Spurs ‘Wouldn’t Even Have 10 Wins’ Without Victor Wembanyama

There could be one key reason why the Frenchman may win the Rookie of the Year award over other close rival for the award, Chet Holmgren.

The San Antonio Spurs are heading back to the lottery in the 2024 NBA Draft having held the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 rendition, where they were able to select the French sensation, Victor Wembanyama.

With the 20-year-old projected to win the Rookie of the Year award, despite being in tough competition all season long with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Chet Holmgren, NBA journalist Mark Medina makes his case for why Wembanyama deserves to win the coveted individual award more, stating that the Spurs could have seen single digit wins on the season without him.

Back in the Lottery, Rookie of the Year Race

Spurs finished with a 22-60 record, 14th in Western Conference

Victor Wembanyama and Luka Doncic Despite having the luxury of being able to draft Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick last year, San Antonio suffered yet another disappointing regular season, in which they failed to make headway with their Western Conference competitors.

Able to muster only 22 wins during the 2023-24 campaign, the Spurs once again found themselves battling at the bottom of the conference, instead of for the playoff or Play-In tournament seeds, and will soon learn their fate of where they will select in the 2024 draft in just a few weeks’ time with them holding a 10.5 percent chance of claiming the No. 1 overall pick again.

Despite going the whole season being outscored by 6.4 points per 100 possessions due to having the fifth-worst ranked offense in the league (109.3 offensive rating), and the ninth-worst defensive efficiency (115.6), things weren’t all dull and gloomy in San Antonio.

With a talent of Wembanyama’s stature entering the NBA, it was supposed that the Spurs thought their star rookie would benefit from coming into an organization filled with young talent, as opposed to one with a lot of veteran presence, as it would set the tone that it was the 20-year-old’s team.

This approach allowed Wembanyama to showcase his elite skillset, as well as allowed for other young players to develop and exhibit their craft on a nightly basis.

No one more than 24-year-old Tre Jones utilized this rare opportunity of being in an organization that had no pressure on the team to reach the playoffs this season, to demonstrate that he had all the necessary attributes to be a starting-caliber point-guard in the Association.

With his high basketball IQ, and floor general capabilities, he helped the Spurs’ offense improve exponentially when head coach Gregg Popovich moved him into a starting role, with their offensive efficiency climbing to 113.1 when he is on the court, compared to 106.6 when he is on the bench.

But while Jones has ‘quietly’ been improving the Spurs’ core and helping unlock his star teammate’s potential, the 2023-24 season has been about Wembanyama, and Wembanyama only, with the Frenchman projected to have the edge over the Thunder’s Chet Holmgren for the coveted Rookie of the Year award, in what has been one of the closest, and most competitive, battles in years between two of the future faces of the NBA.

Spurs Could Have Finished With ‘Five to Eight’ Wins This Season

Medina provides his explanation as to why he feels Wembanyama deserves to win the elusive individual award over Holmgren, stating that the Thunder would still be a playoff team, albeit not necessarily the No. 1 seed in the West, but a playoff team nonetheless.

Though, without Wembanyama, the Spurs may have struggled even more, and could have easily won only single-digit games on the entire season.

“The Thunder without Chet Holmgren wouldn’t have the number one seed, but they still would have made the playoffs because they have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams and Lu Dort, and they have a lot of good depth, continuity, and a lot of great coaching.

The Spurs without Victor Wembanyama – they probably wouldn’t have reached even 10 regular season wins. They’ve been bad this season, because of the sub-par roster around Victor, but they may have even finished with five-to-eight wins this season.

So where I kind of tilt my hand toward Victor, is that he has impacted them enough that the losing wasn’t as severe as it could have been.”

Early Display of a Generational Talent

Is a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award

Victor Wembanyama San Antonio Spurs

There aren’t too many superlatives left that haven’t been used to describe Wembanyama’s rookie season, where the word ‘impressive’ feels vastly understated.

In his 71 outings for the Spurs, Wembanyama was the only rookie to average 20-plus points, notching 1.4 points at a 46.5 percent shooting clip, as well as being active on the boards, grabbing 10.6 rebounds, – the fourth-most among anyone in the NBA – dishing 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals.

He also registered a 31.2 percent usage rate, the fifth-largest mark in the NBA this season.

But while his offensive numbers were sensational, he earned even more plaudits for his work on the defensive side of the ball, with the NBA also recognising that, naming him as a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award, alongside Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat, and two-time winner, Rudy Gobert, of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

His 3.6 blocks per game was the best mark among anyone in the league, while his 10 blocks in a game against the Toronto Raptors led the league, while he held three of the top five blocking games, with a nine and eight-block game, respectively.

With his 8-foot wingspan, it is no wonder that players found it a hard challenge to score over him, where from three-point distance, opposition players would convert their shots at only 35.3 percent accuracy, for a percentage differential of minus -1.3 percent from their season average of 36.6 percent from the field from long-range.

But, the closer the players he was defending would get to the basket, the more dominant Wembanyama became due to his length, and on two-point field goal attempts, he would hold his opponents to 49.5 percent shooting, down from their average of 56.5 percent, for a swing of minus-7.0 percent.

Overall, the rookie would ensure that his opponents would be restricted to only 46.0 percent shooting from the field, down 4.5 percent from their season averages, once again highlighting his elite-caliber defensive ability.

Thus, this has led many to believe that his performances are worthy of making an All-NBA team this season, and should he achieve that, he will become only the third rookie in Spurs franchise history to do so in their rookie campaign, joining Tim Duncan (1997-98) – who Popovich feels Wembanyama shares some attributes with – and David Robinson (1989-90).

With another high draft pick coming their way, the Spurs have a lot to think about with the off-season approaching, but they may decide that now is the perfect time to bring in veteran presence to shape around and support their franchise star of both their present and future, and get back to championship-winning ways, like has become synonymous with the San Antonio Spurs’ name, once again.


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