The Victor Wembanyama effect for one night in Utah

San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) goes up for a dunk as the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs play at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

There was no guarantee that he was going to play. A minor ankle injury kept Victor Wembanyama sidelined when the San Antonio Spurs played in Phoenix on Monday night and head coach Gregg Popovich said there was a 50-50 chance he’d be available when the team faced the Utah Jazz Wednesday.

Well, Wembanyama played and the Utah Jazz were subjected to what happens when there is a 7-foot-5 phenom on the court. His stat line tells part of the story — 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists, five blocks — but watching him tells an even more impressive story.

I went back and rewatched all of Wembanyama’s minutes and the Jazz missed 29 shots while he was on the court. Of those 29 missed shots, Wembanyama directly impacted 14 of them. Defensively accounting for nearly 50% of the Jazz’s missed shots is apretty intense and really, really impressive.

Teams that are playing the Spurs will do just about anything to get shots when Wembanyama is on the weakside of the court but because of his length and speed, even then he can still close out and make people shoot over the top of his outstretched arms.

Wembanyama is having this kind of an effect on the game in his rookie season as he’s still learning how to be most effective. He is only going to get better.

3-point defense

The Utah Jazz have the worst opponent 3-point field goal percentage in the league. On average Jazz opponents are averaging 39.7% from beyond the arc, and I hate to state the obvious, but average means that there have been quite a few nights when opponents are shooting well over 40%, including Wednesday night.

The Spurs shot 48.5% from 3 against the Jazz.

“We’ve got to do a better job contesting shots,” Lauri Markkanen said. “We’ve got to find the shooters, we’ve got to be able to rotate … and even if you don’t think you can block the shot or contest the shot, still that little bit of hand going up is going to make a difference. I think we’ve got to have more urgency to just give a little bit extra effort.”

There’s part of some of the Jazz’s defensive schemes that allow for certain players taking 3-pointers or living with 3s so long as they are taking away other shots on the court. But the Jazz are losing a lot of games and it’s not just that they are allowing some 3s — they’re allowing a lot.

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