A sold out Thomas and Mack Center eagerly awaited the arrival of the NBA’s next superstar. A 7-foot-3 giant who can handle the ball and tip-dunk his own misses. The crowd watched every shot, pass and defensive possession with bated breath. Waiting to be blown away like every single basketball analyst told them they would be.
Even a middling performance from Victor Wembanyama would not have satisfied that hype.
The San Antonio Spurs rookie finished his summer league debut with 9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 blocks on 2-13 shooting from the field. He got dunked on by Kai Jones, crossed over by Brandon Miller, and struggled to find his shot in a win over the Hornets. He got clowned on Twitter by Brittany Spears stans, and was even referred to as “Booty Gobert” by a Ringer staffer.
Talk about a welcome to the NBA.
But the summer league is kind of like the PSAT. No one is going to remember how you scored before taking the big test. Hell, even if he has a disappointing first score, he can always retake the thing! It’s going to be a process with the 19-year-old “kid.” It would be best if everyone gave him time to grow, but the weight of expectations will remain heavy as his career progresses. Tonight was just the first of many shellackings he will take.
That said, it wasn’t all bad for Wemby. His defensive upside shined against Charlotte. He blocked a deep three-point attempt from Miller as the shot clock winded down. He dominated as a help side rim protector. Five blocks in 27 minutes is an impressive feat. His length is going to disrupt so many shots at the NBA level. Sure, he got slammed on (although not sure if you can call Jones “throw in” a dunk) but his newly acquired veteran made a great point about the jam coming off of the lob.
Lob play we we seen it before….talk about how he protecting that RIM https://t.co/3yDul74Mva— Reggie Bullock (@ReggieBullock35) July 8, 2023
Lob plays are tough to defend, and as a rim protector, you are going to get caught from time to time. Even on this play he disrupts the pick and roll, Jones just made an insanely athletic play.
While he struggled to find his shot, his offensive IQ was on full display. Wembanyama is going to be able to get around players with his length and ball handling ability. He showed impressive vision and passing ability getting his teammates open on drives. His offensive gravity is unlike anything the Spurs have seen in the last few years. He is going to draw doubles and sometimes triples, which will leave other guys open for good looks.
Las Vegas summer league game one wasn’t Wembanyama’s strongest game... but does anyone actually care? The great Tim Duncan got schooled by Jermaine O’Neal and Greg Ostertag in the summer of 1997. The only proof of that happening are articles from a decade ago. We will soon forget all about Wemby’s summer struggles.
- Julian Champagnie is reaching “you can’t leave him open” levels of sharpshooting. He had an awesome game, scoring 20 points on 4-10 shooting from three. He added in 8 rebound and 6 assists. His length and athleticism along with his shooting make him a valuable role player at the NBA level. He had a violent poster on James Nnaji in the fourth quarter. I really expect him to be a player that surprises people next year. He can defend, rebound and shoot at a high level. That gets you playing time in this league.
- Brian Wright appeared on the ESPN broadcast to chat with Doris Burke and Mark Jones about the state of the team. He emphasized patience and seeing what they have in their young core this season. It looks like the Spurs are largely running it back from last season. He also praised Malaki Branham as a three-level scorer, which is notable. Branham has looked extremely comfortable beyond the arc after shooting just 30% last year. He’s looked strong scoring in a variety of ways in his two summer league games. It seems PATFO has high expectations for him coming into his sophomore season.
- Sidy Cissoko has not converted a field goal in three summer league games. However, his on-ball defense has been as-advertised. He stifles players at the point of attack with his lateral quickness and sturdy frame. He might rival Kyle Lowry for thickest build for a guard/wing. I love watching him handle the ball in transition. There are real tools there, but he will need to develop his offensive game in Austin this year.