All-Star Analysts

Wembanyama’s impact on the Spurs

Published November 5, 2023, 10:00 PMIsaac Go

It’s only been a few games, but the sensational rookie’s effect on his team can already be felt.

Times are changing for San Antonio Spurs fans. The last few years might have been a struggle but now there is light at the end of the tunnel. The great white hope for the Spurs comes in the form of a 7-foot-4 French phenom Victor Wembanyama, the No.1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. 

Wembanyama is a freak of an athlete who has skills like a guard and is the most hyped rookie since LeBron James. Even before entering the league, some NBA superstars have called him a unicorn, others even called him an alien. There was so much intrigue about him that he created an international stir around him and teams were tanking to get him. In the end, it was the Spurs that managed to snag the first overall pick and gain the right to call his name. His timing couldn’t have been more perfect for a franchise that’s desperate to return to its glory days. 

Before the 2023 NBA Draft, the Spurs had two No.1 picks in their entire franchise history: David Robinson (1987) and Tim Duncan (1997). Both players delivered multiple All-Star appearances and titles to the Alamo state. However, the last decade has not been kind. 

After Duncan retired in 2016, there wasn’t much to get excited about in San Antonio. Fellow superstars Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker departed around the same time. Kawhi Leonard was traded to the North in 2019 where he won a title. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge arrived but hardly moved the needle, which was in an awkward situation where the team wasn’t bad enough to tank and not good enough to contend. 

The Spurs failed to make the playoffs the last four seasons and got eliminated in the first round in the two years prior. They managed to draft some young talent, such as Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Tre Jones, Jeremy Sochan, and Devin Vassel. They showed some promise, but none are the generational talent that would excite a fan base such as Robinson or Duncan. 

Enter Victor Wembanyama. 

As mentioned earlier, Wemby has guard-like skills for a giant that rival most the game has to offer. When he elevates for a jump shot, no one in the league can get to it. Once he gets to the rim, he’s finishing with force and quickness that there’s only a small window for the most elite athletes to try and get it. When he gets fouled, he’s shooting around 70% from the line. 

One could argue that Wembanyama still needs to develop a post-game such as his predecessors Duncan or Robinson, but actually, he already has one. He has smooth turnaround jumpers and post footwork, which allow him to maximize his scoring potential. The only question that remains is if his body can handle the stronger bigs of the league like Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Over the first few games, Spurs fans have to take the good with the bad. The one thing that’s stood out is Wemby’s ability to make plays on the defensive end. Not only does he have go-go gadget arms and the athleticism to compete, but he also has the aggressiveness and willingness to go the extra mile to make a stop. Even if there are plays where it seems others would give up, he’d still go for it. He tries to use his God-given tools to disrupt and make defensive plays for the team. However, these same plays also can be a double-edged sword. 

When he goes for those seemingly out-of-reach plays and misses, he puts his body in a lot of compromising positions where he’s unable to get back into the fray despite his athleticism. These could also put him into injury-risk situations and with a body frame like his and the investment of the team towards him, it could turn ugly real quick. He also has the tendency to leak out often which can lead to easy baskets, but at the same time could also lead to more offensive rebounds for the opponents.

Having Wemby on the squad also means head coach Gregg Popovich stays a little longer. He has come out saying he’s had the most fun coaching in recent years and has said to the media that the reason he still coaches is because of the pay, but let’s be real, having the opportunity to coach a generational talent like Wemby gives you a little bit more motivation to get out of bed and drive to work. Pop has worked with multiple Hall of Famers throughout his career, but none of them had the mystery and hype that surrounds Wembanyama. I wonder how Popovich’s very stern, rough, and old-school style of coaching would affect Wemby. I’m sure their love of history and wine should be a good starting point for their relationship.

We, as Spurs fans, once again are blessed by basketball gods that another all-time great talent is donning the Spurs jersey. It won't be any time soon that this team will be raising the Larry O’Brien trophy, but the future is bright. They will experience a lot of growing pains, but it will all be worth it in a couple of years' time once this team gains experience and jells together. With one of the greatest coaches of all time at the helm and a bunch of young talent spearheaded by Victor Wembanyama, the Spurs are finally back. 

All-Star Analyst Feature
Philippine basketball personalities offering their insights on relevant NBA topics specially tailored for Filipino fans.