Making Rookie Of The Year Cases For Victor Wembanyama & Chet Holmgren

The 2024 NBA Rookie of the Year race has been a hard-fought competition between Spurs center Victor Wembanyama and Thunder center Chet Holmgren. It’s one of the most exciting rookie races in NBA history, and the award is still up in the air. Both players have compelling cases, but which one deserves the glory? 

Victor Wembanyama’s Rookie of the Year Case

Victor Wembanyama currently averages roughly 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal per game. The only players in NBA history to match that line across a season are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (4x), Hakeem Olajuwon (3x), David Robinson (3x), and Bob Lanier. That’s four Hall of Famers, including three Top 20 players of all time. The lowest minute total of those 11 combined seasons was 36.8 MPG…Wembanyama is posting these stats in only 28.7 MPG. 

In addition to easily pacing the NBA in steals plus blocks, Wembanyama records a block on a staggering 60 percent of his rim contests, which leads the league (via Basketball Index). Opponents are petrified of challenging his monstrous 8’0” wingspan and frequently dribble out of the paint if he is rotating from the weak side. The eye test already paints him as a top five defender in the NBA at a minimum, but the advanced metrics also love him – Wembanyama ranks second in D-LEBRON, fifth in D-BPM, and seventh in D-EPM. 

His unique skill set at 7’4” tall stamps him with a powerful wow factor too. Nobody has ever seen a player like Wembanyama before, so turning on a Spurs game permanently drops the viewer’s jaw. In other words, his aura is already on par with the best of the best. 

Now, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that San Antonio ranks 26th in Net Rating and owns a putrid 12-48 record. Only the Pistons and Wizards have a lower winning percentage. Wembanyama also has a slightly below average true shooting percentage and an even assist to turnover ratio. However, although team success and mediocre efficiency dampen his case, a vote for Wembanyama is a vote for historic individual brilliance. 

Chet Holmgren’s Rookie of the Year Case

Oklahoma City finished last season as the tenth seed and lost in the play-in tournament. They are now fighting for the top seed in the West and rank second in Net Rating. Chet Holmgren has helped morph this squad into a legitimate championship contender in the blink of an eye, which is typically an impossible task for a rookie. 

Although his counting stats pale in comparison to Wembanyama, Holmgren is still posting roughly 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. The only other players to match that line this season are Anthony Davis and Wembanyama. Factor in Holmgren’s elite 64.6 true shooting percentage and 39.8 three-point percentage, and he’s a statistical anomaly himself. 

Like Wembanyama, it’s safe to say that Holmgren is a top ten defender in the NBA already. The Thunder rookie ranks second in contested shots, fourth in blocks, seventh in rim points saved per 75 possessions and is anchoring a top five defense. 

Overall, Holmgren’s case rests on a mixture of impressive individual numbers and immense team impact. How much a voter values contributions to winning will essentially define the optics of the race. Wembanyama is the better individual basketball player, but Holmgren is the second most important piece on a title contender and posts excellent numbers too. 

The books have basically ended the race based on the odds: Wembanyama is -1350 to win the award, while Holmgren is +1000. It seems premature to me though. Across five games since the All-Star break, Holmgren has averaged about 22 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks on absurd 62/44/88 shooting splits. If he maintains similar numbers for the remainder of the season and Oklahoma City claims the top seed, then there is a real chance that the award is his. 

Verdict: Wembanyama is the current ROY, but Holmgren is a great bet right now at +1000 odds

NBA Rookie of the Year Odds

Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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