Grading Wembanyama in his sold-out Las Vegas Summer League debut for the Spurs

2023 NBA Summer League - Charlotte Hornets v San Antonio Spurs
2023 NBA Summer League - Charlotte Hornets v San Antonio Spurs / Candice Ward/GettyImages

More than 17,500 basketball fans crammed into a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center on Friday night to get in on the once-in-a-lifetime in-person experience of watching Victor Wembanyama suit up for the first time in his NBA career. Although the generational teenager recorded a somewhat lackluster stat-line of nine points, eight rebounds, and five blocks on 2-of-13 shooting in his unofficial debut, the box score can only tell us so much about how he impacted the game.

Wembanyama was the lowest-scoring starter for the San Antonio Spurs, but there is no doubt he was crucial to them dispatching the Charlotte Hornets, 76-68, in their Las Vegas Summer League opener. His mere presence on the defensive end altered the geometry of the court, and he more than lived up to the unbelievably high expectations that draft pundits placed upon his shoulders as they ranted and raved about his unprecedented measurables over the last few years.

The 7-foot-3 Frenchman forced opponents to think twice before venturing into the paint, which was made all the more impressive considering Head Coach Matt Nielsen stationed him on the perimeter and asked him to switch almost every on and off-ball screen. Thanks to his eight-foot wingspan and unparalleled ground coverage, Victor was still able to alter and block shots on weakside rotations or helping from a man away, putting the Hornets on high alert inside the arc.

His man-to-man defense when left on an island against wings and guards was promising. There were a handful of possessions where he slid his feet well enough to contain drives and coerce kick-outs to reset the offense late in the shot clock. Wembanyama even blocked a three from Brandon Miller fired 27 feet away from the basket. The number two overall pick got some revenge in the second half on a vicious double cross, but it still felt like no attempt was safe if Victor was in the vicinity.

As you could probably guess from checking the stat sheet, getting on the scoreboard was a struggle for the 19-year-old forward. He missed some open looks that he would normally drain, but first-game jitters gradually turned into Wembanyama forcing the issue out of frustration and settling for heavily-contested jumpers. He had trouble with ball security dribbling into crowds, failed to round the corner cleanly on drives, and found minimal success on post-ups versus frontcourt players.

Despite committing three turnovers and showing questionable shot selection from time to time, the number one overall pick demonstrated his pedigree in other ways. His first bucket came on an and-one, where he buried a turnaround off the glass through contact. And he capped the evening with a four-point play. But what stood out more than anything was his court vision and selfless passing. He leveraged his gravity to generate openings and used his length to deliver creative assists.

One of the things that makes his low-scoring outing less concerning is how often he earns whistles from the referees. Having a slender frame at his height makes it tough to officiate him, and because his aggression and physicality routinely send him falling to the floor, Wembanyama makes a living at the charity stripe. He drew a game-high seven personal fouls on Charlotte and converted those calls into four trips to the line, where he went a perfect 4-of-4 on his free throws.

There is no delicate way to phrase this, Wembanyama was disappointing in is his first taste of NBA action, but his flashes of high-end talent were undeniable. Summer League is a chaotic circus that rarely reflects whether a prospect will have a smooth transition to the next level. Even Tim Duncan had a sluggish start to his career at the Rocky Mountain Revue. Wembanyama will have a chance to learn from this expereince and bounce back in his Las Vegas encore this Sunday.

Grade: C+

dark. Next. Spurs Summer League. 1 fascinating skill each player brings to the Summer League Spurs

Home/Spurs Roster