The Victor Wembanyama Era began on Saturday when the most heralded prospect since LeBron James made his summer league debut in front of a sold-out crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Here are three thoughts on the NBA opening in Wembanyama.
1. There are many good ones
The final stat line (nine points on 2-of-13 shooting, including 1-of-6 from three-point range) was not pretty. Wembanyama missed a layup drive on his first attempt. On San Antonio’s next possession, he bricked a mid-range jumper. Two possessions later Wembanyama blocked a dunk attempt in traffic. Sometimes he is uncomfortable on a physical level.
Still—the talent is obviously. He enabled a turnaround through contact. His only three-pointer turned into a four-point play. He slipped a beautiful shovel pass to Dominick Barlow. He found Charles Bediako dribble drive. He collected three assists and could have had a few more. He blocked five shots and with his eight-foot wingspan changed the number as well.
“I think he’s amazing,” Spurs summer league coach Matt Nielsen said. “When you look at what’s thrown at him from different angles, attention and stuff. The exciting part that I’ve witnessed is that he just wants to play basketball.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Wembanyama. He flew from France to New York, New York to San Antonio, San Antonio to Las Vegas. In mid-June he played in the French League Finals. In early July, he was there TMZ after an accidental stab at Britney Spears. The fatigue — and Wembanyama admitted after the game his conditioning was an issue — is understandable. But the size, the skill, the incredible basketball IQ makes you understand why the 19-year-old is receiving so much hype.
2. There is also a lot of work to be done
Wembanyama’s highlight reels often feature the 7’3″ big man knocking down three-pointers. But it’s clear he’s far from a reliable three-point shooter. Wembanyama connected on 27.5% of his threes in the Metropolitans 92 last season and in the opener of the summer league you can see why. His footwork looks sloppy and from the three he seems to push his shots more than shoot them fluidly. Wembanyama looks just as comfortable from the dribble (very comfortable) or the high post (really, Granted comfortable) he needs to work on making the three a reliable part of his game.
3. Wembanyama will be an All-Defensive team-level defender right away.
On Friday, Wembanyama was everywhere in defence. He blocked layups. He blocked three. He played 28 minutes and anyone in a Charlotte uniform who went to the basket had his head on a swivel for every one of them. Wembanyama isn’t the fastest of feet and will have to adjust to the steady diet of pick-and-rolls he’ll face in the NBA. But his size, length, athleticism and instincts offer Rudy Gobert-like potential on the defensive end. Maybe better.