The San Antonio Spurs reportedly are likely to have a careful plan in place for how to deal with Victor Wembanyama’s playing time in the hyped rookie’s first NBA season.
“The Spurs will presumably work a ton on his body and manage his minutes, not play him in back-to-back games, etcetera, which is smart,” an Eastern Conference assistant GM told Fox Sports. “They’ll handle it right.”
The 19-year-old phenom was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft and is entering the league with an interest not seen since LeBron James’ arrival in 2003.
His debut in NBA Summer League was somewhat disappointing as he went 2-of-13 from the field. He followed it up with a 27-point, 12-rebound game before he was shut down for the rest of the play in Las Vegas, the first sign of the Spurs’ careful plan.
He reportedly was measured by the Spurs at almost 7-foot-4, but his build is on the slight side, so adding the weight and strength necessary to survive a grueling NBA season while maintaining his rare agility is something that will have to be closely monitored.
San Antonio has a lengthy history to draw on, having developed No. 1 overall picks David Robinson and Tim Duncan. But that was before the era of load management, which is where the focus on Wembanyama now lands. Spurs head coach Greg Popovich recently agreed to a new five-year contract, so the young player is in good hands, at least at the start of his career.
As a point of reference, James played 79 games as a rookie in the 2003-04 season, and Duncan played 82 games in his first season of 1997-98. Last season, No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero averaged more than 33 minutes per game over 72 contests on his way to winning Rookie of the Year with the Orlando Magic.
The NBA schedule for 2023-24 has not yet been announced, so it will be interesting to see if this early declaration of the plan for Wembanyama has any influence on the number of back-to-back games San Antonio winds up with.
The Spurs were 22-60 last season and haven’t made the playoffs since 2019, which could make it difficult for them to stick to the plan if they somehow are in postseason contention late in the campaign. But if that is indeed the case, it likely will mean that Wembanyama’s season to that point has been a resounding success.