Six Burning Questions as Victor Wembanyama Debuts for Spurs

Victor Wembanyama will suit for the San Antonio Spurs for the very first time tonight. In a summer league matchup between the Spurs and the Charlotte Hornets, all eyes will be on the No. 1 pick of the 2023 NBA Draft.

While this is Wembanyama’s first summer league game, San Antonio enters the contest having won both of their previous summertime affairs. Playing in Sacramento at the California classic, the Spurs defeated the Hornets and then followed that up by beating the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs will now play at least five games at the Las Vegas Summer League. 

This isn’t the first time the Spurs sent a No. 1 pick to summer league. Back in 1997, Tim Duncan played for the Spurs summer league team in the Rocky Mountain Revue held in Salt Lake City.

What should Spurs fans expect from Wembanyama tonight? Here’s what I’ll be keeping an eye on during the game. 

Will Victor Wembanyama start at forward or center?

Even though Wembanyama is 7-foot-3.5 without shoes, he actually plays more like a guard than he does a traditional, rim-running center. He’s legitimately athletic, can handle the ball and shoots three-pointers with ease. 

The Hornets don’t have a bruising center on their summer league team so it’s possible that the Spurs just start Wembanyama at center. However, it’s more likely that San Antonio starts him at forward. My guess is Dominic Barlow is listed at center and Wembanyama is listed at power forward. 

The other three starters will likely be Blake Wesley at point guard, Malaki Branham at shooting guard and Julian Champagnie at small forward. 

Will Victor Wembanyama be used as a ball-handler?

In France, it wasn’t unusual to see Wembanyama bring the ball up the court. Can he do that in the NBA? Tonight, we’ll begin to find out.

If Wembanyama gets a long rebound, I expect we’ll see him bring the ball up himself. What will be really interesting, though, is to see whether the Spurs inbound the ball to him in the backcourt at any point of the game. It probably won’t happen in this summer league contest — but it’d be fascinating if it does.

Will the Spurs post up Victor Wembanyama?

The post-up is a dying artform in the NBA. With the elimination of illegal defense rules and perimeter players getting bigger, posting up a big man isn’t as relatively efficient as it used to be a couple decades ago. The game today is about pace, space and shooting three-pointers.

But, man, you have to post up Wembanyama, right? You’re not going to be running four-down every time up the court, obviously, but you want to see your 7-foot-5 phenom in the low post a couple times to at least get an idea of what it looks like against NBA-ish athletes, I’d imagine. 

Will the Spurs run isolations for Victor Wembanyama?

San Antonio’s summer league team has been running a lot of motion sets and sets that involve numerous screens. With Wembanyama, my guess is we’ll likely see at least a few isolation sets. In France, his team would clear out a side of the court and let him go to work. 

While practice time is limited before and during summer league, you’d think the Spurs have had enough time to draw up a few isos from Wembanyama. 

Will Victor Wembanyama defend the basket or defend out on the perimeter?

Defensively, Wembanyama has quick enough feet to survive out on the perimeter. That said, his obscene length is most valuable in the paint protecting the rim.

It’ll be interesting to see how the coaches play it. My guess is the Spurs will have Wembanyama drop into the paint as much as possible and have the guards battle around picks instead of switching. We’ll see, though. 

How many minutes will Victor Wembanyama play?

In their first two summer league games, the starters were limited to around 25 minutes per game. In his debut, that’s probably the upper limit of playing time for Wembanyama. 

If it’s a close game, maybe the coaches will push Wembanyama closer to 30 minutes — but I doubt it. Knowing how cautious the Spurs can be, there’s a better chance that they limit him to 15-20 minutes just to play it safe.