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NBA Rookie of the Year rankings: Wemby has no equals


The finish line is in sight for first-year players hoping to end their debut campaigns with individual hardware. However, they have their work cut out for them; like a fine French wine, one rookie only seems to be getting better this late in the campaign.

5. Amen Thompson, Houston Rockets

55 52.7 14.3 67.9 6.3 2.4 9.2

Previous: N/A

When Alperen Sengun suffered a sprained ankle and bone bruise in his knee, the Houston Rockets faced a difficult decision about how to replace him in the lineup. Head coach Ime Udoka decided to insert Thompson in the starting five, using his size and versatility to disrupt opposing teams as a hybrid big/forward. Since joining the starters, Thompson is averaging 15.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.1 steals in just over 30 minutes per game.

The Overtime Elite product's performance has come in the most important stretch for the Rockets. Winners of 13 of 15, the Rockets sit two games back of the Golden State Warriors for the No. 10 seed and a play-in tournament spot. Along with Jalen Green's terrific play, Houston needs to ride Thompson's hot finish to potentially reach the postseason.

4. Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat

Bart Young / National Basketball Association / Getty
67 48.8 31.4 80.5 3.9 2.6 12.2

Previous: 4

Since missing six games with a groin injury in January, during which Miami went 1-5, Jaquez hasn't consistently reproduced his pre-injury form. After returning, Jaquez has averaged 9.5 points, four rebounds, and 2.5 assists while shooting a subpar 23.9% on threes. Before he was hurt, he averaged 16.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and three assists on 51.9/37.2/84.1 shooting splits in 26 games.

Injuries have hampered Miami all year, though, and with Jaquez on board, the Heat are almost certain to cause headaches for postseason opponents, even if they have to go through the play-in. If it's any consolation for the former UCLA forward, he'll be the only one on this list competing in the East's postseason later this month.

3. Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets

67 43.5 37.1 81.0 4.3 2.4 17.0

Previous: 3

Miller looks to be the consistent, reliable force that the Hornets have been searching for amid LaMelo Ball's consistent injury problems. Ball's played in 58 games over the last two campaigns and has reached the 65-contest mark just once over four NBA seasons. Miller has missed seven games this season while carrying a heavy workload for Steve Clifford's squad - he ranks second on the team in total minutes (2,156).

While Miller's been firmly in third on our rankings for the majority of the season, his campaign hasn't been forgotten. His 31-point effort in an unlikely win over the playoff-bound Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in March was outstanding - he knocked down a career-high seven triples.

2. Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder

Fernando Medina / National Basketball Association / Getty
74 53.3 37.3 79.7 7.9 2.5 16.6

Previous: 2

Holmgren's lack of consistency has prevented him from passing his French counterpart for Rookie of the Year. The Thunder big man's highs are incredible - he can fill the box score with several double-doubles and dominant block totals. But his lower-scoring performances have cropped up more consistently. He dropped two points and fouled out in 18 minutes during a loss to the Rockets earlier in March.

Despite Wemby pulling away, the rivalry between the two young centers has provided the most excitement in the Rookie of the Year race since Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell battled for the hardware in 2018.

1. Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

66 46.8 32.3 79.9 10.5 3.6 21.2

Previous: 1

The colossal Spurs rookie is the picture of growth. In March, Wembanyama is averaging 23.7 points on 46.1% shooting with 11.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. That represents an improvement on the 21.3 points, 47.4% shooting, 10.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists he put up in February.

If you need more convincing that the French phenom is the Rookie of the Year, look no further than Friday's spectacle against the New York Knicks. Despite a career-high 61 points from Jalen Brunson, Wembanyama showed out with the first 40-point, 20-board game by a rookie since Shaquille O'Neal in 1993, and he added seven assists for good measure to cement a tense overtime win.

It's been a commendable year for several members of the rookie class, but it'd take something dramatic to deny Wembanyama silverware for his debut campaign.

Honorable mentions: Dereck Lively II (Dallas Mavericks), Brandin Podziemski (Golden State Warriors), Keyonte George (Utah Jazz).

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