Takeaway #2: Wembanyama is already an impactful defensive player.
Wembanyama has been a major plus on the defensive end to start his career, which was obviously the hope given his height and length and the Spurs’ struggles on that end last season. The Spurs had the worst defensive rating in NBA history last season, and even a top-20 finish would mark a massive improvement that could add at least a half-dozen wins this season.
Thus far, they are 29th and edge out last season’s team as the worst defense ever, though it’s through no fault of Wembanyama’s. They tend to get lit up in the 18 minutes per game that he’s off the floor. As his minutes increase, that will become less of an issue, and he’ll become more of a problem for opposing offenses.
Teams steer clear of him when he’s near the paint, though he defends away from the rim more than he perhaps should, given that he plays power forward and not center. Still, he can cover a surprising amount of ground, going from defending on the perimeter to the paint by taking two steps.
As a result, it’s no surprise that he’s averaging 2.3 blocks and 1 steal per game. Were the Spurs better around him, he’d be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year as a rookie, which is really saying something.