Victor Wembanyama's unprecedented off-the-dribble 3-point shooting adds just another element to rookie season



During the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this week, Victor Wembanyama delivered his nightly attempt to break the internet. But unlike most of his previous efforts that have come at the rim on either side of the ball, this was an off-the-dribble 3-pointer. 

After taking a handoff from Jeremy Sochan, Wembanyama went to work on the wing. He went between his legs into a between-the-legs-behind-the-back combo, then between his legs a few more times before faking a drive right and stepping back for a fadeaway triple. All told, he dribbled eight times before knocking down the shot. 

That would have been an impressive sequence for anyone, but was absolutely stunning for a 7-foot-4 rookie. It was also an example of one of the most surprising trends from Wembanyama’s debut campaign: he’s an excellent 3-point shooter off the dribble. Note: all stats are as of March 1. 

Coming into the league, outside shooting was one of Wembanyama’s clear weaknesses. He had free reign to fire away in France, and while the highlights were incredible he shot just 27.5% on five attempts per game for Mets 92 last season. In 2021-22, he was at 26.0% on 3.1 attempts per game for ASVEL. 

Those troubles continued at the start of his NBA career, as he went 26-of-96 between October and November. Since then, however, he’s become a fairly reliable threat from outside. He’s 63-176 from downtown over the last three months for a respectable 35.8%. Of the Spurs’ regular rotation players, only Cedi Osman (37.0) and Devin Vassell (36.3) have been better over that span. 

The most remarkable aspect of his improvement is that most of his success has come on pull-up 3s. Here’s a look at his splits from various points in the season: 

Full season

44-of-163

27.0%

43-of-104

41.3%

Since Dec. 1

29-of-99

29.3%

33-of-74

44.6%

Last 20 games

16-of-54

29.6%

23-of-48

47.9%

As you can see, his catch-and-shoot numbers have stayed relatively the same, while he’s continually improving off the bounce. If you break things down even further, Wembanyama is best off one or two dribbles, which is evident on the film. 

Here are his numbers from the last 20 games by number of dribbles:

1 dribble

15

30

50.0%

2 dribbles

4

5

80.0%

3-6 dribbles

2

10

20.0%

7+ dribbles

2

3

66.7%

Perhaps the most remarkable example of Wembanyama’s one-dribble shooting came on Jan. 2 against the Memphis Grizzlies, when he took a pass from Justin Champagnie near mid-court and pulled up off one leg for a 30-foot runner. The ball rattled around the rim and backboard before falling through the net. 

“It’s actually easier to shoot 3s that way I think,” Wembanyama told JJ Redick during an appearance on his podcast last year. “You use momentum so you don’t gotta put any force, you can really focus on the target. 

“A couple years back, I was training with Tim Martin, my coach, I was [taking one-legged 3s], I was doing reps and he was laughing because it’s funny to see someone practice this. But it just feels natural to me and as an off-the-dribble move it’s a great move I believe. And it’s surprising to the defender. You don’t really have a gather, you just go straight up. It’s surprising to the defender. Even for regular sized players you can’t defend that.”

While Wembanyama isn’t typically shooting off one leg, it’s clear he feels more comfortable shooting off the dribble than off the catch. So much so that he’s actually one of the most efficient off-the-dribble shooters in the league. 

Of the 56 players that have taken at least 100 off-the-dribble 3s this season, Wembanyama’s 41.3% mark is tied for the fifth-best with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Only Duncan Robinson, Mike Conley, Jamal Murray and CJ McCollum have made a higher percentage of their attempts. 

Even if you acknowledge that Wembanyama’s volume doesn’t measure up to the league leaders in pull-ups, here’s how he compares to some stars with a similar amount of shots. 

As you’ll notice, he’s being compared to guards and forwards in all of these stats. That’s because his fellow big men aren’t even in the same stratosphere. Only seven other seven-footers have attempted at least 10 pull-up 3s this season. Together, they’ve combined to make 49; Wembanyama has made 43 by himself. Just look at the discrepancies here in terms of attempts and efficiency. 

The tracking data on the NBA’s stats site goes back to the 2013-14 season. In that time, no other seven-footer has attempted 100 pull-up 3s in a season, and there have only been seven instances of a seven-footer taking 50 or more pull up 3s in a season. Of those, Brook Lopez (25-of-58, 43.1%) in 2019 is the only one to shoot 40% or better. 

However you want to slice it, what Wembanyama is doing as an off-the-dribble 3-point shooter is special, and yet another reason this is one of the best rookie seasons we’ve ever seen. 

“He’s not afraid to put himself out there,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after Wembanyama shot 5-of-7 from 3-point range en route to 28 points in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. “He’ll take shots. He’s not worried about if he misses it, what the consequences are or anything like that. He likes those moments.”





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top