Coming into the new year, the NBA Rookie of the Year race has really narrowed down to two of the most promising rookies we have seen in a while. Namely, Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren.

The two 7-footers lead the pack, with several other solid contributors playing well enough to at least excite the fans back home.

Right now, it’s really just a question of whether Wemby’s superior stats take it home or Holmgren’s overall team success.

Victor Wembanyama – San Antonio Spurs

Somehow, someway, Gregg Popovich always manages to snag generational big men, and Wembanyama is no different. It’s still crazy that Pop and the Spurs managed to hit the jackpot with just a 14% chance of getting the number one overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

San Antonio is probably the best place to start your career if you are Wemby, though. Even with the Spurs dropping games left and right, Wembanyama has been getting in invaluable reps, acclimating more and more to the US game.

This is clearly evidenced by his crazy season averages of 19.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, and 3 blocks per contest. 

With his long, athletic frame and surprising agility, he is an absolute monster on the defensive side of the floor and has a pretty deep bag on the offensive side of the ball. That is to say, his impact on the game is undeniable, and he is already easily living up to the hype.

Chet Holmgren – Oklahoma City Thunder

While Chet Holmgren may have sat out the 2022 season with a foot injury, his start so far this year has been absolutely phenomenal. His diverse skillset, combined with his huge defensive presence, has not only let him stuff the stat sheet but also helped OKC to one of the best records in the NBA so far.

Averaging 16.9 ppg, 8 rpg, and 2.8 blocks per game, his numbers are slightly lower than Wemby’s, but you have to remember Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the number one option, not him.

He is putting up efficient numbers on a solid team and has managed to completely fill the hole at centre that OKC struggled with last season.

Holgren would easily find himself sitting atop the ROY ladder in any other year, but sadly, another 7 footer is taking most of the spotlight.

Nonetheless, don’t sleep on Holmgren – he very well could take the award out from under Victor Wembanyama’s nose, especially if OKC continues to win.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. – Miami Heat

Jaime Jaquez Jr. has pleasantly surprised Miami Heat fans with his old-school game. Although not to the same extent as the Big Fundamental himself, he plays good old fundamental basketball – solid cuts, drives, and absolutely hounding defence.  

In a world where deep threes and athletic finishes at the rim have become the norm, it’s fun to see a good old-fashioned pump fake and drop step put even great defenders in the blender.

He has so far been putting up solid averages of 13 ppg, 3.6 ppg, and 2.7 apg on solid shooting. And even dropped a 31-point double-double against the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas day.

While he’s not really in contention for the ROY award, his playstyle fits perfectly into Miami’s team identity, and he’s only going to grow from here.

He should also add some great bench depth for Miami in the playoffs, providing some points and high-tempo defence. 

Miami fans might still be stinging after losing Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in the offseason, but Jaime Jaquez Jr. should ease the pain somewhat.

Brandon Miller – Charlotte Hornets

Falling at the second pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Brandon Miller unfortunately got overshadowed by Wembanyama on draft night. However, that hasn’t stopped the kid from having one of the best rookie seasons this year.

His game needs some polish, but we love his game; he’s athletic, can shoot the lights out, and can score from almost any area on the court.

The small forward is definitely putting up some decent numbers already, averaging a decent 10.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, and 2.4 apg, but his potential is sky-high. It also doesn’t hurt that he also seems to mesh quite well with LaMelo Ball.

Like Victor Wembanyama, he has also been given free rein to play as he pleases, leading all rookies, playing 32.2 minutes per game.

Although the GOAT, Michael Jordan, has had some questionable draft picks, he finally seems to have made the right one here. Picking up one of the best players of the draft at second.

Ausar Thompson – Detroit Pistons

Sitting at an abysmal 3-33, Ausar Thompson is probably the only upside to the 2023-24 season for Detroit fans.

With season averages of 10 ppg, 8.1 rpg, and 2.4 apg, he definitely isn’t going to come away with the ROY award this year, but he will likely survive Detroit’s front office blowing up the team coming into the next.

Simply put, Thompson and his brother, the number four pick in the 2023 draft, have a ton of potential and are incredibly athletic. But the thing that really sets Thompson apart is his defence.

Thompson stays in front of his man, unlike any other player in the league right now. On the defensive side of the ball, you would never know he was a rookie, locking down even the shiftiest guards and almost never getting beat.

Sitting 6’6 barefoot with a 7-foot wingspan, his raw stats are more like an NBA 2K24 character instead of an actual person. It will be great to see him grow as a player in the future.

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