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NBA Rookie of the Year rankings: Holmgren, Wemby battle for top spot


One of the most heralded rookie classes in NBA history is confidently putting its stamp on the 2023-24 campaign. The years of hype for Victor Wembanyama appear justified, though the French phenom's case for individual hardware is complicated by another prominent 7-footer.

5. Dereck Lively II, Dallas Mavericks

2023-24 season averages

19 73.5 75 59.3 7.7 1.3 8.7

Lively edged out Detroit Pistons wing Ausar Thompson for the fifth spot on the list due to the role he's playing for one of the better teams in the league early on in the season. Holding down the starting center position as a 19-year-old, Lively is adding a new dynamic to the Mavericks.

The rookie rim protector is averaging 1.6 blocks per game, good for 12th in the league. No Maverick has averaged at least 1.5 since Kristaps Porzingis did it twice during his Dallas tenure. In a contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier in December, the No. 12 pick swatted away seven shots - one off from the league's single-game high this season.

Offensively, Lively knows his role and has played it to perfection thus far. He's second on the team in effective field goal percentage (73.5%) while being ninth on the team in attempts (5.4), and his two-point shooting percentage is in the 97th percentile, according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat

Megan Briggs / Getty Images Sport / Getty

2023-24 season averages

22 52.2 37.3 80.6 3.6 2.5 12.2

The reigning Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, Jaquez is a bona fide rotation player 22 games into his career. The Heat are relying on him to play big minutes, with the No. 18 pick is averaging 32.3 per game over his last 14 contests.

He ranks fifth on the team in scoring - behind the core of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and veteran wing Duncan Robinson.

What has been surprising about Jaquez's game is his 3-point shooting. The 22-year-old is making just over one per game while going 37.3% from deep, an improvement from his UCLA days, during which he averaged 32.8%. On the defensive end, he's one of four rookies to average at least one steal per game. Overall, Jaquez's versatility as a first-year player has been very impressive.

3. Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets

2023-24 season averages

18 44.8 40.5 81.1 4.2 2.2 14.6

Miller's standout first-year showing is muted by the Charlotte Hornets' lackluster start to the season. And with LaMelo Ball now out for the foreseeable future, there could be even fewer eyes on Miller's rookie campaign. But don't discount the former Alabama wing's early returns.

The second overall pick put together a solid 18-game run early on with impressive shooting splits of 44.8/40.3/81.1. But he's been even more effective over his last eight appearances, of which he started seven and played without Ball in four. During that stretch, the No. 2 selection is putting up 17.1 points per game and hitting threes at an outrageous 53.3% clip.

Miller has been a welcome addition to the Hornets' offense, and his role should continue to expand. Among all 2023-24 rookies, only the next member of this list has more 20-point games this season, courtesy of Statmuse.

2. Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

Michael Gonzales / National Basketball Association / Getty

2023-24 season averages

20 43 25.5 81.8 10.2 2.6 19

With ball-handling nearly as deft as a guard's, astute defensive instincts, and agility - and all of it packed inside a 7-foot-4 frame - Wembanyama seemed too good to be true. He solidified himself as the No. 1 pick years before his name was called. But while his talent and potential were heavily touted well before he set foot on an NBA court, the San Antonio Spurs' prodigy deserves credit for not just living up to expectations, but ostensibly exceeding them.

In Friday's loss to Chicago, Wembanyama's 21-point, 20-rebound performance cemented him as the youngest player to ever record a 20-20 game, breaking Dwight Howard's record by just four days. It was coincidentally the 20th contest of the rookie's young career. Furthermore, he's the only player ever to record at least 350 points, 50 assists, 50 blocks, and 25 steals through that career-opening span, according to Statmuse.

However, what may hurt Wembanyama's case are the losses piling up in San Antonio. His impact has been undeniable, but the Spurs are on course for just 11-12 wins this season, which could throw a wrench into the French phenom's case for individual hardware. The argument becomes even more strained when you factor in the winning contributions made by the top rookie on this list, too.

1. Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder

2023-24 season averages

21 51.8 37.1 87.8 7.8 2.5 17.1

Through a quarter of the NBA campaign, Holmgren has separated himself from the rest of the rookies and is the most deserving candidate for Rookie of the Year. Despite averaging less points, rebounds, and blocks than his Spurs counterpart, Holmgren is directly impacting winning. The 21-year-old is close to having a 50/40/90 season in his rookie campaign, shooting 51% from the field, 37% from three, and 88% from the charity stripe. He could stand to take more shots given his efficiency, as he ranks fourth on the team in shot attempts per game.

Holmgren quickly dismissed any worries about lingering effects of his Lisfranc injury when he broke the Thunder's record for most blocks in a single game by a rookie in his second professional contest. From the beginning of the season, Holmgren has shown up, helping the Thunder achieve a 14-7 record, good for second in the Western Conference.

The versatile big man has also elevated his game against competitive squads. He scored a career-high 36 points against the Golden State Warriors in November and followed that up with 34 points versus the Philadelphia 76ers. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander commanding so much attention offensively, Holmgren has the space to improve and strengthen his argument for the award.

Honorable mentions: Ausar Thompson (Detroit Pistons), Jordan Hawkins (New Orleans Pelicans), Keyonte George (Utah Jazz)

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