News

Victor Wembanyama wins NBA Rookie of the Year via unanimous vote after delivering on unprecedented hype

Victor Wembanyama wins NBA Rookie of the Year via unanimous vote after delivering on unprecedented hype

Victor Wembanyama checked every box as a rookie for the Spurs. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Victor Wembanyama's scouting report sounded impossible: a 7-foot-4 Frenchman with the ball-handling and shooting skills of a guard and the defensive instincts to lock down the paint on every possession.

The San Antonio Spurs first overall pick walked into his rookie year with some of the biggest expectations we have ever seen from a rookie and was one of the biggest draws in the NBA from Day 1. The Spurs were not shy about giving him a superstar's workload either.

And, somehow, Wembanyama delivered. So it was only natural he was named the unanimous NBA Rookie of the Year on Monday, securing all 99 first-place votes from media members. He is the sixth player to win the award unanimously in league history, joining Ralph Sampson, David Robinson, Blake Griffin, Damian Lillard and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren finished in second place with 98 of 99 possible second-place votes, while Charlotte Hornets forward Brandon Miller finished third while tallying the remaining second-place vote and 83 third-place votes.

It's hard to overstate what Wembanyama accomplished on an individual level as a rookie. The Spurs struggled to a 22-60 record, the same record as last season, but under the hood was a player who changed every play he touched.

It is not an understatement to say that Wembanyama, playing at the ages of 19 and 20, was one of the 20 most impactful players in the NBA. By Player Efficiency Rating, he was 12th in the league. In box plus/minus, he was 11th. Total rebound rate: 10th. Usage rate: sixth. Block rate: first (all stats are from basketball-reference.com).

To put Wembanyama's top 10 usage rate into perspective, the next highest rookie in the league was the Portland Trail Blazers' Scoot Henderson at 38th. And despite being a central part of a bad offense on which opponents could focus the bulk of their attention, Wembanyama posted a respectable .565 true shooting rate, ahead of the likes of Dejounte Murray and Malcolm Brogdon.

Now imagine him getting better, which is what 20-year-olds tend to do.

This picture is not photoshopped. Victor Wembanyama is that much of a freak. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

On the level of more traditional stats, Yahoo Sports' Ben Rohrbach noted that no other teenager can match what Wembanyama did. Including LeBron James:

  • Wemanyama (2023-24): 21.4 PTS (47/33/80), 10.6 REB, 3.9 AST (3.7 TO), 1.2 STL, 3.6 BLK

  • James (2003-04): 20.9 PTS (42/29/75), 5.5 REB, 5.9 AST (3.5 TO), 1.6 STL, 0.7 BLK

Pretty much every NBA player to ever post a rookie season like Wembanyama is resting comfortably in the Naismith Hall of Fame. His PER comparables include Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal.

Just about the only knock on Wembanyama entering the NBA was that his 209-pound frame might not be able to hold up against the league's big men. He still played 71 games while averaging nearly 30 minutes each night, despite dealing with a minutes restriction at one point.

We could go on. The fact is that Wembanyama should be receiving All-NBA and All-Defense votes in addition to his rookie accolades. He checked every box on one of the hardest rubrics the NBA world has ever given to a rookie, while providing physics-defying highlights along the way.

Here are a few of those, real quick.

 

Getting the generational star is typically the hard part for would-be contenders. Next up for the Spurs is, well, another hard part: building around Wembanyama.

With all due respect to players like Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones, San Antonio's supporting cast didn't exactly look playoff-ready this season. Wembanyama needs help, and the good news is he should theoretically fit alongside a lot of players, even some ball-dominant stars. Wembanyama's defensive prowess and versatility on offense as a post player, driver and spot-up shooter makes for a malleable presence, depending on what the Spurs want to do.

Apparently, Wembanyama is not lacking in interest from his fellow players in joining up, as he told The Ringer:

“Yeah, I’ve received some messages,” Wembanyama responded. “Even from prospects. But I try to sustain my role. It’s a whole new world that I’m eager to discover. For sure, one day or the other, I’ll have to be involved in this, I guess, even though I’m staying in my role as a player.”

Wembanyama was ecstatic that the Spurs won the lottery because of Gregg Popovich. Now, he'll be depending on Popovich to once again show he can build an NBA title contender after being gifted a generational prospect. First, it was Tim Duncan, Now, it's Wembanyama.

The funny part about Wembanyama's brilliance was he wasn't the only absurdly skinny 7-footer with guard-like skills to star as a rookie this season.

In nearly any other season, Holmgren would have taken home Rookie of the Year. He really was that good, finishing second behind Wembanyama in the NBA in blocks while ranking 17th in the NBA in true shooting and seventh in defensive rating. Rookies aren't supposed to be elite interior defenders and efficient perimeter shooters from the get-go.

The big difference between Holmgren and Wembanyama was team circumstance. Whereas Wembanyama joined one of the worst teams in the NBA, a team that could feature him as much it wanted, Holmgren joined a Thunder team already bursting in young talent.

With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dominating the ball and players like Jalen Williams, Lu Dort and Josh Giddey also needing touches, Holmgren was used much more as an off-ball threat. That's not a knock on Holmgren or how the Thunder used him; he's a very good player used in a very useful role on a team that finished first in the West.

The Thunder have every reason to be excited about Holmgren as their own future superstar. He just picked the wrong year to pursue a Rookie of the Year award.

Source

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button