South Florida fans will finally get an in-person look at 7-foot-4 San Antonio rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama when the Spurs visit the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
The Spurs enter with a four-game losing streak, having just concluded a 2-5 homestand.
The Wednesday contest will be the start of a nine-game road trip for San Antonio, which owns the worst record in the Western Conference. The Spurs have been just about equally bad at home (5-21) and on the road (5-19).
Despite their struggles, the Spurs have the favorite for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.
Wembanyama, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, leads the league with an average of 3.1 blocks per game. He tops the Spurs in scoring (20.4 points per game), rebounds (10.3 per game, tied for 11th in the league) and steals (1.2 per game).
There are intangibles to his game, too. Just ask Tre Jones, who leads the Spurs in assists (5.8 per game).
“What stands out about Victor is the way he thinks the game,” Jones said.
Wembanyama, who turned 20 last month, could continue to improve as he adds muscle to his slender, 210-pound physique. He is shooting 81.3 percent from the free-throw line, 53.2 percent on 2-point attempts and 30.1 percent on 3-point attempts.
In his first career matchup with the Heat, he had 18 points, 11 rebounds and a game-high-tying seven assists on Nov. 12. However, Miami rallied from a 19-point deficit to pull out a 118-113 road win.
“People are putting a lot of expectations on that kid,” said Heat center Bam Adebayo, who had 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists against Wembanyama and the Spurs in November. “He doesn’t even know his routine yet … (but) he is living up to those expectations. He’s starting to figure it out.”
Another Spurs player to watch is Devin Vassell, who was San Antonio’s first-round draft pick (11th overall) in 2020. Vassell, who played his college ball at Florida State, is second on the Spurs in scoring (18.7 points).
Over his past five games, Vassell, 23, is averaging 25 points.
The Heat, who made it to the NBA Finals last year, enter the Wednesday game having lost eight of their past 11 contests.
When Miami played San Antonio in November, the Heat were competing on the second night of back-to-back games.
On Wednesday, the Heat will have the same no-rest situation, as they beat the host Orlando Magic 121-95 on Tuesday night.
“We were playing with much more of a motor,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We looked fast out there, which is good to see.”
It remains to be seen how fatigue might affect Miami players, especially Jimmy Butler. The 34-year-old veteran had 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 34 minutes on Tuesday.
The Heat do have some youth, though, most notably Jaime Jaquez Jr.
The 22-year-old rookie was averaging 14 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists before missing six games last month due to a groin injury.
After returning on Jan. 27, he averaged just 6.2 points, 3.2 boards and 2.4 assists in his first five games. He bounced back a bit on Tuesday, logging 12 points and six rebounds, though he shot just 4 of 11 from the floor, 1 of 5 from 3-point range.
–Field Level Media
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