Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, Collins, Sochan, Johnson

The Spurs have abandoned two experiments related to the development of No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. San Antonio began the season by starting Zach Collins at center and Wembanyama at power forward so the 18-year-old wouldn’t have to battle with other NBA big men. However, Collins’ unexpected struggles with outside shooting — he’s connecting at just 28.4% from three-point range after hitting 37.4% last season — caused coach Gregg Popovich to move him to the bench after 20 games.

“I think if we were shooting it a little bit better, I think it would have worked better,” Collins said. “The negative right now is spacing, so that’s a big reason why we went back to one big out there starting the game instead of two.”

Popovich has also stopped using Jeremy Sochan as his primary point guard, Fischer adds. Sochan is a versatile forward with a gift for passing, but he had never played point guard before Popovich decided to try him at the position in training camp. Fischer notes that instead of having a designated ball-handler, any of the Spurs’ starters are free to lead the break after grabbing a defensive rebound.

Even though the Spurs are losing at unexpected levels, dropping their 18th straight game last night, Wembanyama’s performance is providing hope for the future. He had 30 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and six blocks against the Lakers on Wednesday, and Fischer believes he’ll be a perennial candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • The Spurs may consider moving Keldon Johnson before the trade deadline (video link), Marc J. Spears of Andscape said on the latest Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to RealGM). San Antonio has a surplus of wing players on its roster, and sources tell Spears that Johnson isn’t viewed as a good fit with the rest of the starting lineup.
  • Wembanyama’s first meeting with LeBron James didn’t happen Wednesday because the Lakers‘ star sat out the second game of a back-to-back with calf soreness, but the French rookie was excited about matching up with Anthony Davis, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “He’s somebody I’ve studied a little bit in the past and a great player of course,” Wembanyama said, “and I’m glad I’m going to be able to play so much more times against him.”
  • While Wembanyama has been outstanding, the Spurs don’t have the foundation they were hoping to build by having lottery picks in the previous three drafts, McDonald adds. Joshua Primo, their 2021 pick, is already off the roster. Sochan (2022) has been struggling, possibly because of the attempted position change, and Devin Vassell (2020) has cooled off in December after a strong start to the season.
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