Despite struggling to find a shooting rhythm, the towering 7’3″ Victor Wembanyama managed to make a significant impact in the Spurs’ turbulent first game
Three Thoughts On Wembanyama’s NBA Opener.
On Saturday, the era of Victor Wembanyama commenced as the highly anticipated prospect, who has been compared to LeBron James, made his debut in the summer league. The game was played in front of a packed audience at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
These are three observations regarding Wembanyama’s debut in the NBA.
There was plenty of good
Although Wembanyama struggled with his shooting, scoring only nine points on 2-of-13 attempts, with just one successful three-pointer out of six, there were several instances where he missed opportunities. He failed to make a layup on his first try and missed a mid-range jumper on the next possession. Additionally, he missed a dunk attempt while under pressure. It appeared that Wembanyama was not entirely comfortable with the physicality of the game at times.
Despite the challenges he faced, his talent shone through. He effortlessly made a turnaround shot while being fouled, converting a three-pointer into a four-point play. He displayed his skill with a clever shovel pass to Dominick Barlow and found Charles Bediako with a dribble drive. He was credited with three assists but could have easily had more. He also blocked five shots and used his impressive eight-foot wingspan to alter just as many.
According to Spurs summer league coach Matt Nielsen, “I think he’s truly amazing. Despite facing various obstacles and distractions, he remained focused on playing basketball, which was truly exciting to witness.”
Wembanyama has had a hectic few weeks, traveling from France to New York, then to San Antonio and Las Vegas. Despite playing in the French League Finals in mid-June and getting caught up in an unintentional altercation with Britney Spears, which made headlines on TMZ in early July, the 19-year-old’s remarkable size, skill, and basketball IQ have generated a lot of hype. Although Wembanyama acknowledged that his conditioning was a concern after the game, it’s not surprising given his busy schedule.
There is ample work to be done as well.
There is a lot of room for improvement, especially in Wembanyama’s three-point shooting. Despite being featured in highlight reels knocking down threes, he still has a long way to go before becoming a consistent shooter from beyond the arc. Last season with Metropolitans 92, he only made 27.5% of his threes, and in the summer league opener, his footwork appeared sloppy and his shots seemed forced rather than fluid. Although he is comfortable with dribbling and playing in the high post, Wembanyama must put in the effort to make three-point shooting a reliable aspect of his game.
Wembanyama will possess the defensive skills of a player on an All-Defensive team, quickly.
During Friday’s game, Wembanyama was a force on the defensive end, blocking layups and even a three-pointer. He played for 28 minutes and any player in a Charlotte uniform attempting to score had to be aware of his presence. Although Wembanyama may not be the quickest on his feet, he will adapt to the frequent pick-and-roll situations in the NBA. His size, length, athleticism, and instincts give him the potential to be a defensive powerhouse like Rudy Gobert, or even better.
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