San Antonio is entering a new age. The excitement has passed, and now the real action will begin. Since Tim Duncan in 1997, Victor Wembanyama will be the San Antonio Spurs’ first number-one choice to hit the floor. Wembanyama will have the chance to lead the Silver and Black into the future, just as Duncan led a historic period of Spurs basketball.
It seems appropriate that this journey’s first matchup is against a local rival and one of the NBA’s top young European talents. The Dallas Mavericks, who are led by Luka Doncic, will play the Spurs in the first game at the newly renamed Frost Bank Center. San Antonio’s record against the Mavs was 1-3 last season; however, they’ll try to turn things around in this nationally televised game.
Spurs injuries: Devonte’ Graham – Out (suspension,) Zach Collins – Questionable (illness)
Mavericks injuries: Luka Doncic – Questionable (left calf strain,) Jaden Hardy – Questionable (left ankle sprain,) Dwight Powell – Questionable (illness)
What to watch for
Wembanyama’s NBA debut
“The Alien” was out of this world in the preseason. He averaged 19.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in just 20.9 minutes per game. Wembanyama looked comfortable finding his shot, and changed the way opponents play offense with his presence defensively. He will have a chance to extrapolate that performance to a full 48-minute game on Wednesday.
Duncan put up 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in his NBA debut. Can Wembanyama match that feat? He will likely see a mix of Grant Williams, Dereck Lively II and Derrick Jones Jr. in this matchup. Those three defenders provide a mix of length, strength and athleticism.
The Mavericks want to get up a lot of three-pointers, they were third in the league in deep ball attempts last season. Wembanyama should continue to lock down the paint against a Mavs squad prone to more drive and kick offense.
Attacking the Mavericks inside
Dallas was not a great defensive team last season (24th in the NBA in defensive rating,) part of that was due to their porous interior defense. Without any major offseason additions at the position, the Mavericks will run out a similarly thin front line. Lively II was a touted defensive prospect at Duke, but is unproven at the NBA level. The Spurs will have the opportunity to attack the Mavs in the paint.
A healthy Zach Collins would help matters tremendously. He is currently questionable with a non-COVID related illness. The Spurs operate well with him in the starting five, cutting off of his passes from the high post, and feeding him on the low block for easy scores. A healthy Collins would be a difference maker against Dallas.
The new look starting five
The Spurs debuted their new starters in the final two preseason games. Jeremy Sochan has taken over “point guard” duties, while Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson play the wings, with Wembanyama and Collins filling out the front line. This lineup has thrived in its short preseason stint. According to NBA.com’s lineup metrics, the lineup has a +52.4 net rating, with a 134.5 offensive rating and 82.1 defensive rating in 24 minutes.
That’s the preseason, this is the real deal. A major storyline over the beginning of the season will be how this lineup performance, especially in the clutch.