Oklahoma City rookie Chet Holmgren defends a pass by San Antonio rookie Victor Wembanyama during their first regular-season game at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City.
Now nearing the halfway mark of the 2023-24 NBA season, there have been several rookies who have been making waves in their debut months. Victor Wembanyama has been showing his defensive presence and offensive gravity even in his restrictive minutes. Chet Holmgren has been putting on All-Star-level performances night after night. Other rookies, such as Jamie Jaquez Jr and Dereck Lively II, are showing that they can fit a role in a system and contribute to successful rosters. But the question still remains: Who will be crowned the Rookie of the Year?
Before getting into who I believe are the top contenders for the Kia NBA Rookie of the Year award, I want to gloss over some ‘glows and grows’ of these incoming rookies. There's a new standard in the NBA: efficiency and scoring are at an all-time high, and players are expected to dominate right from the jump. So it comes as no surprise that there's a fair number of rookies that fall short of these massive expectations. However, loyal fans, do not despair because all you need to do is give some of these guys time to blossom into the players they have the potential to become. Starting things off with Scoot Henderson. Scoot’s been… subpar, for lack of a better term. As the third pick in the draft this year to the Portland Trail Blazers, a team in a massive rebuild phase, Scoot was tasked with filling a Ja Morant role as the young franchise player that can carry Portland to the promised land in Damian Lillard's new absence. This was not the case. So far, Scoot’s averaging 12.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, and 5.0 apg, which honestly is not too bad until you look at the efficiency: 36% from the field and 27% from the 3. Those are atrocious numbers for a guard, even if it shows that he is still confident in his abilities. With that mentality, he’ll either become an all-star caliber player or the next starting point guard of the Beijing Ducks.
Now, getting into the next two guys who are the clear-cut options for the rookie of the year, I think it's fair to say that at this point, anything can happen. They’re both performing at All-Star levels and will be a rivalry the NBA will enjoy for the next decade to come. I’m talking about Victor Wembenyama and Chet Holmgren. Averaging 19.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.2 bpg and 17.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.5 bpg respectively, these two are on a whole other level among all rookies, and both are in the top 10 for total blocks this season among all NBA players. Wenbenyama has been stopping the most dominant forces in the NBA, such as Giannas and Embiid, with his inhuman frame and athleticism. Wemby is also an offensive cheat code, as his inside scoring is nearly impossible to stop, although his shooting efficiency could be a little better. The most impressive feat and what really pushes him above Chet, in my opinion, who is honestly the more complete overall player, is that Wemby is doing all of this in an average of 26 minutes of on-court time a game. To put this into perspective, Chet plays 31 minutes a game, and most NBA players with Wemby’s numbers are playing an average of 34 minutes a game. Victor Wembenyama is putting up near All-Star level numbers and is the best shot blocker in the NBA with a minute handicap. So even beyond the Rookie of the Year award, the new question becomes: Just how good will Victor Wembenyama get?