Wembanyama's rookie season will be anything but perfect, and that's part of the plan

2023 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot
2023 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot / Mike Lawrie/GettyImages

As I'm sure most of you know by now, Victor Wembanyama has wrapped up his Summer League stint with the San Antonio Spurs. Despite a rocky start, the 19-year-old showcased a fascinating skill set that is uncommon for such a large human being. That rare combination is why it is so imperative to understand the importance of patience with a player of this level and age.

The jokes were writing themselves after an unfortunate first appearance for Wembanyama. His nine-point debut led to appalling overreactions. Some considered this dud to be the first of many failures to come. Thankfully, most of the people that are plugged in and provide objective viewpoints were still fairly complimentary of the bigger picture. Sure enough, the bounce back game that most fans hoped for came to fruition.

You can chalk it up to first-game jitters. You might say it was partially because of the incredibly packed schedule endured over the last month. Between the untimely off-court incidents and media obligations that took up hours and, sometimes, entire days, the towering teen had his training routine and practices hindered.

Still, basketball is what draws us in. He's must-watch tv. He knows that. The Spurs front office knows that. Hell, the people, whether they love him or hate him know that. It should come as no surprise that this will be no different than any other rookie experience. There will be highs like the kind that has you in the kitchen at 2 AM wondering where you left the pan while the stove is on. There will also be lows, with some head-scratching plays that make you question his ability and effort. But these moments create character and allow learning experiences to mold your franchise cornerstone in year one.

Give the big fella time to adjust

Dating back to his run with the Metropolitans 92, there have been some smaller things Wembanyama has needed to iron out. Whether it was a loose handle in traffic that led to frustrating turnovers or the inconsistent shooting that followed him to Las Vegas. Some of those struggles boil down to being 7-foot-3 with a unique playstyle.

And yes, there have been instances where his lack of strength and rail-thin frame were a little shaky when matching up against stronger defenders.

While his flashes off the dribble and spot-up shooting can be tantalizing, there is still no certainty at this moment that it's anywhere near ready to be consistent enough for an 82-game season. He's a sub-30% three-point shooter for his career. Some of that has to do with spacing, and one can point toward his 80% free throw numbers as a rock-solid indicator that he will eventually reach an above average mark. With that said, it's not necessarily something that will surface immediately.

You throw everything together with the fact that Victor has admitted there will be an adjustment period to the speed of the game and the talent on the floor, and you can understand why this isn't going to be as seamless of a transition as some might have hope for. Yet there are so many high-level translatable skills that should have fans excited. You can't help but wonder how high his ceiling truly is, even in his rookie campaign.

Victor is still very much an alien

"But what about everything he already does on the floor right now!?" "Did you not see what he did in the second Summer League game!?" Yes, yes I did. I was just as enthused and shocked as you. I began following Victor about a year ago in preparation for what might be. Let me tell you, it was a completely different experience watching him against other young NBA talent. Yes there was the G League Ignite double feature back in October, but this felt different. I think the league, the Spurs, and even Victor himself sensed it.

It all starts on the defensive end. This is where I believe he's going to be immediately impactful from day one. Some of the things we've seen him do just shouldn't even be possible. It's an NBA 2K created player come to life. His switchability allows him to hold his own on the perimeter and use his length to recover. It just isn't normal to casually block a shot nearly 30 feet away from the rim with a generous amount of space in front you. It felt as though he lured players into taking those attempts.

I can remember a young (and old) Tim Duncan frustrating and bewildering opponents, not with his leaping ability or athleticism, but with his timing. Forcing players to have second thoughts might be where he and Victor are most similar. The latter of the two just so happens to be a few inches taller. I know right?

Timing and Rim Running

Not only is Wembanyama going to be a fantastic shot blocker in the league as a rookie, but he's more than capable as a rim runner and potential lob threat in space. He'll sit on pump fakes and won't leave his feet until the right moment, and he gets out in transition and runs with the best of them. It is really extraordinary watching someone of that size turn on the jets. Here, he gets behind the entire defense and creates a scoring opportunity, finishing an easy look at the rim with authority.

Playmaking and Gravity

Victor showed a bit of his ability to create for others with Mets 92. It wasn't his most prominent skill, and in all honesty, it can probably be categorized as one of the things he should work on refining over time. However, his vision was still on display somewhere in between his blunders.

Even in an otherwise poor outing on the offensive end against the Hornets, Victor showed glimpses of his ability to make life easier for his teammates. He naturally commands extra attention at his size, but he made quick decisions and actively looked to get others involved. That is something the Spurs will look to build upon. As a matter of fact, Wembanyama has already mentioned playmaking as a point of emphasis as he tries to maximize his potential to be as impactful as he possibly can.

Show me something

There have been glimpses of his unlimited potential. These are the mind-blowing things he does that we may not see on a nighly basis. But eventually, these flashes may become every game occurences. This includes tough shot making, bringing the ball up the court, and pushing in transition like a guard. All of these skills are ceiling breakers that had teams around the league drooling over this once-in-a-lifetime prospect. Oh, and here's the scary part: Wembanyama looks extremely comfortable trying all of it and wants to explore what is and isn't available to him.

What are you supposed to do when someone that size is staring you down and you stick with him to such a degree that most players wouldn't even attempt the shot, much less get it off? It can be debilitating as a defender. Debilitating. That might be something we hear a lot of down the line when the clock is dwindling and the defense has no chance of stopping him from getting a shot up. What a vision.

What it all means for Wemby

At the end of the day, we know his ceiling is incredibly high. As a matter of fact, it's unlike anything we've ever seen before, and that shouldn't change due to a few bad games. Off nights are going to happen. He's not walking into his first season a finished product by any means. He's not going to be the most efficient. He won't exactly blow people away with his offense from day one. There are going to be obstacles and a period of "what can I do to be better?"

Don't expect him to lead this team to 40+ wins as a rookie. This is all a process that Wembanyama will dictate. What he is going to do is work his tail off and show you glimpses into the future. He's going to defend at an elite level. He's going to make sure you believe in what San Antonio is building and have you completely bought into their potential long-term success. Success that Spurs fans enjoyed for the better part of two decades. Enoy the ride. I have a feeling it's going to be special.


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