Advertisement

Victor Vector Week 20: Wembanyama's path to the playoffs next season is clear

Welcome to the Victor Wembanyama experience. Come one, come all, for there is a 7-foot-4 Frenchman who can nutmeg you off the bounce, block your 3-pointers, step back from 3, put back his own stepback in two steps and dunk on you from a standstill outside the restricted area. Behold the human cheat code.

Here, we track the San Antonio Spurs rookie's bi-weekly progress relative to the most anticipated prospects of the past 50 years, using Yahoo Sports' own default fantasy basketball settings to rank their production.

But first a few words ...

ESPN's Zach Lowe redrew our attention to a wild statistic last week: The Spurs (14-50), currently last place in the Western Conference, have been outscored by 488 points in 3,082 minutes this season, yielding a -7.5 net rating, and yet they are +71 in 882 minutes when Wembanyama shares the court with Tre Jones.

Pair Wembanyama with a replacement-level point guard, and the Spurs aren't just a different team; they're operating on a higher plane (+3.1 points per 100 possessions) than the sixth-place Phoenix Suns. This was the price they paid for entering the season without starting an above-average point guard, instead deploying Jeremy Sochan as their primary ball-handler. Turns out Wembanyama was too good too soon for any experiments.

Take Kevin Durant's rookie season for contrast. His Seattle SuperSonics were just as bad as these Spurs. They were outscored by 495 points through the same number of games in 2007-08 for a -7.7 net rating. They paired Durant from the jump with seventh-year veteran Earl Watson — a decent comparison to Jones — and the duo was worse together through 64 games, registering a -10.3 net rating (-401 in 1,887 minutes).

This is normal. Even the highest-profile rookies aren't supposed to make so drastic an impact on the dreadful teams that drafted them. Their front offices expect some growing pains from first-year players, investing in a short-term losing proposition in the hopes he produces wins down the line. Durant's team spent his first two seasons in the lottery, adding Russell Westbrook and James Harden in the process, and they were a 50-win team by his third year, as Westbrook blossomed into a perennial All-Star point guard.

Wembanyama is anything but normal. Our draft expert Krysten Peek has the Spurs selecting Serbian playmaker Nikola Topić in her latest mock draft, but chances are nobody in this class reaches Westbrook's heights, so it's easy to see why San Antonio reportedly expressed interest in Trae Young at the trade deadline — and why so many around the league think there's fire to that smoke. Get Wembanyama someone who can get him the ball at an above-average level, and San Antonio's ceiling is somewhere in the playoffs next season.

Take Blake Griffin's rookie season for comparison. His Los Angeles Clippers were better than these Spurs, taking a -3.3 net rating into the home stretch of the regular season, and they owned a positive net rating when Griffin shared the floor with their replacement-level point guard, a 31-year-old Baron Davis (+1.1 net rating, which, you'll notice, is still well below the stratosphere Wembanyama has approached with Jones).

Those Clippers seized that opportunity, pairing Griffin with Chris Paul in December 2011, and they turned a 32-50 lottery squad into a 50-win team that won a playoff series in its first season together. This should be the blueprint in San Antonio, where the Spurs may not find someone on Paul's level this summer but are starting on more solid ground, since Wembanyama's entry point and ceiling are exponentially higher than Griffin's.

On one hand, this could be San Antonio's last shot at a high-end lottery pick in the Wembanyama era. On the other hand, with a quality point guard, the Spurs could be a 50-win rising contender as soon as 2025.

We will find out if it all comes out in the wash. That is what the tracker is for. Before we get started, a key:

  • Season averages: Points (FG%/3P%/FT%), rebounds, assists (turnovers), steals, blocks

  • Advanced: Player efficiency rating, true-shooting percentage, win shares per 48, box plus-minus

  • Through X games (record): Total PTS-REB-AST-STL-BLK, TO (FGA-FGM, 3PA-3PM, FTA-FTM)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week X): Default season settings

Without further ado, the Victor Vector rankings: Week 1 (16th)Week 2 (6th)Week 3 (6th)Week 4 (5th)Week 5 (3rd)Week 6 (4th)Week 7 (4th)Week 8 (4th)Week 9 (5th)Week 10 (6th)Week 12 (4th) • • Week 14 (6th)Week 16 (6th)Week 18 (4th) • Week 20 ...

20. Kevin Durant, Seattle SuperSonics

  • 2007-08 (80 games): 20.3 PTS (43/29/87), 4.4 REB, 2.4 AST (2.9 TO), 1.0 STL, 0.9 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 15.8 PER, 51.9 TS%, .040 WS/48, -0.1 BPM

  • Through 64 games (16-48): 1,210-256-141-63-61, 184 TO (425-1,044 FG, 51-180 3P, 309-354 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 1,426.7

19. Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons

  • 1981-82 (72 games): 17 PTS (42/29/70), 7.8 AST (4.2 TO), 2.9 REB, 2.1 STL, 0.2 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 14.5 PER, 48.7 TS%, .046 WS/48, -0.8 BPM

  • Through 64 games (29-35): 920-159-421-113*-11*, 227* TO (337-812 FG, 9-43* 3P, 237-332 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 1,445.1

(*Some game-to-game statistics unavailable. Estimates based on season averages.)

18. Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks

  • 1985-86 (50 games): 20 PTS (47/0/74), 9 REB, 2.1 BLK, 2.0 AST (3.4 TO), 1.1 STL

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 17.4 PER, 52.6 TS%, .084 WS/48, 1.1 BPM

  • Through 64 games (20-44): 998-451-102-54-103, 172 TO (386-814 FG, 0-5 3P, 226-306 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 1,522.7

17. Grant Hill, Detroit Pistons

  • 1994-95 (70 games): 19.9 PTS (48/15/73), 6.4 REB, 5 AST (2.9 TO), 1.8 STL, 0.9 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 19 PER, 54.1 TS%, .097 WS/48, 2.0 BPM

  • Through 64 games (23-41): 946-274-234-93-53, 144 TO (339-716 FG, 4-20 3P, 264-351 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 1,531.55

16. Yao Ming, Houston Rockets

  • 2002-03 (82 games): 13.5 PTS (50/50/81), 8.2 REB, 1.8 BLK, 1.7 AST (2.1 TO), 0.4 STL

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 20.6 PER, 57.0 TS%, .176 WS/48, 2.2 BPM

  • Through 64 games (34-30): 886-529-105-19-120, 131 TO (323-622 FG, 0-1 3P, 240-298 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 1,661.1

15. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

  • 2003-04 (79 games): 20.9 PTS (42/29/75), 5.9 AST (3.5 TO), 5.5 REB, 1.6 STL, 0.7 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 18.3 PER, 48.8 TS%, .078 WS/48, 1.7 BPM

  • Through 64 games (28-36): 1,273-354-344-96-45, 211 TO (485-1,168 FG, 51-179 3P, 252-328 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 1,974.9

14. Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers

  • 1996-97 (76 games): 23.5 PTS (42/34/70), 7.5 AST (4.4 TO), 4.1 REB, 2.1 STL, 0.3 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 18 PER, 51.3 TS%, .065 WS/48, 0.9 BPM

  • Through 64 games (17-47): 1,281-242-421-125-20, 255 TO (446-1,111 FG, 108-343 3P, 281-401 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,020.8

13. Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers

  • 1979-80 (77 games): 18 PTS (53/23/81), 7.7 REB, 7.3 AST, 2.4 STL (4.0 TO), 0.5 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 20.6 PER, 60.2 TS%, .180 WS/48, 4.8 BPM

  • Through 64 games (46-18): 1,074-398-433-132-26, 218 TO (390-730 FG, 2-15 3P, 292-356 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,130.5

12. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets

  • 2005-06 (78 games): 16.1 PTS (43/28/85), 7.8 AST (2.3 TO), 5.1 REB, 2.2 STL, 0.1 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 22.1 PER, 54.6 TS%, .178 WS/48, 5.2 BPM

  • Through 64 games (31-33): 970-317-479-135-4, 145 TO (315-736 FG, 42-141 3P, 298-358 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,184.8

11. Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks

  • 2018-19 (72 games): 21.2 PTS (43/33/71), 7.8 REB, 6 AST (3.4 TO), 1.1 STL, 0.3 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 19.6 PER, 54.5 TS%, .101 WS/48, 3.9 BPM

  • Through 64 games (27-37): 1,263-436-334-64-20, 200 TO (417-961 FG, 147-422 3P, 282-393 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,218.3

10. Dikembe Mutombo, Denver Nuggets

  • 1991-92 (71 games): 16.6 PTS (49/0/64), 12.3 REB, 3 BLK, 2 AST (3.5 TO), 0.6 STL

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 16.5 PER, 54.0 TS%, .086 WS/48, 0.0 BPM

  • Through 64 games (21-43): 1,091-796-148-38-191, 230 TO (398-800 FG, 0-0 3P, 295-458 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,252

Houston Rockets' Dillon Brooks, right, defends against San Antonio Spurs' Victor Wembanyama (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Wembanyama just needs someone who knows how to get him the ball. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

9. Ralph Sampson, Houston Rockets

  • 1983-84 (82 games): 21 PTS (52/25/66), 11.1 REB, 2.4 BLK, 2 AST (3.6 TO), 0.9 STL

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 20.1 PER, 55.1 TS%, .108 WS/48, 0.9 BPM

  • Through 64 games (25-39): 1,374-746-124-52-153, 225 TO (566-1,078 FG, 1-3 3P, 241-367 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,268.65

8. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

  • 2010-11 (82 games): 22.5 PTS (51/29/64), 12.1 REB, 3.8 AST (2.7 TO), 0.8 STL, 0.5 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 21.9 PER, 54.9 TS%, .152 WS/48, 2.6 BPM

  • Through 64 games (24-40): 1,450-802-234-43-33, 174 TO (544-1,070 FG, 7-17 3P, 355-555 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,298.25

7. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

  • 1997-98 (82 games): 21.1 PTS (55/0/66), 11.9 REB, 2.7 AST (3.4 TO), 2.5 B LK, 0.7 STL

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 22.6 PER, 57.7 TS%, .192 WS/48, 4.6 BPM

  • Through 64 games (43-21): 1,269-759-174-42-164, 219 TO (517-953 FG, 0-8 3P, 235-372 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,345.15

6. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets

  • 1984-85 (82 games): 20.6 PTS (54/0/61), 11.9 REB, 2.7 BLK, 1.4 AST (2.9 TO), 1.2 STL

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 21.1 PER, 56.4 TS%, .168 WS/48, 2.1 BPM

  • Through 64 games (38-26): 1,342-772-93-78-150, 188 TO (531-988 FG, 0-0 3P, 280-451 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,351.15

5. Larry Bird, Boston Celtics

  • 1979-80 (82 games): 21.3 PTS (47/41/84), 10.4 REB, 4.5 AST (3.2 TO), 1.7 STL, 0.6 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 20.5 PER, 53.8 TS%, .182 WS/48, 4.5 BPM

  • Through 64 games (49-15): 1,317-670-281-118-45, 202 TO (531-1,087 FG, 42-99 3P, 213-257 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,498.6

4. Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

  • 2023-24 (28 games): 20.7 PTS (47/32/81), 10.1 REB, 3.3 AST (3.4 TO), 1.3 STL, 3.3 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 22.6 PER, 56.3 TS%, .067 WS/48, 3.8 BPM

  • Through 64 games (14-50): 1,160-574-192-72-193, 194 TO (423-901 FG, 94-281 3P, 220-270 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,549.05

3. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls

  • 1984-85 (82 games): 28.2 PTS (52/17/85), 6.5 REB, 5.9 AST (3.5 TO), 2.4 STL, 0.8 BLK

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 25.8 PER, 59.2 TS%, .213 WS/48, 7.3 BPM

  • Through 64 games (30-34): 1,772-417-350-152-60, 221 TO (648-1,252 FG, 6-33 3P, 470-555 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,561.85

2. Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando Magic

  • 1992-93 (81 games): 23.4 PTS (56/0/59), 13.9 REB, 3.5 BLK, 1.9 AST (3.8 TO), 0.7 STL

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 22.9 PER, 58.4 TS%, .163 WS/48, 3.5 BPM

  • Through 64 games (31-33): 1,519-882-112-47-235, 245 TO (581-1,026 FG, 0-2 3P, 357-597 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,691.05

1. David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs

  • 1989-90 (82 games): 24.3 PTS (53/0/73), 12 REB, 3.9 BLK, 2.0 AST (3.1 TO), 1.7 STL

  • Advanced rookie statistics: 26.3 PER, 59.7 TS%, .241 WS/48, 6.9 BPM

  • Through 64 games (43-21): 1,524-756-134-105-247, 202 TO (520-992 FG, 0-0 3P, 484-658 FT)

  • Victor Vector Yahoo Fantasy points (through Week 20): 2,880.1