There was plenty of discussion on how good the 2023-24 rookie class was going to be, and the players haven’t disappointed. With roughly 10 percent of the season done, there have been a number of standouts.
Victor Wembanyama has of course taken up the bulk of the headlines, but don’t let him distract from the depth of this fantastic rookie class. Chet Holmgren has been equally as impressive, and the likes of Ausar Thompson and Dereck Lively II are already making a big impact on their respective teams.
Here are the top five rookies thus far, along with some honorable mentions.
All statistics current through Nov. 12, 2023
NBA Rookie Rankings
1. Victor Wembanyama, Spurs
Stats: 19.7 PTS, 8.8 REB, 2.5 AST, 2.4 BLK, 1.1 STL
Best game: Nov. 2 vs. PHX: 38 PTS, 10 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK, 1 STL
Wembanyama has lived up to the hype thus far. He’s already turned into an elite defender who opponents are afraid to challenge anywhere he’s near them. In the rare instances when players have tested him, he’s pinned the ball like an adult playing with a kid.
Best defender in the NBA
It’s not even close👽 pic.twitter.com/hl3dARM3nH
— Spurs Culture (@SpursCulture) November 5, 2023
O.G. Anunoby simply shook his head and laughed when asked why he tried to get that layup past Wembanyama. He’s not alone — Wembanyama is fourth in the entire league in blocks per game.
Offensively, Wembanyama has figured out ways to score (throw the ball up anywhere near him, and he’s going to get up to finish lobs) despite working with less-than-stellar passing on his team. His jump shot has been a bit shaky, but he is able to get it off whenever he wants over defenders.
Wembanyama’s consistency might not totally be there yet, but he has created highlights on a nightly basis and has been must-watch through his first stretch of games.
2. Chet Holmgren, Thunder
Stats: 16.4 PTS, 7.6 REB, 2.6 AST, 2.3 BLK, 0.9 STL
Best game: Nov. 3 vs. GSW: 24 PTS, 8 REB, 5 AST, 1 BLK, 1 STL
The debate between Holmgren and Wembanyama for this top spot is a lot closer than you’d think. Wembanyama is getting all the hype, but the Chetrosexuals (don’t blame me, Thunder fans made the term up!) will tell you that Holmgren has been the far more efficient player on offense.
While Wemby gets praised for his guard-like ability, Holmgren has his own high-skill package.
Chet Holmgren going behind the back in transition NASTY pic.twitter.com/1MzrIkXVFf
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 7, 2023
Some of those stellar efficiency numbers are due to a better fit for Holmgren, but he isn’t getting nearly enough shine for averaging 16.4 points per game on 54.9 percent shooting from the field, 50.0 percent from 3 and 89.5 percent from the line. In a normal year, he would be a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year. He still might win the award over Wembanyama.
Holmgren has been terrific defensively as well, blocking shots on par with Wembanyama. He has gotten overpowered by some of the bigger guys in the league like Nikola Jokic and Andre Drummond, but for the most part, he’s held up playing as a pure center.
3. Ausar Thompson, Pistons
Stats: 11.2 PTS, 10.5 REB, 3.5 AST, 1.8 BLK, 1.2 STL
Best game: Nov. 5 vs. PHX: 14 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST, 4 BLK, 4 STL
Thompson hasn’t been able to shoot the ball, which was a concern for him coming into the draft, but he’s been able to do everything else at an extremely high level. He narrowly missed a rare 5×5 game on Nov. 5, showing how he finds multiple ways to contribute.
Thompson is a 6-foot-6 wing who has been playing like a 90s big man. He’s leading all rookies in rebounding and offensive rebounding, blocking shots like a maniac and shutting down elite offensive players like Jimmy Butler and Kevin Durant.
FG% when guarded by Ausar Thompson:
25% — SGA (2-8 FG)
25% — Lamelo Ball (1-4)
38% — Klay Thompson (3-8)
40% — Jimmy Butler (2-5)
40% — CJ McCollum (2-5)
40% — Terry Rozier (2-5)
43% — Kevin Durant (3-7)
— Jack Kelly (@jack_kelly_313) November 7, 2023
Thompson has been able to contribute on offense despite the lack of a jump shot by getting to the rim at will and throwing some nifty passes to keep the Pistons’ offense moving. He’s been one of the most fun rookies to watch.
4. Dereck Lively II, Mavericks
Stats: 8.8 PTS, 6.7 REB, 1.0 AST, 1.1 BLK, 0.7 STL
Best game: Oct. 25 vs. SAS: 16 PTS, 10 REB, 1 BLK, 1 STL
Lively has come in as a starter and done exactly what he was supposed to do — finish lobs from Luka Doncic, protect the rim and rebound the ball. He’s shooting an astounding 78.0 percent at the basket.
Lively’s only taken one shot (a corner 3) outside of 10 feet this season, but he looks like he can be a solid starter in the league for a long time.
5. Brandon Miller, Hornets
Stats: 12.8 PTS, 4.2 REB, 1.6 AST, 0.6 BLK, 0.4 STL
Best game: Oct. 30 vs. BKN: 22 PTS, 9 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK
Miller has had a good start to his rookie campaign, coming off the bench initially for the Hornets before transitioning to a starting role. He’s had some playmaking flashes, keeping the Hornets offense rolling with extra passes. He’s tried to get to his midrange jump shot a little too often, but when he does get to the rim, he’s shown nice touch.
This Brandon Miller lay 😳🍇
— No Ceilings (@NoCeilingsNBA) October 31, 2023
Miller has also played pretty good defense on tough assignments this season, managing to stay in front of stars like Doncic.
Scoot Henderson, Trail Blazers: It hasn’t been an ideal start for Henderson, who has missed games with an ankle injury and looked a little overwhelmed at times. But he is getting to the rim well, showing that his athleticism will translate, and he’s leading all rookies in assists alongside Keyonte George.
Marcus Sasser, Pistons: Sasser has gotten some playing time on the Pistons and literally run with it. He had a four-game stretch, including performances with 26, 22 and 19 points. The No. 25 pick has given the Pistons good defense and terrific shot making.
Jordan Hawkins, Pelicans: Hawkins exploded for 31 points against the Nuggets in his fourth career start, hitting seven 3s in that game. He was a great movement shooter in college, and that’s extending to the pros.
Julian Strawther, Nuggets: Strawther hasn’t been able to carve out regular minutes in the Nuggets rotation, but when he has played, he’s been excellent. In one of his longest outings of the year, he dropped 21 points in 19 minutes against the Pelicans.
Cason Wallace, Thunder: Wallace seemingly hasn’t missed a shot in his rookie year. He’s shooting a torrid 63.8 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from 3. He’s also contributing defensively to the Thunder. He looks like he’s going to be a solid starter for a long time.
Rookie stats and leaders
For comprehensive rookie leaderboards, you can check out daily updated rookie stats here.
|Points||Victor Wembanyama||19.7 PPG|
|Rebounds||Ausar Thompson||10.5 RPG|
|Assists||Scoot Henderson, Keyonte George||4.6 APG|
|Steals||Jaime Jaquez Jr.||1.3 SPG|
|Blocks||Victor Wembanyama||2.4 BPG|
Source : ESPN.com