Victor Wembanyama has been the favorite to win the 2023-2024 NBA Rookie of the Year since the moment he was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. However, five games into the season, the 19-year-old is the heavy favorite to win the award and no other rookie is even close.
Facing an early season challenge of playing a championship-caliber Suns team two games in a row in Phoenix, Wembanyama and his Spurs teammates surpassed all expectations. In the first game, San Antonio rallied back from a 20-point deficit to stun Phoenix by a final score of 115-114. In the second contest, the Spurs dominated most of the game before pulling away with a 132-121 victory.
The most notable aspect of both games was how well Wembanyama played when it mattered most. Even though the Suns had Kevin Durant in both games and Devin Booker in the second game, it was the rookie from France who stole the show during winning time.
In the first game, the Spurs trailed by five points with less than a minute remaining. Wembanyama responded by hitting a midrange jumper and then following up a teammate’s missed jumper with a dunk. After the Spurs stole the ball and scored to grab the lead, Wembanyama helped force a miss from Durant at the buzzer.
In the second game, Phoenix had erased San Antonio’s 27-point lead to tie the game at 116-116 with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter. Instead of feeling pressure, Wembanyama put his Spurs teammates on his shoulders. His team scored the game’s next 12 points and the rookie scored ten of those points. Even with Durant and Booker on the court, it was Wembanyama who was far and away the best player. The win improved the Spurs to 3-2 on the season.
In Wembanyama’s fifth ever NBA game, he totaled 38 points, ten rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal in 34 minutes. He shot 15-for-26 from the floor, 3-for-6 from three-point land and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. He was also a game best +21 in the plus/minus category.
On the season, Wembanyama is now averaging 20.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 28.6 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 50% from the field, 32% from three-point territory and 73.1% at the free throw line.
Following Wembanyama’s thoroughly dominant performance against a pair of future Hall of Famers, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that San Antonio’s star rookie is now the strong favorite to win the NBA Rookie of the Year race.
The latest NBA odds have Wembanyama as a 1-to-3.4 favorite to win the award. That means if you bet $100 on him to win, your total payout would be less than $130 if he indeed takes home the award.
Victor Wembanyama’s Biggest Rookie of the Year Competition
The biggest threat to Wembanyama not being named as the league top rookie appears to be Chet Holmgren. The 7-foot-1 rookie for the Oklahoma City Thunder is off to a very strong start. He’s averaging 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.2 assists in 28.6 minutes per game, while shooting 59.6% from the floor, 52.4% from three-point range and 80% at the charity stripe.
Despite those impressive numbers, Holmgren is a 6-to-1 underdog to be named the 2023-2024 NBA Rookie of the Year. Why the long odds? It’s mostly due to the fact that Wembanyama is already the best and most important player on the Spurs. On the other hand, Holmgren plays a supporting role for the Thunder.
That said, Holmgren is definitely still in the race. If his statistics remain pristine and the Thunder win a lot of games, it’s theoretically possible for him to surpass Wembanyama. But, clearly, this is Wembanyama’s race to lose. If he keeps playing like he performed against the Suns recently, it’ll be close to impossible for Holmgren or anyone else to catch him.
Other NBA Rookie of the Year Candidates
Four other rookies appear to be in the running for this prestigious rookie award: Ausar Thompson, Dereck Lively, Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson.
Thompson, who has 20-to-1 odds, has started all six games for the Detroit Pistons and is averaging 11.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 blocks in 28.8 minutes per game. His all-around play at 20 years of age has been impressive.
It took all of one game for Lively to win the starting center job for the Dallas Mavericks. In only 23.8 minutes per game, he’s averaging 8.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists, while shooting an unreal 78.9% from the field. Lively’s NBA Rookie of the Year odds are currently 22-to-1.
While Miller is coming off the bench for the Charlotte Hornets, that hasn’t hurt his production. In 29.5 minutes per game, he’s averaging 15.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists, while hitting 46.8% of his shots from the field, 42.1% of his three-pointers and 83.3% of his free throws. His odds sit at 25-to-1.
Henderson, whose NBA Rookie of the Year odds are also 25-to-1, is definitely an underdog to keep an eye on.
Former NBA guard Avery Bradley explained to Betway why the new starting point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers shouldn’t be overlooked: “I think Victor is a very good player, a special talent – one of a kind. He’s definitely going to make the team better on both ends of the floor. I think he’s going to change the game of basketball, kind of speed the game up a bit with his style of play, leaking out a bit, contesting shots and then just running to the other end of the floor. But I think Scoot Henderson is going to give him a run for his money. I think it’s going to be really close. The keys have been handed over to Scoot in Portland and I think it’s going to be a race the entire season between those two.”
What Victor Wembanyama Needs to Do to Win the Award
Health is unquestionably the biggest key for Wembanyama’s chances. An injury could change the NBA Rookie of the Year landscape in the blink of an eye.
On the court, Wembanyama needs to keep working on remaining efficient. He has struggled with turnovers at times this season. His three-point shooting has also been streaky. But if he can stay healthy and avoid long stretches of inefficient play, Wembanyama should win this race without much of a challenge.