Victor Wembanyama shines in preseason debut as Spurs fall to Chet Holmgren, Thunder

San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama made his preseason debut in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The 2023 No. 1 pick scored 20 points, grabbed five rebounds, blocked one shot and hit two 3-pointers in 19 minutes.
  • The 19-year-old’s long-awaited debut came against fellow rookie Chet Holmgren, who missed his first season after suffering a Lisfranc injury last summer.
  • Holmgren finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and a block to go with two 3-pointers in 16 minutes as Oklahoma City won 122-121.

Wembanyama’s highlight block

Wembanyama’s length is going to be a problem for the league. Jalen Williams had Wemby easily beat on a drive to the hoop. 99.9 percent of the time it would have been a dunk for Williams. Not this time. Wemby’s insane length and even more insane agility were shocking to both Williams and the crowd. Wemby is bringing the impossible to life with plays like that. — Andrew Schlecht, NBA podcast host/producer

Where did Wembanyama fit on the court?

Don’t be fooled by Wembanyama’s 7-foot-5 frame, he is a wing. He largely played on the perimeter with Zach Collins manning the middle and taking on the assignment of defending Holmgren. Wemby was guarded by the 6-foot-6 Williams for the majority of the time. Williams played him physically and did a good job of denying him the ball. But Wemby’s skill and agility kept showing up. His spin move and scoop layup looked like something we see from 6-foot-5 players, not 7-foot-5. When Lu Dort decided to close out on a Wemby 3, he might as well have not been there. Was Dort even in his line of sight?

All that is terrifying, but his transition game might be the most lethal. At his size and fluidity on the break, he’s unstoppable. Holmgren made a business decision on a fast break dunk, and a smart one at that. When Wembanyama had the ball, you could hear the crowd come to a hush. No one has ever seen a basketball player like him before, and everyone was on pins and needles waiting to see their basketball imaginations expand with his every move. — Schlecht

How did Holmgren look?

Holmgren made his debut for the Thunder, shooting 7-for-10 from the field and 2-for-2 from 3, oftentimes looking to answer what Wembanyama did on the other end. Holmgren was very impressive and looks to give the Thunder exactly what they were missing last season with his rim protection, shot-making and ability to catch lobs.

It’s almost unfair to Holmgren having to debut next to Wembanyama. You could even argue that Holmgren outplayed Wembanyama. His aggression on both ends was truly impactful to the Thunder, and you can see a world where Holmgren helps make the Thunder an improved team right away. But the novelty of Wemby overshadowed his performance. This matchup exceeded the hype. This could be the next great big man (tall man? gangly man?) rivalry the NBA needed. — Schlecht

Required reading

(Photo: Rob Ferguson / USA Today)

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