In a preseason matchup that stirred significant anticipation, the Golden State Warriors fell to the San Antonio Spurs 122-117. Preseason games seldom predict how well a player will play in the regular season or how a team will play; critical factors that affect how a fans wager. Still, fans who bet, eagerly grasp these glimpses of greatness, and on this night, Spurs supporters had plenty to revel in.
Amidst the Warriors’ struggle, a standout emerged in the form of 2023 #1 NBA Draft pick Victor Wembanyama, a player Spurs fan can bet their NBA championship dreams on.
Though the Warriors have four future Hall of Famers on their team, the brilliance of Wembanyama was undeniable. Exiting Chase Center, the majority of attendees who bet weren’t talking about Steph Curry or Chris Paul or Klay Thompson. They certainly weren’t recounting Moses Moody’s commendable 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting with 6 rebounds as much as they were marveling at Wembanyama’s extraordinary highlights.
Despite the Splash Brothers’ uncharacteristically poor offensive showing, with a combined 20.8% field goal percentage, Wembanyama’s disruptive shot-blocking played a part. The Warriors, perhaps, were coasting, having orchestrated a remarkable comeback against the Kings just two days prior.
Warriors’ defensive struggles persisted, a consistent theme in the preseason, anticipated given the absence of their defensive linchpin, Draymond Green, due to injury.
Wembanyama capitalized on this, steering the Spurs to a commanding 44-point first quarter, setting the tone for the game. His performance showcased a remarkable blend of length, skill, and athleticism. Notably, he sank a mid-range jump shot despite mid-air adjustments during a tight contest, displaying his offensive finesse. Moreover, he contributed significantly in transition, swatting shots on the perimeter and converting them into scoring opportunities for San Antonio.
Wembanyama showed why he belonged on ESPN’s Top 100 NBA Players list after finishing the game with 19 points on 8-for-19 shooting, alongside 4 assists, 5 blocks, and just 1 turnover. Of these blocks, three were against fellow #1 pick Andrew Wiggins, the first of many NBA players who might find themselves haunted by Wembanyama’s defensive prowess in the days to come.
One particular instance showcased Wembanyama’s defensive acumen when he thwarted Wiggins’ catch-and-shoot three, despite still having his foot in the paint during the pass. Later, when switched onto Wiggins on the perimeter, he displayed his unmatched athleticism, denying Wiggins the chance to create space for a shot.
While Jonathan Kuminga managed a remarkable feat against Wembanyama with a high-arcing mid-range jump shot, the Spurs’ rookie sensation left an indelible mark, showcasing that he is a force to be reckoned with, even against seasoned opponents like the Warriors.