Wembanyama, how’s your rookie season going in San Antonio?

Wembanyama’s rookie season in San Antonio is already history.

The NBA is strange when looked at from the outside. The worst result for a franchise is to be mediocre: if your ranking, let’s say, is between 10th and 12th in the Conference, it may mean that you are climbing from the bottom or that you are dangerously close to that bottom. Either way, though, it doesn’t mean your short-term future is compromised. It is compromised, however, if you have known that ranking for 2-3-4 years in a row: you have squeezed the most out of the nucleus at your disposal, you have not managed to build anything that allows you to get out of that limbo of mediocrity. And then you can just dismantle everything and start over. It’s what the Toronto Raptors are doing, what the Chicago Bulls will do this off-season and what the San Antonio Spurs. In reality, the Spurs they were also forced to do so by the withdrawals of Parker, Ginobili and Duncan and by the about-face of Leonard, who deserted his commitment in the shadow of the Alamo. We have arrived at the last Draft, the first pick obtained through unbridled tanking, and the coming of Victor Wembanyama.

Coming. Anyone who has come across even just a few of his hundreds of highlights can say they have witnessed NBA history: a biped like this has never been seen. Last year we could already appreciate his qualities directly from the NBA League Pass: the league purchased the rights to broadcast the Metropolitans 92 games, aware of the talent of this boy, the “next big-thing” after Lebron James. James himself defined Wembanyama as “not a unicornbut rather something more similar to a alien”: a 20-year-old boy with this physical size is uncommon.

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224cm tall, 243cm wide with his arms, an indescribable amount of covered surface: they say “turning off the light” to describe a darkened situation, an action that could have been but will not be, this is Victor Wembanyama. It’s no surprise that he leads the league in stop on average per game (3.3, 0.6 more than Brook Lopez), and who has already scored one triple double with blocks contro i Raptors. Wemby he was only the fifth in history to do so. The 4 before him? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson and David Robinson.

He allows a 54.2% shooting percentage at the rim – 9th in the NBA among players averaging at least 25 minutes per game, behind elite defenders like Rudy Gobert or Evan Mobley but ahead of Brook Lopez, in a philosophy like that of Milwaukee who invites the opponents to shoot from three points or, indeed, to go and score from below. It is not to be thought that his measures have anything like direct consequence of a blocked or well-defended shot at the rim: parquet hounds like Luka Doncic or Nikola Jokic are building a career on exploiting these instincts in their opponents, attacking them with feints and use of the pivot that cause a lot of frustration in the unfortunate players and mazes that are difficult to resolve.

Only 95kg doesn’t allow him to physically defend against more structured centres, who are better able to use their body to gain space and thus approach the rim forcefully. In the recent game played by the Spurs against the Lakers, LA coach Darvin Ham frequently rode Anthony Davis’ 1-on-1 attack away from the basket, forcing Wembanyama to commit fouls and hand the paint to the 2020 NBA champion.

Also in the match against the Lakers, Wemby had his revenge in attack, scoring his first match 5×5 (at least 5 in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks) since 2019 and becoming the player, with 30 minutes and 55 seconds played, to complete the scoreboard in the shortest time.

It is in the offensive phase, not surprisingly, where he has recorded the most important improvements. Even just on a statistical level – excluding just the four games played in October – from November to February he improved in every category, starting with field goal percentage and three-point percentage.

When talking about the Spurs’ 2023-2024 season, a distinction must be made: pre and post Jeremy Sochan experiment as point guard. Coach Popovich, both to test the #10’s abilities as a ball distributor and to avoid feeding it Wemby to the 210+ cm wolves that populate the league’s squads, he started thereand first 19 games of the season with Sochan as point guard, Wembanyama as power forward and Collins as center, with the latter in charge of fighting in the center of the area and taking the shoulder/elbow strikes in place of the new arrival.

The result was a thunderous disaster: non-existent spacing, Sochan and Collins without a reliable three-point shot, congested area, search for spaces for the rest of the quintet where they were missing. In this span of games, Wembanyama shot 42% from the field and 26% from 3-point range; the assist-turnover ratio was 0.872; the Spurs allowed their opponents 39% from 3 points, 54% from 2, 121.5 average points per game, -13.1 average differential per night. In summary, a sieve.

With the passing of the games and the awareness that persevering is diabolical, the Sochan playmaker experiment was definitively shelved. Three Jones he was placed in the role of ball handler, Sochan himself was moved to power forward, Wembanyama to center and Collins benched. The sky suddenly cleared.

To give you an idea:

quintets with Collins-Sochan-Wembanyama: 270′ in the season, 99 OffRtg, 115.1 DefRtg; quintets with Jones-Sochan-Wembanyama: 482′, 110.5 by OffRtg, 109.2 by DefRtg.

With these adjustments, the possibilities have suddenly expanded, the team has benefited as a whole and the percentages of the first pick in the last draft are proof of this. If in November he shot 43.3% from the field, in February he went to 47.5%. If in November he shot 27.3% from three-point range, in February he converted threes at 38.8%.

At the beginning of the season, if Wembanyama settled for the heavy shot or took an off-balance shot from mid-range, he promptly made his performances go south. With the move to the centre, however, the terrain he treads on is different: he has more room for manoeuvre, the dangers he can potentially create are higher and more damaging, both horizontally – spreading himself out – and vertically – receiving and crushing lobs – forcing the defender to admire the movements of such a long and at the same time strangely fluid body.

Paradoxically, even his teammates had to measure him up at the start of the season: such a tall player e athletic he had never seen. They often didn’t recognize the lifting possibilities, they didn’t see a passing line being created only by the presence of the alien in shirt #1.

The variety with which Wembanyama manages to assemble the current 21.0 points average is sensational for a player in his first year in the league: coach Popovich reiterated how the Frenchman “has a very high IQ, he understands the game intuitively, you explain something to him and he immediately understands it.”

Perhaps the most astounding area of ​​his game, the one in which he has improved first and fastest, against all odds, are his assist. It had a monthly growth in this category that is difficult to describe if you don’t look at its performances: the transition from 1.5 on average in October to 4.2 on average in February only shows part of his basketball intelligence, obviously above average. The ability to carry the ball and start the action after capturing a defensive rebound is very peculiar given the 224cm he carries around. The use of inverted pick&rolls exploiting the skills against a less performing big man is decidedly unique to see. The no-looks for the point guard with sublime simplicity and touch are honestly inexplicable.

As the months pass, it seems that the game is getting to him more and more: Wembanyama doesn’t force himself to get into the game, he only makes use of his potentially unique skills. The current context of the San Antonio Spurs does not allow them to aim for the Playoffs already this season, however it does allow them to Wemby to play regularly by putting hay in the farmhouse for years to come.

Because the Spurs know that greatness is built step by step, game by game, minute by minute. And they recognize that they have a golden nugget in their hands. Victor Wembanyama, the first pick in the last draft, is ready to take over the NBA. Not today, not tomorrow, but he’ll take it. Rest assured.

2024-02-27 08:00:00
#Wembanyama #hows #rookie #season #San #Antonio


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