Victor Wembanyama has the opportunity to be the first San Antonio Spurs player to win Rookie of the Year in over 25 years. The last Spur to win the award was the legendary NBA Hall of Fame forward, Tim Duncan.
Wemby’s race for Rookie of the Year could be more competitive than people might’ve initially thought, especially because Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren in the same conference.
Wembanyama and Holmgren are the top rookie scorers in the NBA so far this season, and they’ll have their first head-to-head matchup on Tuesday when San Antonio visits Oklahoma City.
The battle of the two 7-footers will be a spectacle for basketball fans to behold, and possibly be the birth of a new rivalry in the NBA.
Wembanyama is viewed as an anomaly throughout the basketball world and his path to Rookie of the Year seemed clear-cut to many observers. But like all things, many accolades do not come without a challenge or challenger, and Holmgren should be a worthy one in his first full season in the NBA.
Though Holmgren was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2022 NBA draft, he never had the opportunity to play last year due to a foot injury he sustained while participating in a Pro-Am game hosted by Jamal Crawford. Because Holmgren missed the whole season, he is technically still a rookie in the 2023-24 season.
So it could be assumed that Holmgren will have an easier time transitioning into playing NBA-level competition, especially with an entire year training with an NBA team. All these factors could help Holmgren have a worthy Rookie of the Year campaign.
What the stats say so far
While it is early in the season, we can still utilize the small sample size of NBA games to see where the two big men stand statistically.
Holmgren is averaging 16 points, 8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game to start the season, which is no small feat being the third option on the team.
Wembanyama is averaging 18 points, 8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game.
It’s easy to see how close this race will be as the season progresses. But I believe another thing that should be highlighted is how great Wembanyama and Holmgren already are defensively. It’ll be amazing to see how their game matures in the future because these two bigs are already playing like defensive anchors.
Wembanyama and Holmgren are the obvious frontrunners in the Rookie of the Year race, but there is another rookie also playing like a generational defender and causing some of the league’s best players problems. That is Ausar Thompson of the Detroit Pistons.
Thompson is averaging 11 points, 9 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks per game as a shooting guard.
With the battle being focused on the two rookie bigs, everyone is eagerly waiting for them to face off for the first time in the regular season. Their last meeting occurred during the preseason, where the two showcased their entire arsenal.
Wembanyama finished with 20 points and five rebounds, while Holmgren had 21 points and nine rebounds.