac isn’t a dominant back-to-the-basket scorer, he proved efficient last season, ranking in the 83rd percentile with an average of 1.13 points per possession. Wembanyama immediately transitions into a support role, keeping an eye on both Zubac and Covington.
As Zubac approaches the basket, Wembanyama adjusts his defensive stance, providing additional help defense. Eventually, he commits to the double team, prompting Zubac to skillfully evade him. However, Wembanyama’s remarkable athleticism comes into play as he leaps over both Zubac and Zach Collins for an astounding block, initiating a fastbreak opportunity.
Now, let’s consider the significance of this play.
Across the first three games of the season, Wembanyama is averaging 15.7 points and 7.3 rebounds on 44.7 percent shooting from the field. While some might find these numbers underwhelming for a player of his caliber, especially as a highly touted prospect, his defensive prowess is already shining through. His agility allows him to defend on the perimeter, and his imposing size instills fear in opponents trying to shoot over him, even with some distance. He’s bound to accumulate blocks and steals at an impressive rate, and opponents are second-guessing their attempts when he guards the basket.
In terms of team performance, the impact of Wembanyama on the Spurs’ defense is stark. With him on the court, San Antonio is limiting opponents to an average of 102.8 points per 100 possessions. However, when he’s on the bench, this number skyrockets to 125.8. This underscores how pivotal he is to the team’s defensive success. In fact, the gap between Wembanyama and the next best defender on the Spurs, Devin Vassell, is substantial at 8.2 points per 100 possessions.
Given the immense influence Wembanyama wields at just 19 years old, one can only imagine his potential as the game slows down for him in the coming years. He possesses all the attributes to become a multiple-time Defensive Player of the Year and a legendary defender.
While his defensive contributions are clear, it’s worth noting that Wembanyama may face challenges on the offensive end as a rookie. Despite having a promising jump shot, his efficiency in France last season wasn’t stellar. He’ll encounter physicality from defenders keen on disrupting his play, a factor Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich highlighted. Playing alongside better passers could also elevate his offensive game, as there have been instances where mismatches were missed due to errant passes.
Nonetheless, Wembanyama’s unique skills are undeniable. It’s a rare sight to witness a player of his stature, standing at 7 feet 4 inches, draw defenders out to the 3-point line, employ a jab step, dribble effectively, and draw a foul on a powerful drive to the basket.
Sequences like these exemplify the exceptional player Wembanyama is poised to become when he fully hones his skills. Here are some of his key statistics to provide a comprehensive overview of his performance thus far:
– Points per game: 15.7
– Rebounds per game: 7.3
– Steals per game: 2.0
– Blocks per game: 1.7
– Assists per game: 1.7
– Turnovers per game: 4.7
– Field goal shooting percentage: 44.7%
– 3-point shooting percentage: 23.1%
– Free throw shooting percentage: 66.7%