And the San Antonio Spurs most pleasant surprise so far in the 2023-24 campaign is….
Actually, there's no need for a drum roll.
Despite all the hype and fanfare, yes, Victor Wembanyama is the Spurs most pleasant surprise this season.
After all, a surprise can be defined as ‘an astonishing event', and well, Wembanyama's play has certainly been astonishing. So with the obvious out of the way, let's take a closer look at how Wemabnayama's strong play has been the biggest surprise so far this year for the Spurs.
“Probably the worst Victor we'll ever see”
Here's a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.
When Wembanyama says we'll never see him at a lower point than now, he's not talking about the team's struggles.
“I feel like I'm getting better every day. It makes sense, it's my rookie season. I'm still a teenager. It's probably the worst Victor we'll ever see. I believe that I'll keep getting better and better every year so it's promising.”
At 19.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game, Wemby is putting up All-Star caliber numbers just 17 games into his NBA career. And he's doing all of it within a roster that allows opponents to key in on him defensively. The team's second leading scorer, Devin Vassell, has missed time with a groin injury, and his scoring output has not increased from last season through his first 12 games, which would be the first time in his career where he did not improve upon his points per game tally from the prior season.
It begs the question; what was realistically expected of the French phenom through his first month in the league, because meeting massive hype isn't the norm. And yet Wembanyama has made it look effortless to this point.
Victor Wembanyama is mature beyond his years
Beyond the numbers, Wembanyama is already taking on a leadership role for the Spurs, even though he is still just 19 years old.
“It really, really matters to me because the opposite would be a little bit selfish. I've got my teammates around me and I can't put out that kind of energy. I (make) a mistake, I dribble off my foot or my teammate does whatever, I don't have to show emotion,” the top overall pick in this past June's draft said, “Even though I miss a free throw, I don't show emotion. All I want to give to my brothers and my teammates is good energy and I don't have to show (negative emotions) on the court.”
These are words you would expect to hear from a 39-year-old, not a teenager. With Wembanyama deftly navigating the hype of his rookie season, Spurs fans should be salivating over what the future holds for him.
Making sense of the Spurs struggles
The Spurs rough start to the 2023-24 campaign has added to Wembanyama's already full plate as a rookie. On top of the numbers and the leadership, the 7'4 marvel is most concerned with San Antonio's success.
With a 3-14 record and a 12-game losing streak, the Spurs are in danger of matching the second longest losing streak in franchise history when they take on the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.
“I'm still learning every day but I already got better since the beginning of the season. I know the beginning will not look like the end. As a team, I know we're going to get so much better and also. Individually, I know it's going to be from month to month, game to game almost, it's going to be exponentially better.”
As surprising as he's managed to be this early in his rookie campaign, Wemby shared what has surprised him about NBA life thus far:
“At some point I had a little bit trouble sleeping with all the time changes and all the different beds every night, but now I'm set. I'm good.”
On the court, he's been much better than good.