Why the Spurs’ offense is better without Victor Wembanyama

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz

In the last five games without Victor Wembanyama the Spurs have gone 2-3 and posted an offensive rating of 119.2, a fantastic number. For the season, they are slightly better with him off the court. Why does the offense work so well without Wemby?

Marilyn Dubinski: It’s worth remembering that without Wemby, this is virtually the same team as last season. While they weren’t much better, they have much more playing experience with each other and can just revert back to a style of play they are comfortable with. On the other hand, they’re still learning to play with Wemby, focusing on getting him the ball most possessions, so it’s just a different goal and system when he’s on the court.

Mark Barrington: Wembanyama is a basketball revolution. His game is so different than anyone else’s, that his teammates have to relearn how to play so that they’re efficient with him. When you add in that he’s just learning and still often tries to dribble through a crowd instead of passing the ball when he’s double- and triple-teamed, it’s no wonder that the Spurs offense just gets clunky sometimes when he’s in the lineup. Of course, if there were one or two knockdown shooters who could take advantage of the space created by Victor’s gravity, it would be a lot better, but the lack of shooting in the Spurs lineup makes the entire Silver and Black offense too compressed and unable to take advantage of the space created by Wembanyama’s dominant presence in the paint.

Jesus Gomez: Familiarity probably plays a big part, but the main difference might be that the Spurs face more normal defenses without Wemby. Just as the Spurs try to run their offense through their star, opponents base their entire game plan around stopping them from doing that, so occasionally San Antonio looks for an option that is being denied. Without Wembanyama there’s more fluidity to the attack, by necessity. Also, to be fair, the Spurs have shot lights out from three in most of those Wemby-less games, so they might simply be an anomaly.

J.R. Wilco: Most of us agree on two things: a) Wemby is the future, and b) this is a developmental year in which growing for the future is more important than wins. So when Victor is in the lineup, the team is calling plays focused on VW’s development and the rest of the team’s ability to get the ball to Wemby in advantageous positions. Thus the familiar sights related to growing pains, and the GIFs of Pop rubbing his temples after an unfruitful possession ends with a shot clock violation. Remove Wemby and you simplify the items the team, and each player, are working on. This makes play simpler, and the fewer things you have to think about while you play, the better and easier your play becomes, individually and collectively.

The Spurs are over eight points better on D with Wemby on the floor and in those five games he missed, they posted a defensive rating of 118.9, worse than their season average. Without major upgrades, can they survive on defense without Wemby next season?

Dubinski: There aren’t any indicators that they will. They have some good point-of-attack defenders in Tre Jones, Jeremy Sochan and Blake Wesley, but those players will still rely on having that protection behind them because they will inevitably be screened off. Zach Collins pretty much is who he is as a defender at this point, which is okay, but he’s not a shot blocker and can get into foul trouble. Charles Bassey is a blocker but doesn’t bring much on offense — another area of weakness for the bench. At this point, Wemby makes the defense go, and unless they can upgrade the offense to make up for the defense without him, they will need more defensive upgrades behind him.

Barrington: Collins is not a good defender and he’s foul-prone, so if he’s the replacement for Victor when he sits, it’s pretty much inevitable that there’s going to be a big falloff in defense when Wembanyama sits. If Collins hits shots, he can make up for his defensive liabilities somewhat by scoring and facilitating the offense, but it’s still not an even trade. Hopefully, Bassey returns at full strength next season, and maybe Barlow can continue his improvement on both ends. And there’s always the possibility that the Spurs will pick up a player in the off-season. Whatever they do, there’s no replacing the Wemby effect near the basket, so the best they can hope for is a competent defender who can also provide some offense and keep the game competitive in long enough stints to give Victor some rest.

Gomez: No, not without serious upgrades. Internal development should help, but there are too many weak links or defensive specialists who can’t shoot and won’t be able to play together. For example, the defense could be good with Blake Wesley, Dominck Barlow and Jeremy Sochan on the floor together when Wemby rests but that unit won’t be able to score. The Spurs need a couple of good two-way players to make mixing and matching easier but it’s not easy to find them so it might take a while to build a bench unit that can get stops without Wembanyama anchoring it.

Wilco: The only improvement I expect from the team defense without Wemby (and apart from major upgrades) is the slow and subtle growth of the team that comes as everyone processes and internalizes the lessons the coaching staff is working with them on. Besides the benefit that comes from expanding every player’s mental database through thousands of possessions (and teammates learning what to expect from each other) defensively the Spurs will largely be who they are this year without free agent signings and/or trades.

The starting lineup seemed to settle into a good rhythm with a traditional point guard and a prototypical 3-and-D wing around Vassell, Sochan and Wemby. Is that the recipe to follow going forward?

Dubinski: It’s a solid approach, but they would still benefit from some upgrades. If Sochan never becomes a consistent threat from outside, they’ll need to make up for that somewhere else to help spread the floor, like point guard. As much as I like Jones and Julian Champagnie, I don’t see them being the starters in those roles on a championship team because they can be invisible as scorers at times. Of course, upgrade the starters and have the current guys leading the second unit along with Keldon Johnson, and now you’re getting a deeper team that won’t suffer as much when the starters sit.

Barrington: I think they’re comfortable with that, and if Champagnie can improve his shooting consistency and produce like he did against the Jazz on a more regular basis, it’s a good recipe for competitive basketball. I think the long term solution is to pick up another scorer in the draft or free agency and move Julian to the bench. I like Tre Jones, but I think the Spurs are probably looking for a long term replacement with more length so he can defend the bigger point guards in the league, so Brian Wright will be looking for another upgrade there too. Dejounte Murray could fit the bill, but only if the Spurs can get him without having to give up too many assets.

Gomez: The recipe seems sound, but it might need better ingredients. Julian Champagnie and Tre Jones are good stopgap options, but Jones is too small on defense and not a great shooter and Champagnie is decent but not great at his 3-and-D role. Similar players with more versatile games could provide stability while raising the ceiling and the Spurs should look for them in the offseason. It’s still too early to tell what will work long-term with Wemby, though, so if one of them is starting next season, it wouldn’t be a catastrophe.

Wilco: A recipe is a set of instructions, but it’s also a pattern. And the best thing about a great pattern is that it can work with substitutions. I believe that an excellent team should be able to be formed around a starting unit of Wembanyama, Vassell and Sochan and the archetypes of a modern point guard and a 3-and-D wing. How long it takes to develop/find the humans necessary to fit those archetypes is the factor that will determine how quickly the Spurs return to being a perennial playoff contender.

Related Posts

Our Privacy policy

https://worldnewsdailyy.com - © 2024 News