Victor Wembanyama’s first shot attempt in San Antonio Spurs colors hit the backboard and grazed the rim. The second one skipped the board and just rimmed out. His third, a dunk attempt, catapulted off the hoop.
Las Vegas’ Thomas and Mack Center was packed to the rim. Fans rallied to see Wembanyama in action, not caring if it was the Summer League. The venue has not been sold out since Zion Williamson’s Summer League debut in 2019– a clear indicator of Wembanyama’s box-office ability in the United States.
Wembanyama and the Spurs took on second-overall pick Brandon Miller and the Charlotte Hornets. Fast forward 40 minutes later, the Spurs won 76-68.
By his fourth attempt, the number one pick finally got on the scoreboard with a turnaround bank shot. He got fouled on the play and made the free throw as well. Those would be Wembanyama’s only points in the quarter. He also tallied three rebounds, a block, and an assist by the end of the first period. He finished the game with nine points, eight rebounds, five blocks, and three assists.
His highly anticipated Spurs debut was far from perfect, but it was telling.
Wembanyama loves to create plays
For someone who stands 7-foot-3, Wembanyama is incredibly agile. Though it was not on full display against Charlotte, nobody doubts his ability to score. However, we saw his unselfish nature and how well he can distribute the ball.
Although his height can cause him to look awkward at times, he shows a lot of fluidity for his stature. At times, he looked like a point guard in a center’s body. During one play, he dribbled between his legs, went for a crossover, and attacked forward before laying the ball off to a teammate.
Wembanyama showed his well-roundedness. With his continuous development and when he’s surrounded by the right players, he could do damage in many ways. But that’s expected.
Strength is an important factor
As mentioned earlier, Wembanyama’s stature can cause him to look and move awkwardly. His length is undoubtedly a cheat code as it allows him to grab boards while barely leaving the ground and swat attempts away from the paint or the three-point line.
However, his slender frame could cause problems once he’s in the NBA. Friday’s game saw Wembanyama easily bodied away and failing to do the same to his smaller opponents. Once he enters the league, he will have to deal with Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, and other centers who have brute strength in their arsenal.
Sure, he does not necessarily need to get bigger to be stronger. But a little more muscle on that towering frame won’t hurt.
It’s going to be a process in San Antonio
Wembanyama did a good job defensively. However, he was far from efficient on offense, going 2-13 in field goal attempts. No superstar in the NBA can live on defense alone, but we know (or hope) this will not become the case for him. Fans are aware of his scoring abilities– call it an off night for someone who has a lot of pressure on him.
Wembanyama slipped, fell, missed shots, and got posterized by Kai Jones in the third quarter. And that’s okay. After all, this is the summer league. It was designed to develop young players around the NBA.
It is only a matter of time before he gets more confident and starts becoming more aggressive. Eventually, the shots will fall, and he will be around experienced players who can supplement him well and bring out the best in him. The level of competition he will face and play with once he is in the NBA will elevate his play.
While it was not the best display, Wembanyama’s humility and coachability will take him a long way– we are already aware of his talent. There could not be a more perfect place and mentor than San Antonio and Gregg Popovich to unlock his full potential.