By the time you read this, the San Antonio Spurs will be well below .500.
As of this writing, the Spurs have lost 12 straight games, a brutal stretch that included a 41-point beatdown to the Indiana Pacers and a 132-120 loss to the defending champion Denver Nuggets. However, there is one obvious, silver lining to San Antonio’s campaign thus far: Victor Wembanyama.
Wembanyama has so far played in all 17 games for the Spurs, averaging 19.2 points (on 43.0/27.5/82.4 shooting splits), 9.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.6 blocks, numbers you’d expect from the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft yet nonetheless speak to how good he is even at this stage.
Against the Nuggets, Wembanyama was tasked with guarding Nikola Jokic while juggling rim protection duties and covering the cutters that could turn into Jokic’s scoring options. Of course, Jokic finished with a near triple-double of 39 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, and a steal (I mean, who can really stop Jokic?), but Wembanyama also challenged Jokic defensively as he scored from various areas on the court, displaying his soft touch and versatility on offense.
The loss to Denver was a teaching moment for Wembanyama and it will be a recurring theme as he navigates through his rookie season. On a per-game average standpoint, he has committed more turnovers (3.6) than assists (2.6) and has as many blocks as fouls (2.6). It seems that the urge to go after every shot is there and San Antonio can’t fault him for being aggressive. It’s on them to teach the 19-year old to choose his battles on defense.
Overall, it’s been a balanced rookie year for Wembanyama. The good have come with the bad and through it all, he has kept fighting. It’s during these losses where a player’s character is revealed. What’s his body language following disappointment after disappointment? Will he sulk or strive through struggles? We’ll know soon enough.
The conversations on whether or not to shut down Wembanyama for the season, though, will only get louder as the losses pile up and the focus shifts to the long-term. The Spurs would obviously want to avoid Wembanyama getting injured, especially since big men of his size (or even those remotely close) tend to have trickier injuries. Knowing how San Antonio operates, that will likely be the case, especially as it will give a chance to get a longer look at the potential players they could surround Wembanyama with.
You often hear the phrase “taken the world by storm”, but when it comes to Victor Wembanyama, he simply towers over everyone literally and figuratively. He’s made strides thus far and will continue to do so as the season goes on, but don’t be surprised when the San Antonio Spurs play the long game with Wembanyama.