Spurs: Grading every player to log minutes in Wembanyama's debut game

Victor Wembanyama - 2023 NBA Summer League - Charlotte Hornets v San Antonio Spurs
Victor Wembanyama - 2023 NBA Summer League - Charlotte Hornets v San Antonio Spurs / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

While I won't quite call it an NBA debut just yet as it's still only Summer League, Victor Wembanyama's first game--and win--in a Spurs jersey is officially in the books. In their second matchup with the Charlotte Hornets and #2 overall pick Brandon Miller, the Spurs walked away with a 76 - 68 victory.

Here, we're going to assign a grade to each Spurs player who saw the floor last night based on how well they played. Charles Bediako, Josh Carlton, and Javante McCoy will be the lone exceptions in this case, as each of them only earned about 5 minutes of playing time, but all other players are fair game. So, without wasting any more time, here's how each Spurs player fared in their Las Vegas Summer League debut.

Dominick Barlow: B+

Dom Barlow didn't quite have the impact he had in his first game in Sacramento, but after coming on a bit slowly in the 1st half of this game, he adjusted quite well. He managed to hit another couple of midrange jumpers, led the team in rebounds, and didn't record a single turnover. He'll need to continue working on his free-throw shooting and make a few adjustments to avoid fouls, but overall, this was another solid performance from the young big. I expect to still mostly see Barlow in Austin this season as opposed to San Antonio, but he's clearly coming along quite well.

Malaki Branham: B

I feel quite similarly about Malaki Branham as I do Dominick Barlow in that, while he wasn't quite as effective as he was in his first Summer League game, he still did what he was asked to do. He's clearly growing more comfortable with putting the ball on the floor and is as comfortable as he's ever been shooting off the bounce.

He missed quite a few shots around the rim, which bumps him down one notch compared to Barlow, but he was efficient from three-point range, kept fouls and turnovers to a minimum, and held his own on defense. His improved physicality is evident and it's easy to see him only improving from here.

Julian Champagnie: A

Julian Champagnie continues to look like the most poised and confident player in a Spurs Summer League jersey, as he had yet another all-around impressive game. He finished the game with 20 points on efficient shooting, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 block, and 1 violent dunk over an extremely talented rim protector in James Nnaji. I won't give him a perfect score here, but Champagnie came incredibly close and is quickly approaching "too good for Summer League" territory.

Champagnie never forced the issue on offense, continued to put in work on defense despite the insignificant counting stats on that end of the floor, and was ultimately probably the reason the Spurs won the basketball game. What's not to love about that kind of performance?

Sidy Cissoko: B+

This was a very on-brand game for Spurs rookie Sidy Cissoko and I think displayed a lot of why I think he could eventually become the team's new-age Boris Diaw down the line. He consistently pushed the pace in transition as an oversized ball-handler, found his teammates for a couple of impressive transition assists, and was supremely physical in just about every aspect of the game. He only scored 1 point, which is why he didn't reach the A-tier in these grades, but his impact was felt.

What separates Cissoko from a player like Diaw, though, and what I believe makes him "new-age," is his impressive defense. He fought through screens well, switched effectively and kept up with players laterally, and absorbed contact as if he was barely bumped. Simply put, he made plays, and that's what will keep him on the floor early in his career even if his scoring is a work in progress.

Erik Stevenson: C-

This is a name most Spurs fans probably don't know, as Stevenson went undrafted in this past month's NBA Draft. The West Virginia product, for all intents and purposes, acted more or less as filler for the Spurs last night, as he received the least amount of playing time outside of Bediako, Carlton, and McCoy. While he didn't necessarily make any blatantly bad plays on either end of the floor, outside of a forced turnover and a nice And-1 through traffic, he felt rather invisible out there and the stat sheet seems to confirm that lack of impact.

Victor Wembanyama: B-

Make no mistake: while Wemby gets one of the lower grades on this list, he still very much had a positive impact on the game, and considering he only shot 2/13 from the floor, that's impressive in and of itself. Wembanyama's performance last night was largely a result of something that both Mark Jones and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar alluded to on air: the difference in the speed of the game between FIBA and the NBA. Wembanyama was noticeably winded and frustrated, and having only barely practiced with his Spurs teammates likely didn't help either.

While shots weren't falling for Wembanyama, though, there were some highly encouraging flashes that leave me as optimistic as ever. He made a few outstanding passes off the dribble that are unprecedented for big-man prospects, recorded 5 blocks with relative ease, and showed confidence in his shot even when it wasn't falling. Wembanyama played an unselfish game (almost to a fault), got his "welcome to the NBA" moment thanks to Kai Jones, and even said himself that he didn't know what he was doing out there. And despite all of that, he was one of the better players on the floor.

Blake Wesley: A-

If there was any Spurs player whose game I think went drastically underrated, it was Blake Wesley's. The second-year guard finished the night with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. While he didn't shoot the ball as efficiently as he did against the Lakers and had a few turnovers to boot, this game to me represented Blake Wesley beginning to figure out his athleticism a bit more. He used his twitchy athleticism and general speed to his advantage all game long both in the half-court and in transition, leading to some easy points for him.

Rim pressure is king for modern NBA guards that are still developing their jump shots, and while Wesley didn't have his best showing as a playmaker last night, he lived in the paint all game long. He constantly pushed the tempo of the game, attacked the rim aggressively whenever he got the chance, and even used his athleticism to make a couple of good defensive plays away from the ball. If he can put all of the pieces of the puzzle together moving forward, so to speak, he has the makings of a lead guard that Spurs fans could be sleeping on.


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