The Top Five NBA Rookie of the Year Candidates for the 2023-2024 Season

Any conversation involving the NBA rookie class of 2023-2024 has to begin with Victor Wembanyama, who has more than lived up to the outrageous hype that accompanied him on his way into the league. But let’s be clear, Wembanyana is far from the only rookie from this class showing an intriguing amount of promise and potential. More than two thirds of the way through this season it’s clear that this is not just a top heavy draft. While players like Wembanyama and Chet Holgren already look like full-fledged stars, the class also appears to contain an impressive amount of potential as longtime starters, and impact role players. If things continue to trend in the direction they appear to be headed, we could be looking at an all-time great draft class, similar to that of the ‘03 draft, the ‘96 draft, and even the ‘84 draft. Below is a list of the top five rookies so far this year, ranking them in order of most likely to least likely to take home Rookie of the Year honors when the year concludes.

1. Victor Wembanyama: Simply put, Victor Wembanyama is everything the Spurs could’ve hoped for and more. Seemingly every game Wembanyama plays, he adds something new to his arsenal. Every time he takes the floor, he seems to take his game to the next level, blooming more and more into the player many dreamed he could be. The rapid pace of improvement that Wembanyama is showing has to be frightening for everyone around the league—outside the Spurs organization. And averages of 22.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.9 apg, and 3.8 bpg, since the new year, have to have teams around the association wondering whether or not they could’ve—or should’ve—tanked harder for him last year.

2. Chet Holmgren: The only player with any semblance of a shot—although at this point is an immensely long shot—of catching Wembanyama in the rookie of the year race, Chet has looked far more ready than most originally suspected. Of course it helps that Chet essentially had an extra year of preparation, (originally being drafted back in 2022, only to miss the entirety of his original rookie year with a foot injury), but even still, the workload and efficiency has been able to put on display is widely impressive. For a first year player the role that he has not only been able to maintain but excel at for the Western Conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder, it is almost unprecedented. With year long averages of 17.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 2.6 bpg—on off the charts shooting efficiency no less—Holmgren is having himself an outstanding campaign. If it weren’t for Wembanyama being somehow even more of a freakishly alien basketball specimen, Holmgren would be the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year honors.

3. Brandon Miller: The Hornets’ decision to select Miller over Scoot Henderson during last year’s draft drew a fair amount of scrutiny, but judging purely based off what we’ve seen this year, it’s not even close as to whether or not the Hornets made the right call. Despite the Hornets yet again finding themselves near the cellar of the Eastern Conference, Brandon Miller has quietly been having himself a heck-of-a year. Miller has continued to show night in and night out why the Hornets saw him as a better long term fit with Lamelo Ball, than Scoot Henderson. And with Lamelo Ball once again sadly struggling with injuries, Miller has even shown an ability to step up and be somewhat of a lead playmaker. Once thought of as more of a safe 3 and D wing player, Miller now appears to have enough dynamic playmaking ability to develop into a star; his averages of 19.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 2.5 apg in his past 25 indicate the Hornets may have found a future franchise cornerstone to pair with Ball.

4. Jaime Jaquez Jr: From the moment Jaime Jaquez Jr was selected 18th overall in the 2023 NBA draft by the Miami clear, it was clear Jaquez’s fit into the Heat culture was going to be like a glove. Coming into the draft, Jaquez was generally viewed as one of the more NBA-ready prospects, with four years of collegiate playing experience at UCLA. But even the most optimistic Jaquez fans surely didn’t see him taking on such a sizable and prominent role this early on in his career. Jaquez’s hard-nose playing style along with his ability to read the game so proficiently—much like a NBA veteran—has allowed the heat to rely on him so heavily, and as a result Jaquez has started 17 games so far during his rookie campaign, putting up averages of 15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 2.6 apg in said starts. Very rarely is a rookie able to come in and have such a profound and necessary impact on a team currently contending, not for lottery odds, but for a title.

5. Brandon Podziemski: It’s fair to say that no one—not even Podziemski himself saw the former Santa Clara standout guard supplanting Klay Thompson in the Warriors starting 5 during his rookie campaign. Much like Jaime Jaquez Jr. for the Heat, Podziemski is the rare rookie holding down a consistent and essential role for a contending team. He may not have the All-NBA upside of Wembanyama or Holmgren, or even the All-Star upside of a player like Brandon Miller, but Podziemski looks entirely like the kind’ve player that hits just enough shots, makes just enough winning plays—he leads the league in charges taken—and spreads the ball around enough to fit within any lineup. Podziemski looks like the kind’ve player all winning ball clubs are always looking to employ. Surely the Warriors did not intend to have to lean so heavily upon Podziemski during his rookie year, but they are surely glad he has so far been up to the task. In 19 career starts Podziemski is averaging 10.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, and 4.3, and if that weren’t enough Podziemski is boasting a plus-minus of +96 as a starter. For a team desperately trying to get as much as they possibly can out of the remainder of Steph Curry’s prime, the stability of Podziemski is all of a sudden essential.

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