Don’t be surprised by Victor Wembanyama’s triple-double: Spurs rookie is becoming one of NBA’s best passing centers

We already knew that Victor Wembanyama would become an elite defender. He’s also breaking the game with his one-legged 3s and lob dunks.

Now, to make things even more unfair, it’s taken him less than half of a season to develop into one of the best passing bigs in the league.

Wembanyama’s assist numbers have surged ever since being moved to the center position on Dec. 9. Since that shift, his assists have risen from 2.5 to 3.9 per game. Even more impressive is that he’s upped that total in about three fewer minutes per game due to an ankle injury that has restricted his playing time.

That 3.9 assists per game number is a lot for a 7-footer. Of the 36 true 7-footers, only Joel Embiid averages more. These aren’t empty assists either — Wemby’s vision on some of these passes is outstanding. 

His passing is even more impressive given that this wasn’t a huge part of his game before coming to the NBA. He averaged only 1.4 assists per game while playing overseas. It took him less than half of his rookie season to record a triple-double with assists, not blocks, and he did it in historic fashion.

Here’s how that shift to center has unlocked Wembanyama’s passing. 

MORE: Victor Wembanyama’s DPOY potential in two blocks

Victor Wembanyama has become great at hitting cutters

One of the biggest advantages of playing Wembanyama at center is fairly obvious — other centers are more likely to guard him. Given that Wemby is comfortable playing outside near the perimeter, this takes the other team’s biggest shot-blocking threat away from the rim. 

The Spurs have made a concerted effort to get Wemby the ball at the elbows, and he’s been very good at hitting cutters from there. With premier rim protectors like Jazz center Walker Kessler unable to help, these types of actions have allowed teammates to finish layups more easily.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has liked using his big men as passing hubs at the elbows for a while now. (Jakob Poeltl was similarly effective in these types of sets.) Pop deserves a lot of credit for setting up Wemby to succeed in this fashion.

Victor Wembanyama’s height allows him to make passes that others can’t

Wembanyama has traits that no other player in the league has. His 8-foot wingspan allows him to thread the ball completely around defenders’ bodies. That has made him a very good passer in tight windows, particularly on his post-ups. 

Wembanyama is also so tall that he can easily see the entire floor. He makes passes over the top of defenses that other players might not spot.

Good luck trying to stop a pass from a 7-4 center who is fading away from the defense. The height at which Wembanyama throws these makes them incredibly effective. 

MORE: Victor Wembanyama vs. Chet Holmgren can be NBA’s next great rivalry

Victor Wembanyama has been outstanding as a point center

Due to the insistence of Popovich not starting Tre Jones, Wemby might be the best point guard in the Spurs’ starting lineup. He doesn’t get to play that role often, but he does bring the ball up off rebounds.

As a transition passer, he has been dynamite. 

Wembanyama’s unique guard skills at his size put defenses in a terrible bind. When he does bring the ball up, he sucks in the defense and creates a ton of openings for teammates to cut to the rim. Add that to the fact that as a center, he is often outrunning his slower defender, and it’s easy to see why the Spurs have been getting out in transition at the fourth-highest rate in the league since his positional shift. 

There simply isn’t another center in the league like Wembanyama, which makes him an impossible cover. His court vision has been way better than anticipated, and that will only add to his already sky-high ceiling. 

Source : ESPN.com

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