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How Victor Wembanyama could get even better this season

Wembanyama is having a stellar rookie season but there are some little things he could be doing better.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Chicago Bulls Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs’ season has two parallel storylines. One is about how the team looks on a nightly basis and what the final score reads; the other is about the progress of Victor Wembanyama. The rookie is so important to the team’s future success that it can be hard to focus on anyone else at times.

Fortunately for the Spurs, Wembanyama has been fantastic, posting star numbers and having a huge impact on the defensive end, especially after becoming the starting center. The rookie is a monster now and should only get better as the seasons pass and he gets to add weapons in the summer.

Still, there are some small issues that he could work on in the short term, on the fly, that could help both him and the team do better. Let’s take a look at some minor but meaningful things Wemby could improve on.

Wembanyama should shoot threes but not force them

Wembanyama will need to be an outside threat to reach his full potential, so letting him shoot is a must. His form looks good, if a little inconsistent, and he has the touch to hit jumpers. The biggest issue right now seems to be decision-making and rhythm.

Curiously, Wembanyama does much better on pull-up threes than those of the catch-and-shoot variety. When he takes zero dribbles before firing, he connects on 25 percent of his threes. When he puts the ball on the floor at least once, he makes 33 percent of them. Granted, he’s taken over twice as many catch-and-shoot looks compared to off-the-dribble ones, and in general hasn’t taken enough to draw any definitive conclusions but it seems like letting him fire away a few off the bounce now and then is fine. But what’s the issue with the spot-up ones?

Wembanyama has some issues with his form — he tends to fade away occasionally and he struggles when he has to rush his one-two gather at times — but after watching Victor’s catch-and-shoot threes, it becomes obvious that many of them are not the result of a good process. A huge percentage of them come on pick-and-pop situations in which Victor either makes the wrong decision to let it fly with time on the clock or is forced to shoot because it seems that’s the best look the team is going to get. As a result, there have been surprisingly few situations in which a stationary Wemby just catches the ball and takes threes that come in the flow of the offense. More often than not, he has to relocate to get open and he actively tries to do so to get a look from three. At this point, he shouldn’t be a stretch big with a high three-point rate but he plays like one because of a bad offense and his eagerness to let shots fly.

Wemby needs to take threes, but they need to be the right threes. Instead of firing because he’s left alone at the top of the arc, he can go into a handoff to change the side of attack if there’s time left on the clock. Shooting on the move shouldn’t be completely off the table, but not something he should actively seek. He could even trim some of the off-the-bounce shots he has been hitting relatively consistently. The three should be part of Wemby’s repertoire, but not be such a key part of his offensive game yet.

Wemby needs to be more physical on screens and box-outs

A predictable issue with Wermbanyama was that his slender frame would hamper how impactful he could be as a rebounder and screen-setter. He has done much better than anticipated early on in his career, but there’s still plenty of room for growth in those areas, even without a physical transformation.

On box outs, one of Vic’s issues is that he doesn’t do his work early. It’s a common problem for power forwards who make the transition to center, a position in which boxing out is exponentially more important. Oftentimes Wembanyama will let his man get inside position as he ball-watches or gets ready to offer help defense and then uses his length to make up for it by tapping the ball to himself while barely trying to move the opponent under the rim.

It works better than it should, because Wemby’s reach is just massive, but it’s something that could become a bad habit that could come back to bite the Spurs when they face an elite offensive rebounding center. So far the team recovers more opponent’s misses when Wemby is on the floor than off despite Victor logging wing-like box-out numbers, which means this isn’t a huge issue, but learning how to rely on positioning instead of just length could help Wembanyama in the long run.

Something similar happens with screens, as Wembanyama is effective but not necessarily because of his fundamentals. No one expects Wemby to lead the league in screen assists by flattening ball handlers’ defenders with a physical pick, but there are times when he doesn’t even make contact. There’s an explanation for a lot of those instances, as he’s good at slipping the pick to roll and he has set a lot of screens with the sole objective of getting free in pick-and-pop situations. But there are times when needs to make some contact to create an advantage, especially when opponents try to get under the screen. When he does, he can free up others or easily become available for passes that are often not there when he perfunctorily sets a pick.

The rookie is a basic screener right now, but improved technique will come with time and so will the strength to bang bodies inside. For now, Wembanyama can make a few small adjustments that have to do more with decision-making and effort that should make him more effective without requiring overnight improvement or taking a physical toll.

Wembanyama is already approaching star levels, but there will always be small tweaks that will make him even more valuable on both ends. Fortunately, he seems like the type of player that would be willing to make them.