The Dallas Mavericks open the regular season with a battle against the San Antion Spurs tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN. It's been a common theme for the Mavs to appear in the national spotlight, but this time is unlike the previous seasons.
While Dallas superstar Luka Doncic might be one of the NBA's main attractions, many fans will be tuning into the game to see the No. 1 overall pick, Victor Wembanyama.
Wembanyama is a generational talent. The Frenchman is 7-foot-4 with an 8-foot wingspan. And despite his enormous size, he plays like a guard.
3 things the Mavericks must do to stop Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama
The 19-year-old phenom can handle the ball, get out on the break, and launch threes. He's unlike anything the NBA has ever seen before. While there have been some similar players in the past, Wembanyama is on a different level.
Wembanyama is the full package on offense, but his defense may even be further along in his development. He is quick enough to stay in front of guards but he also has the size to defend any player in the league despite a lack of strength. During practice, the Mavs have been attempting to replicate Wembanyama's incredible length before Wednesday's matchup.
Knowing what they're up against, Dallas has surely game-planned on defense as well to handle the otherworldly talent in Wembanyama. Besides recent draft pick, Dereck Lively II, the Dallas roster is relatively small. The next tallest players, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber, are 6-foot-10.
Lively II's draft mate, Wembanyama, will be his first true test as the starting center for Dallas. Although defense is typically a difficult adjustment for rookie bigs, Lively II is the Mavs' best bet to defend against Wembanyama.
The Dallas bigs will be tasked with forcing Wembanyama to play outside his comfort zone. Despite being such a well-rounded scorer, the 7-foot-4 big isn't the most consistent outside shooter. He shot just 27.5 percent from three a season ago. Forcing Wembanyama to shoot outside will be imperative to offset his scoring in the paint.
Additionally, as previously mentioned, Wembanyama doesn't have a strong build. At 7-foot-4, it's nearly impossible to be stout. Using Wembanyama's lack of strength against him will be essential to further throwing him off his offensive game.
And finally, the young star is a lethal shot blocker. Forcing Wembanyama to foul will aid in limiting his shot-blocking as the game progresses. Next, we'll discuss in-depth how each of these three scenarios will be accomplished.
3. Force Wembanyama to shoot outside
Throughout the preseason, Wembanyama highlights have been filled with alley-oops, dunks, and easy buckets inside. Also, we've witnessed the big man hit threes, whether it be off the dribble or assisted.
However, Wembanyama only shot 31.8 percent from behind the arc in the preseason. Only a slight uptick from his final season playing overseas.
Forcing Wembanyama to shoot the 3-ball is easier said than done. But, the Dallas defense should prioritize the big man heaving deep attempts rather than hunting for easy buckets on the interior.
Lively II will likely start on the French big man, followed by a combination of Powell, Kleber, and even Holmes. While all these bigs may have success against Wembanyama, doubling him in the post with wings or even guards will force him to rethink his offensive game plan.
Wembanyama has demonstrated some innovative playmaking, but it's not a strong skill of his. Thus, he typically looks to score when an open shot presents itself and the Dallas defense should feed off Wembanyama threes and deep twos.