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Balancing expectations for Victor Wembanyama and the young Spurs

Let’s step back and reflect on Wemby’s long-term trajectory.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The bright lights of Madison Square Garden might have overwhelmed Victor Wembanyama last night. The rookie encountered a challenging start, going 0-5 in the first half and shooting two airballs while the San Antonio Spurs trailed by 14 points at the break. Ultimately, the team suffered their third consecutive loss, with the rookie scoring 14 points while shooting a season-low 28.6% from the field. Despite Wemby’s underwhelming debut at MSG, it’s an important reminder that he’s only 19 years old.

Legendary coach and commentator Hubie Brown constantly reminded the audience about that important fact on Wednesday night’s broadcast. Perhaps it was premature for many, myself included, to get carried away with the excitement following Victor’s stellar performances last week against Phoenix. The back-to-back wins led some to dream big and view the Spurs as potential contenders for a play-in spot due to Wemby’s brilliance. However, it’s crucial to recognize that he’s still a young rookie, and the Spurs are taking a long-term approach with both Victor and their current roster.

As highlighted in Kevin O’Connor’s article on The Ringer, while we already acknowledge some of Victor’s outstanding qualities, this season’s focus should be on exploring other dimensions of his game.

Jones and Wemby share the floor plenty. But for now, it’s more beneficial for Wembanyama to grow with Sochan, who is the second-best defender on the team and has the highest upside on the roster as a facilitator. Plus, we already know that Wembanyama can destroy the rim with crazy dunks. There is more developmental benefit to making things harder on Wemby with creation opportunities at the end of the clock, a packed paint that forces him into in-between shots, and the physicality of veteran centers. These are the things he needs to get better at.

The point guard experience with Jeremy Sohan won’t always be flawless, but his defensive potential alongside Wemby could be remarkable in the future. Patience is essential, especially considering the Spurs have the youngest roster in the league.

Unsurprisingly, New York newspapers seized the opportunity to mock the French rookie’s MSG debut in their Thursday editions.

Wednesday night marked a different NBA experience for Wemby in New York, with Knicks fans mercilessly chanting “Overrated” during his first-half struggles.

It wasn’t the first time Victor faced such adversity from fans. He mentioned being heckled by European fans during the French segment of his post-game press conference.

Another important takeaway from his press conference was his unwavering belief in the Spurs’ defensive potential.

Despite recent struggles, we’ve seen some encouraging signs from the team’s defensive potential. Once again, Victor displays maturity in his approach while remaining optimistic despite the recent challenging struggles. It’s time to turn the page and focus on the next game against the red-hot Minnesota Timberwolves.