Wemby makes Toronto debut against Raps on TSN1/4
One of the NBA's most highly touted rookies in years rolls into the Scotiabank Arena on Monday night when Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs (10-43) make their annual visit to the Toronto Raptors (19-34).
While Wembanyama has been eminently capable of the spectacular during the first 47 games of his nascent NBA career, they have also come with considerable growing pains.
Heading into Monday night's game, the 20-year-old Wembanyama finds himself leading the NBA Rookie of the Year race that has become a two-man contest with the Le Chesnay, France native of the Oklahoma City Thunder's Chet Holmgren. The 7-foot-4 Wembanyama is averaging 20.3 points on .464 shooting (.316 from three), 10.0 boards, 3.1 assists and a league-leading 3.0 blocks over 28.4 minutes a night. This stat line doesn't come as much of a surprise if you're a regular social media user because your timeline is likely filled with Wemby highlights on a nightly basis. "Unicorn" gets thrown around a lot in pro sports, but it's an apt descriptor for Wembanyama. A man who looks the way he doesn't shouldn't be able to play the way he does. After seeing so many stiff and limited bigs come into the NBA over the years, it's jarring to see the fluidity with which Wembanyama operates.
But Wemby is only one man and the Spurs simply are not a very good team. Wembanyama has struggled in stretches when he's been guarded by larger and more physical players who can force him into poor shot selection. He also dealt with a series of ankle ailments just before Christmas. As impressive as Wembanyama has been in stretches, it's not enough to paper over the rest of a team that is averaging 14.8 turnovers (fifth-worst in the league), has 109.3 offensive rating (fourth-worst) and 52.8 effective field-goal percentage (fourth-worst). Nobody had delusions of the Spurs contending in Wembanyama's first season, but being this poor also didn't seem like it was in the cards.
What that means is Monday night's game is a very winnable one for the Raptors, who are coming off of a 119-95 loss on Saturday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Toronto's Kelly Olynyk, acquired at the deadline from the Utah Jazz, made his debut in the loss, had 11 points on four-for-10 shooting and six boards in 22 minutes of work. Scottie Barnes, heading to his first All-Star Game in Indianapolis this weekend, led the way offensively with his fourth career triple-double, posting 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.