Grading Spurs' Wembanyama a quarter through his rookie season

The Spurs have had a bad 2023–24 season thus far, with one bright spot: Victor Wembanyama. He is one of the most hyped rookies ever, but how does he grade out?
 Victor Wembanyama
Victor Wembanyama / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

Amid one of the worst starts in NBA history, the San Antonio Spurs have one bright spot: number-one overall pick Victor Wembanyama. Wembanyama gives the Spurs their best chance at becoming a future superstar. However, the team hasn't been any better this season after finishing with the second-worst record last year.

Their struggles have cast a shadow over his rookie season, with some questioning how impactful he has been and whether he should win Rookie of the Year. But how impactful has he been through the first quarter of the season?

Grading Victor Wembanyama a quarter through his rookie season

The Spurs started the season playing Wembanyama at the four in a jumbo lineup that featured no traditional point guard. However, that lineup has failed and led to a lot of mixing and matching, with Wembanyama being a constant.

Despite that, the Spurs have recently been trying him at center to try and get more offense on the floor and snap their long losing streak. The results have been encouraging in a small sample size, but Wembanyama has played a role different than most Spurs fans were expecting. He has spent a lot of time outside on the perimeter and less time in the post.

Some of that is due to him being a less traditional big man who prefers to play away from the basket. It is also partly due to some of his teammates being unable to throw entry passes. When he does get the ball on the block, he often isn't strong enough to back his opponent down, so he tends to face up. Even then, he struggles to put the ball on the floor because defenders crowd his space, forcing him to shoot contested midrange jumpers over them.

Given his height, he is often able to get off a clean shot, but a contested 18-footer is still a low-percentage shot. Combine that with his shooting 25% on five 3-point attempts per game, and that has hurt his efficiency. To his credit, Wembanyama is shooting an impressive 51.5% on his 11.2 2-point attempts per game and connecting on nearly 81% of his 4.2 free throws per game.

His efficiency inside the arc and from the free throw line has helped offset some of his poor shot selection and inability to score in the post. Once the Spurs get Wembanyama an actual point guard to play alongside him, he could be downright scary. However, he'll need to add more size over the remainder of this season and in the offseason to be able to establish position and throw his weight around in the post.

Defensively, Wembamyama has been immediately impactful, even leading the NBA in blocked shots and throwing in 1.2 steals per game. Three blocks per game as a rookie is outlandish, though the Spurs still rank near the bottom of the NBA in defensive rating. That is not the fault of Wemby.

Still, opponents are afraid to challenge him in the paint, and when they do, they are often rejected at the rim. With a better supporting cast, he could anchor an elite defense and emerge as a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Wembanyama has earned this grade for the first 20+ games of his career with strong play on both ends of the floor.

Grade: A-