Victor Wembanyama Bounced Back From A Rough Opener With A 27-Point Night


The first game of the Victor Wembanyama era did not go according to script, as the No. 1 pick in the 2023 Draft struggled offensively against the Hornets, scoring just nine points on 2-of-13 shooting in his debut as an NBA player at Summer League in Las Vegas.

After the game, Wembanyama admitted his conditioning wasn’t there for Friday’s opener and that he “didn’t really know what he was doing.” Sunday night brought the opportunity for swift redemption against the Blazers, and Wembanyama delivered with a much more impressive showing, albeit in the Spurs first loss of the summer, scoring 27 points to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocks on 9-of-14 shooting (7-of-12 from the free throw line).

In the opener, Wembanyama seemed overly focused on not over-asserting himself, showing off his passing chops but not playing with the level of force needed against Summer League players hungry to make a name for themselves going up against the most-hyped prospect since LeBron James. A passive approach, coupled with a cold shooting night, made for a rather poor showing. On Sunday, he seemed to learn his lesson, being far more assertive as a scorer, looking for his shot and attacking inside more often.

He showed that his first game was not indicative of his shooting touch, showing off a smooth jumper against Portland.

However what was most encouraging was his work inside and at the rim. The biggest immediate question for Wembanyama is how he’ll deal with the strength of NBA players on the interior, because even as he plays more as a wing, he’s going to need to be able to get and finish inside to be as efficient as necessary — particularly since he’s not a lights out shooter. Against Portland he put the full arsenal on display. He was able to draw fouls and get himself to the line, including a couple three-point fouls which could become a real thing with his shooting form and how high he jumps. He also took matters into his own hands to get the ball and get inisde with a vicious putback dunk off an offensive rebound, running the floor off a block to get a dunk in transition, and getting his own rebound (by running to the other side of the basket and still getting to the ball first) and finishing through contact.

For much of the night the Blazers were ahead by double figures, but a late Spurs flurry put them in position to cut the lead to one on a stepback three by Wembanyama, sending the Thomas & Mack crowd into a frenzy.

Unfortunately, as often happens in Summer League, Wemby’s teammates did not recognize the moment and he didn’t touch the ball on the next two possessions as his teammates hoisted contested threes that didn’t come particularly close. As such the game didn’t feature the dramatic ending it maybe deserved, but Wembanyama did get the chance to put his full skillset on display and remind people why every team was so excited about the prospect of making him their franchise cornerstone coming into this year’s Draft.

It wasn’t all perfect, but it was an impressive bounceback where he looked much more comfortable on the floor to get the hype train is back on the tracks.