Grades: San Antonio Spurs vs. Charlotte Hornets – Victor Wembanyama’s Debut

The San Antonio Spurs coasted to another victory to improve their summer league record to 3-0. This wasn’t just any other game, though. This was the Silver and Black debut for Victor Wembanyama. The French phenom played 27 minutes as the Spurs beat the Hornets again, this time by a final count of 76-68. Despite the relatively close final score, the contest was never really in doubt.

Victor Wembanyama

27 minutes, 9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 blocks, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls
2-for-13 from the field, 1-for-6 on threes, 4-for-4 at the line

Wembanyama didn’t have the cleanest debut in the history of sports. His ball-handling was loose, he didn’t always appear to know what to do, he missed a handful of easy shots and the touch on his jumper was missing in action. That said, I thought there was a lot to like. It’s clear that his shot-blocking is already elite. Wembanyama disrupts everything in the paint when he’s lurking. His passing was really good and his agility was as deft as advertised.  Wembanyama’s overwhelming size allowed him to get clean looks whenever he wanted. Sure, 2-for-13 wasn’t the best way to debut — but beyond the misses, his immense potential was blindingly obvious and his overall impact on tonight’s game was positive. 

Grade: B-

Julian Champagnie

30 minutes, 20 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 turnovers
7-for-15 from the floor, 4-for-10 on threes, 2-for-3 at the line

Champagnie was the best player on the court for the Spurs. This guy has had an amazing start to summer league. Against Charlotte, his three-point attempts looked especially effortless. His passing off the catch and on the move was excellent. He had an explosive dunk at the rim that showed off his length and athleticism. Champagnie is also active on defense and plays a smart brand of basketball. With as well as he has played so far, there’s no question he deserves an opportunity to be in the rotation when the regular season tips off.

Grade: A-

Malaki Branham

30 minutes, 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
6-for-16 from the floor, 4-for-7 on threes, 1-for-2 at the line

Branham was decent. His efficiency on offense was lacking and his decision-making wasn’t always the best, but it’s a great sign that his three-point shooting looks so much better than it did when he was a rookie. I worry about the fact that he’s getting his shot blocked so much but he’s crafty and a quick learner so there’s legitimate hope he can figure it out. Defensively, he could have been much better than he was tonight.

Grade: B

Blake Wesley

30 minutes, 13 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers
6-for-17 from the floor, 1-for-4 on threes, 0-for-1 at the line

The good: Wesley was electric in the open court. He attacked the rim with ferocity and kept the pace humming. While not always technically sound, Wesley’s effort was palpable in all areas of the game. The bad: His passing left a lot to be desired, to put it gently. Wesley’s shoot-pass decision making was pretty terrible, to put it more bluntly. He struggled to handle the ball in any sort of traffic and his defensive mistakes needed two hands to count.

Grade: C-

Dominick Barlow

25 minutes, 12 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 fouls
5-for-9 from the floor, 2-for-5 at the line

I thought Barlow did well. He wasn’t a focal point on offense yet found ways to produce. He ran the court hard, battled for good positioning and made the right passes at the right times. Defensively, he was sturdy in the paint and switched out onto the perimeter adequately. Perhaps most importantly for his future, Barlow looked like a good pairing next to Wembanyama. 

Grade: B+

Sidy Cissoko

22 minutes, 1 point, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 9 fouls
0-for-3 from the floor, 0-for-1 on threes, 1-for-2 at the line

The good: Cissoko has a reputation for being a poor rebounder but he was excellent on the boards tonight. His passing also continues to be a plus. He’s really good at drawing in the defense and then finding shooters open beyond the arc. Defensively, he uses his body well and can really get up into opponents. The bad: Cissoko’s positives on defense are being negated due to his constant fouling. He’s simply undisciplined on that end and is too often needlessly reaching or falling for fakes. Offensively, his shot looks horrible right now. His perimeter shots look like they’re being fired out of a cannon and he can’t finish at the rim at all. 

Grade: C

Erik Stevenson

20 minutes, 3 points, 1 block
1-for-4 from the floor, 0-for-3 on threes, 1-for-1 at the line

Stevenson has a good looking stroke, he’s athletic and can really jump, and he processes the game well. Unfortunately for him, he’s lacking a bit in the talent department so he hasn’t been able to put it all together yet.

Grade: C

Charles Bediako

5 minutes, 1 point, 4 rebounds, 1 block
0-for-2 from the field, 0-for-1 on threes, 1-for-2 at the line

Bediako was strong on the boards but it looked like he was moving in slow motion on both ends of the court. He needs to react faster and move with more self-assuredness if he’s going to make it in the NBA.

Grade: Inc.

Javante McCoy

5 minutes, 1 rebound
0-for-2 from the floor

McCoy continues to be the biggest disappointment of the summer league team. He entered with one of the better resumes but has oscillated between being bad and being really bad during his minutes on the court.

Grade: Inc.

Josh Carlton

5 minutes

Impressively, Carlton didn’t register a single statistic during his five minutes on the court. Nothing. Nada.

Grade: Inc.

Matt Nielsen

Obviously, integrating Wembanyama into the action on the fly isn’t easy but I thought the coaching staff could have done a better job of putting the Frenchman in more advantageous positions. Getting him the ball going to the rim would have helped. Getting the 7-foot-5 guy the ball in the paint also would have been a good idea. Rotations-wise, Nielsen did fine. He leaned on his starters more — but that’s understandable because San Antonio wanted to keep continuity around Wembanyama as much as possible.

Grade: C+