Is Victor Wembanyama the Best Rookie in the History of the NBA?

Victory Wembanyama the Best RookieVictor Wembanyama (Photo by Tyler Kaufman/Getty Images)

Victor Wembanyama has taken the NBA by storm. Wembanyama has had one of the best rookie seasons ever in the history of the NBA. He is unquestionably going to be the Rookie of the Year. The French giant has been head and shoulders above every ROTY contender. Despite being in a lottery team, he has stood out among the crowd. Many in the media have already stated that Wembanyama is already a top-20 player in the league.

Some might think it’s presumptuous to rate a rookie that high, but Wembanyama’s season has forced many to do that.

Victor Wembanyama has been miles above all his competitors

In his first year, Wembanyama has already surpassed all expectations by doing things this season that no other player could do. He set rookie records at the end of the regular season in blocks (254), steals (88), rebounds (755), made field goals (551), and total points (1,522). In addition, he had the greatest step-back 3-point field goal percentage (46.2%; minimum of 50 tries) among all NBA players this season, leading the league in combined thefts and blocks (332).

Wembanyama ended with a team-high 34 points in a recent victory over the Denver Nuggets, scoring 17 points in less than three minutes. All season long, he has been the clear favorite to win Rookie of the Year. In 29.7 minutes per game, he averaged 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 3.6 blocks at the end of the season.

He has justified his spot as the No.1 draft pick. The Spurs will probably thank their stars that they got the first pick because their whole rebuild was based on getting the Frenchman.

How does Wemby rank among other great rookie seasons?

Statistically speaking, his 21.4 points per game is the highest for a rookie since Blake Griffin averaged 22.5 points during the 2010-11 season. The same goes for Wembanyama’s 10.6 rebounds per game, ranking below Griffin’s 12.1 average.

No rookie comes close to Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 37.6 points and 27 rebounds per game during the 1959-60 season.

Blocks have only been recorded as a stat in the NBA since the 1973-74 season, so the comparisons are incomplete. However, with the information on hand, Wembanyama’s 3.6 blocks per game only rank behind fellow Spurs star David Robinson, who averaged 3.9 blocks in 1989-90.

Wembanyama’s rookie success can most likely be measured by his Player Efficiency Rating (PER), a statistic created by John Hollinger of The Athletic that accounts for steals and blocks in addition to field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, and rebounds per minute.

Wembanyama placed No. 15 among all qualifying players for the 2023–24 season with a 23.1 PER, ahead of players like Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, and Jayson Tatum.

Still, Wembanyama’s PER is among the best of all-time NBA rookies. Since Chamberlain’s 28.2 rating, his 23.1 rating is the third-best. During that time, the only people to finish ahead of him were Robinson (26.3) and Michael Jordan (25.8). Compared to Shaquille O’Neal (22.9), Karl-Anthony Towns (22.5), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (22.5), he is ranked higher.

Was Wembanyama worthy of all the fanfare he generated? Was he the kind of generational talent the NBA hadn’t seen since LeBron James during his first season? (James, incidentally, completed with an 18.3 PER.)

Yes, according to the numbers. However, there is still a great deal of space for development.

Wembanyama may be able to play more than 71 games as he grows larger, stronger, and more resilient. More significantly, the Spurs can improve the team around him and end the season with a record higher than their 21–60 record going into Sunday’s regular-season finale—which ties them for the poorest record in the West.

Wembanyama’s future is just as fascinating as his incredible all-around ability.


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