XWW Sports >Football World >Wemby Watch: What we've seen from Victor Wembanyama halfway through 2023-24 season

Wemby Watch: What we've seen from Victor Wembanyama halfway through 2023-24 season

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Stay up to date on No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama during his rookie campaign with the San Antonio Spurs. A new Wemby Watch drops every Sunday during the season.


Midseason check-in 📝

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich provided a breakdown of the first half of Wembayama’s season ahead of Monday’s loss at Atlanta, saying the rookie has progressed the most “probably in aggressiveness.” 

Surely, the growth in that area stems from Wembanyama gaining more cohesion with his new teammates, who are also learning on the fly how to best set up a superstar talent for optimal results on a night-to-night basis.

“[He’s] running to the bucket and not being so concerned on 3-point shots,” Popovich explained. “[He’s] running the floor, being that target. And of course our team has learned they need to throw those passes. That’s not something we were used to. But he’s really learned how to do that, understand that, that sense of tone[-setting] for everybody defensively.”

Popovich pointed out that the rookie is “becoming a really good rim protector.”

Wembanyama currently leads the NBA in blocks per game (3.1).

“He’s figuring out how to make (rim protection) a definite priority, and everybody else is learning how to handle that by playing around him,” the coach said.


1-man highlight reel 🤯

If by some odd chance you haven’t been paying much attention to Wembanyama this season, we’ve got you covered this week with all of his best highlights so far. 

As two-time Kia MVP Nikola Jokic said of the Spurs rookie after their first matchup in November: “Enjoy and watch the show.”

Take a look at some of Victor Wembanyama's best plays with the San Antonio Spurs at the midway point of the 2023-24 season.


On the court 🏀

Wembanyama currently leads all rookies in several statistical categories, including scoring (19.8 points per game), blocks (3.1), rebounds (10.1) and steals (1.1).

Here’s a quick sampling of some of the milestones the rookie reached over the first half of the season.

Jan. 10, 2024:  Posted first career triple-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and no turnovers in 21 minutes. The performance vs. Pistons registered as the second-fastest triple-double in NBA history. Jan. 12, 2024: Became the first player to register 25-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and two blocks in a game he played fewer than 20 minutes (since 1973-74 when blocks became an official statistic). Wembanyama played 19:41 against the Hornets, the third-fewest minutes played for someone with 25-plus points and 10-plus rebounds since 1951-52.Jan. 4, 2024: Scored 27 points with five blocks in a thriller against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The performance marked his fourth game with 20-plus points and four-plus blocks in 28 minutes or fewer. That ties for the most such games in the NBA for a player’s career. Wembanyama knocked those off the bucket list in his first 30 games. Dec. 13, 2023: Racked up 30 points with 13 rebounds and six blocks against the Lakers to become just the sixth rookie to log 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and six-plus blocks in a game (since 1973-74). David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Chris Webber are the only other players to accomplish that feat. Dec. 8, 2023: In just his 20th game, the then 19-year-old Wembanyama registered the second 20-20 game by a teenager, finishing with 21 points and 20 rebounds against the Timberwolves. Dwight Howard is the only other teen to have put up 20 points or more and 20-plus rebounds in a single game.

NBA Awards race 🏆 

The Kia Rookie of the Year race is panning out to be a two-man chase between OKC’s Chet Holmgren and Wembanyama, and our guys at “Inside the NBA” unanimously agreed that the award should go to the young Spurs star. 

Chet or Wemby? 👀

The Fellas discuss who they have as ROTY pic.twitter.com/grlpxuXoX0

— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 19, 2024

NBA.com’s writers also revealed their award winners from the first half of the 2023-24 season.


Work in progress ⏳

The rookie lessons piled up quickly over the 88 days since the start of Wembanyama’s first season in the NBA, culminating in the 20-year-old’s toughest Monday yet in Atlanta on MLK Day.

With San Antonio trailing by 35 points at intermission, Popovich elected to tip off the second half with Wembanyama sitting on the bench alongside fellow starters Tre Jones and Devin Vassell. Blake Wesley, Dominick Barlow and Cedi Osman filled in on the first unit with Jeremy Sochan and Julian Champagnie.

The benching marked one of many firsts in Wembanyama’s young career. Still, he took it all in stride, describing Popovich’s message as “strong and obvious.” It’s also worth noting the current roster is the youngest Popovich has coached in San Antonio. 

“He wanted to put players he could trust to be 100% on the court, and also show the regular starters how we should be playing the game,” the rookie said.

The French phenom eventually scored all of his team-high 26 points in the second half, as the Spurs pulled to within six points in a 109-99 loss. Afterward, Wembanyama embraced Popovich’s tough-love approach.

“I like to be coached,” he said. “I like to be threatened to be sent to the G League if I don’t play the right way. I like when there are consequences to my mistakes.”


Circle on calendar 📅

The Kia Rookie of the Year debate takes center stage Wednesday with Wembanyama and Holmgren set to face off for the second time this season in an NBA Rivals Week matchup (9:30 ET, ESPN). 

Before that, another big matchup awaits on Monday with the rookie taking on the reigning Kia MVP Joel Embiid for the first time (7:30 ET, NBA TV). The Spurs wrap up their five-game road trip in Philadelphia before returning to San Antonio to host the Thunder on Wednesday.


Strengthening a 7-foot frame 🏋️‍♂️

The Spurs rested Wembanyama for Friday’s 124-120 loss at Charlotte, continuing to abide by a minutes restriction set up after the rookie suffered a December ankle injury.

“It’s not rest. It’s doctor’s orders,” Popovich said. “He’s got a minutes restriction and he’s not allowed to play back-to-backs. It will probably change very soon. But for now, we still have to abide by that restriction.”

Wembanyama missed a Dec. 19 matchup against Milwaukee with ankle soreness before stepping on the foot of a Dallas Mavericks ballboy four nights later during team warmups.

Since then, the team has held out the rookie from back-to-backs while limiting his minutes to approximately 25 per game.


French connection 🇫🇷

Wembanyama was back in action Saturday night where he reunited with former Mets 92 teammate Bilal Coulibaly with the Spurs facing off against the Wizards. The rookies played together as teenagers in France where they each shared the same dream of making it to the NBA.

Wembanyama put up 24 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 blocks, leading the Spurs to a 131-127 win and snapping a four-game losing skid. As for Coulibaly, the No. 7 overall pick came off the bench to score 14 points for Washington. The former teammates, now turned opponents, swapped jerseys after the matchup. 

Former French teammates Bilal Coulibaly and Victor Wembanyama swap jerseys 🇫🇷🤝 pic.twitter.com/OpgjDt40vD

— NBA (@NBA) January 21, 2024

* * *

Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. E-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

Michaela Gilmer is a producer for NBA.com.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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