Victor Wembanyama has been an incredible defender in his rookie year, but his efficiency on offense has been a legitimate critique against him. That may cost him a chance at the Rookie of the Year award, where he’s currently an underdog to Chet Holmgren via BetMGM.
Wembanyama does settle for jump shots too often. His 3-point percentage has been below 30 percent for most of the year, making those shots a dicey proposition. But the problems with efficiency aren’t totally his fault.
The 19-year-old has looked great when playing alongside a true point guard and struggled without one.
Jeremy Sochan and Victor Wembanyama have zero chemistry together
Sochan has been the Spurs’ starting point guard for most of the year, and the 6-foot-8 power forward hasn’t been up to the task.
Sochan has unfathomably assisted Wembanyama only 13 times all season, per NBA Stats. That comes out to about one assist in every other game. For comparison, Holmgren has been assisted by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 39 times, Josh Giddey 33 times and Jalen Williams 25 times.
When Sochan does pass Wembanyama the ball, it’s to set him up for terrible shots. Wemby is shooting only 20.0 percent off passes from Sochan.
There are much easier and better looks out there, but Sochan can’t see them. It’s led to visible frustration on the part of Wembanyama.
Wemby’s agent needs to send this clip to every ROTY voter. pic.twitter.com/jqXzgePChM
— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) December 22, 2023
The Spurs know that the Sochan experiment isn’t working well. They recently pulled center Zach Collins out of the starting lineup to get more passing on the floor with guard Malaki Branham.
Changing the starting lineup was the right idea, but Branham was the wrong player.
Victor Wembanyama is the best rookie in the NBA when he plays with Tre Jones
The Spurs do have one true point guard on their roster. Unfortunately, he doesn’t start alongside Wembanyama and his 23.3 minutes per game this season simply hasn’t been high enough.
When Tre Jones and Wembanyama have shared the court, Wembanyama has seen a massive leap in his numbers. He goes from an inefficient chucker to an above-average offensive force, mostly because Jones sets him up for easy shots near the basket.
|Points per 100
|True Shooting Percentage
|Free throws per 100
|Turnovers per 100
Remember that putrid 20.0 percent that Wemby is shooting off Sochan passes? He’s shooting 53.1 percent off passes from Jones.
Jones is the only player on the team that consistently sets him up for easy lobs.
TRE TO WEMBY IN TRANSITION!!! pic.twitter.com/shLdu1o4OI
— WembyMuse (@Wemby_Muse) December 29, 2023
As a team, the Spurs have also played a ton better when Jones and Wembanyama have been on the floor together. Via PBP Stats, they have been massively outscored when one of Jones or Wemby is out but have posted a positive 5.0 net rating when both are on the court.
That combination hasn’t happened enough. For whatever reason, head coach Gregg Popovich likes to stagger their minutes specifically so that they’re not on at the same time. Jones will usually come in as Wembanyama checks out at the end of the first and third quarters.
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Jones’ minutes have been yanked around all season. He has one of the shortest leashes in the league. After his best game of the year in which he scored a season-high 18 points, he saw his minutes inexplicably reduced to 16.
Jones isn’t a perfect player. He’s not a good 3-point shooter and he’s not dynamic enough offensively to be a high-level starter. But he’s better than anyone else on the Spurs’ roster at getting the ball to where it needs to go.
The Spurs are doing a disservice to Wembanyama and the rest of their team by not starting Jones. It’s an odd decision that might very well cost Wembanyama the Rookie of the Year award.
Source : ESPN.com