It’s the dawn of a new era in San Antonio. After all of the hype and fanfare, the rubber is about to meet the road. Victor Wembanyama will take the court as the first number-one pick for the San Antonio Spurs since Tim Duncan in 1997. Just as Duncan led an iconic era of Spurs basketball, Wembanyama will have the opportunity to propel the Silver and Black into the future.
It’s fitting that this journey begins against an in-state rival and one of the premier young European stars in the NBA. The Luka Doncic led Dallas Mavericks will be the first to face off against the Spurs in the newly named Frost Bank Center. San Antonio went 1-3 against the Mavs last year, but will look to bounce back in this nationally televised contest.
San Antonio Spurs (0-0) vs. Dallas Mavericks (0-0)
October 25, 2023 | 8:30 P.M. CT
Watch: ESPN | Listen: WOAI/KXTN
Spurs injuries: Devonte’ Graham – Out (suspension,) Zach Collins – Questionable (illness)
Mavericks injuries: Luka Doncic – Questionable (left calf strain,) Jaden Hardy – Questionable (left ankle sprain,) Dwight Powell – Questionable (illness)
What to watch for
Wembanyama’s NBA debut
“The Alien” was out of this world in the preseason. He averaged 19.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in just 20.9 minutes per game. Wembanyama looked comfortable finding his shot, and changed the way opponents play offense with his presence defensively. He will have a chance to extrapolate that performance to a full 48-minute game on Wednesday.
Duncan put up 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in his NBA debut. Can Wembanyama match that feat? He will likely see a mix of Grant Williams, Dereck Lively II and Derrick Jones Jr. in this matchup. Those three defenders provide a mix of length, strength and athleticism.
The Mavericks want to get up a lot of three-pointers, they were third in the league in deep ball attempts last season. Wembanyama should continue to lock down the paint against a Mavs squad prone to more drive and kick offense.
Attacking the Mavericks inside
Dallas was not a great defensive team last season (24th in the NBA in defensive rating,) part of that was due to their porous interior defense. Without any major offseason additions at the position, the Mavericks will run out a similarly thin front line. Lively II was a touted defensive prospect at Duke, but is unproven at the NBA level. The Spurs will have the opportunity to attack the Mavs in the paint.
A healthy Zach Collins would help matters tremendously. He is currently questionable with a non-COVID related illness. The Spurs operate well with him in the starting five, cutting off of his passes from the high post, and feeding him on the low block for easy scores. A healthy Collins would be a difference maker against Dallas.
The new look starting five
The Spurs debuted their new starters in the final two preseason games. Jeremy Sochan has taken over “point guard” duties, while Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson play the wings, with Wembanyama and Collins filling out the front line. This lineup has thrived in its short preseason stint. According to NBA.com’s lineup metrics, the lineup has a +52.4 net rating, with a 134.5 offensive rating and 82.1 defensive rating in 24 minutes.
That’s the preseason, this is the real deal. A major storyline over the beginning of the season will be how this lineup performance, especially in the clutch.