The player combinations and spots that have showcased Wemby’s three point range

How the Spurs lineup changes unlocked Wembanyama’s shooting

San Antonio Spurs v Dallas Mavericks

Victor Wembanyama’s rookie season has been pretty much as advertised. He’s lived up to the “alien” moniker with his highlight dunks, dominant rim presence and versatility on both ends. Heralded as the next big thing, it’s hard to find ways that Wembanyama hasn’t lived up to the hype – besides one.

Part of what made Wembanyama such an enticing prospect was his ability to space the floor to the three-point line. Much of this was seen only in flashes. A step back here, a one-legged shot from beyond the arc there. Shooting consistency from deep was not Wembanyama’s M.O. before getting drafted. In his last two seasons of ball overseas, he shot below 30% from deep.

But the flashes were more than enticing, and made San Antonio Spurs fans wonder what it could look like once he found consistency. Lately, he’s found his shooting rhythm from deep. Since the start of 2024, the rookie is shooting 35.9% from deep on 4.9 attempts per game. What else roughly coincides with that date? Wembanyama’s move to center in the starting lineup.

You’ve likely heard the Erik Spoelstra story: he started in a windowless Miami Heat video room and worked so hard he eventually became head coach. He was the first Asian American coach in any of the four major US sports. He won back-to-back rings with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh and made two finals appearances without superstars. He’s elite, officially one of the 15 all time greatest coaches in NBA History. But hang on, let’s go back to that “back-to-back rings with superstars” bit because that wasn’t always a feather in his cap. I mean, I’m sure he liked it, but coaching superstars can put you in a tight spot. You’re either incompetent, or lucky.


He’s had much better rhythm, and is getting shots that it seems he is more comfortable with since the change. But why has that change been so good for Wembanyama? It comes down to personnel, the areas of the court where he’s getting his shots and the spacing around him.

Before the move to center, a lot of Wembanyama’s threes came off pick and pops. As the roll man, Wembanyama has shot 14 of 40 from deep (35%) according to Synergy. Turn on the Spurs now, and you’ll see him get this shot if a double comes for Devin Vassell, or a clean look when Tre Jones collapses the defense with a hard drive to the rim. Look at what this action used to look like.

In a double screen with Zach Collins up top, the defense knows exactly where the ball is supposed to go – to the popping Wembanyama. The screening is bad and the execution is much worse. The result is a bad shot from Wembanyama without his feet set.

Now look at what the action looks like now.

Now I know Wembanyama falls down while trying to screen here, but the idea is the same. Vassell is a good enough scorer that he draws the attention of two defenders, Wembanyama can relocate and knock down a wide open shot.

Similarly without Collins on the floor, Wembanyama can operate from the top of the key more frequently, with floor spacers around him. Wembanyama has more opportunity to isolate in the high post and above the break to create baskets for himself and others. Interestingly enough, this has unlocked Wembanyama’s ability to shoot off the dribble. He’s shooting 42.4% on threes off the bounce. That percentage falls to 26.1% on catch and shoot threes.

With Jones cutting off the ball, and Vassell in the strong side corner, the double team can’t come from anywhere. That means it’s the opposing center on an island against Wembanyama. He’s got the creativity, handle and length to get clean looks from this position. These are superstar shots that Wembanyama is taking, and making on a semi-consistent basis.

Wembanyama has also developed really fun synergy with Jones in the pick and roll, particularly when it’s inverted. Every once in awhile the Spurs will put the ball in Wemby’s hands and let Jones do the screening. Sometimes you’ll see the defense blitz Wembanyama, and Jones will have wide open layups on the roll. Other times you’ll see the defense drop way under, and Wemby makes them pay from deep.

In this clip we see Blake Wesley effectively playing the center role – pitching the ball to Wemby and following with a screen. It’s unusual for a guard to have to get out to a big man shooter on a play like this, and Wembanyama is wide open for the pull-up three. Again, playing him at the center allows for more versatility in the ways he finds his shot, and the increased spacing with different personnel opens up ways for Wemby to get open in spots he can convert.

Wembanyama has been an inconsistent shooter in his career. Yet we are seeing one of the best shooting stretches of his career aligning with a lineup shift that has seemingly unlocked that part of his game. There are signs that in the long term, if surrounded with the right team, Wembanyama could be an above average weapon from deep. After a break for All-Star Weekend, we’ll see if the rookie can keep his shooting percentages up through the end of the season.

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