The San Antonio Spurs got their first preseason win of the 2023-24 campaign by defeating the Miami Heat on Friday night. While the specifics of a preseason game aren’t too important, rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama put on another show that will keep a smile on the face of every Spurs fan. In San Antonio’s 120-104 victory, Wembanyama finished with 23 points, four rebounds, four assists and three blocks in only 23 minutes.
Spurs vs. Heat Stats
Spurs vs. Heat – Final Grades
Wow. I don’t even know what to type. Through two preseason games, Wembanyama is even better than the hype. His obscene length and his advanced skill combine to make him a terror on the basketball court. Against the Heat, Wembanyama’s passing was really good. He was able to get any shot he wanted. In transition, Miami was helpless when Wembanyama got the ball. Defensively, the rookie was active on and off the ball. I mean, yeah, it’s preseason but Wembanyama looks like a certifiable beast who will be a problem for other teams starting on Day 1.
With Wembanyama drawing an oversized amount of attention, Vassell was able to get going from deep. He nailed 6-of-9 three-pointers on his way to 21 points in 22 minutes. I also thought his passing and defense were both better than usual. It looks like Vassell is ready and willing to take another step forward on offense this season.
Sochan started the game at point guard. How did it look? Truthfully, it was a rocky ride. His ball-handling was iffy at times but there were glimpses of intriguing playmaking ability. Sochan’s size and athleticism for the position provide him built-in advantages. Tonight, I thought he looked best in transition, on defense and on the boards.
Bassey had his second straight very good preseason game. He’s moving extremely well and he’s getting off the ground with lightning speed. He wasted no time tallying four blocks and was a force on the boards. Bassey might have entered preseason play as an afterthought but it’s looking like the coaches would be wise to find a spot in the rotation for him.
With Keldon Johnson out, Osman got a turn at starting small forward. He once again looked like a good fit in San Antonio’s system. He isn’t great at any one aspect of the game but he’s an all-around solid basketball player. Osman passed well, played defense and remained a threat scoring-wise. He could carve out a niche on this team as a connecting piece.
I thought Branham could have done a better job of creating quality looks for himself. Versus the Heat, he was in too much of a hurry and settled too soon. The good news is his three-point shot looks better than it did during his rookie year. It’s not nearly as flat and his release looks like it’s a little bit higher.
Jones came off the bench behind Sochan and he looked like a natural in that role. He was able to be aggressive and he was making things happen time and time again. When he wasn’t scoring, he was setting up a teammate or playing a vivacious brand of defense.
Going against his twin brother Justin Champagnie, Julian couldn’t calibrate his shooting touch. He missed 6-of-7 shots from the field. To his credit, Champagnie was able to salvage some of his value by rebounding with vigor and authoring a couple high-level passes.
Wesley was the third string point guard and I thought he did really well. His speed is clearly a weapon he can deploy on both ends of the court. He got out of control a couple times on offense but he was creating quality shots on a frequent basis. I liked Wesley’s defense and his overall hustle and liveliness.
Remember that outside jumper Barlow consistently hit during summer league? Well, he hit two of those midrange shots against the Heat and then decided to splash a three-pointer for good measure. If Barlow becomes a knock-down shooter, he definitely has a spot in the NBA.
Graham played the fourth quarter and didn’t really move the needle in either direction.
The good: Cissoko’s passing is really astute for a teenage wing. He’s obviously strong and can muscle older players with ease. The bad: Cissoko doesn’t want to shoot and his first step to the rim is mediocre, which combines to make him an underwhelming scoring threat. He also had an unwise foul against the Heat.
Mamukelashvili isn’t getting many minutes right now but he’s taking advantage of the time he does get on the court. He kept his mistakes to a minimum while draining a pair of threes and reliably being in the right spots.
Pop giving Wembanyama the freedom to do whatever he wants is paying off in a big way right now. I also like Pop giving Sochan a shot at point guard.