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NBA Rookie Power Rankings 4.0: Victor Wembanyama, Chet Holmgren continue two-man race at the top

In Sports
February 06, 2024

Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren will headline the Panini Rising Stars game in Indianapolis during All-Star Weekend. The two frontrunners for the top rookie honor have already squared off twice this season and it’s a competitive budding rivalry that fans can expect to enjoy for years to come.

Two newcomers enter the top 10 after putting up impressive numbers in January. Memphis Grizzlies forward GG Jackson is the first second-rounder to crack the rankings and Houston Rockets guard Cam Whitmore went from dominating the G League in the first half of the season to meaningful minutes with the Rockets.

Here’s an updated look at Yahoo Sports’ rookie rankings for the 2023-24 season.

Draft slot: No. 1

Previous rank: 1

The Spurs aren’t winning a lot of games this season, but each night Wembanyama continues to do things on the court no other player does and gain respect from some of the best players in the league. Most recently it was Pelicans forward Zion Williamson praising Wembanyama, telling reporters after New Orleans‘ 114-113 win last Friday, “Victor is a very special player. He’s a dude that can get two or three Defensive Players of the Year and also, I don’t want to put a limit on it, but he can get MVPs too. We haven’t seen nothing like that, we’ve seen things close but not like that. He’s an amazing player.”

In Rudy Gobert’s Defensive Player of the Year season (2018), he recorded 129 blocks and 44 steals. So far in his rookie season (44 games), Wembanyama has recorded 138 blocks and 51 steals. He was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month in January and if he continues to play like this, he will be this year’s Rookie of the Year.

Draft slot (2022): No. 2

Previous rank: 2

Holmgren had his worst shooting month in January and still shot 51.5% from the field and 34.8% from 3, while averaging 14.9 points per game. Atop almost every rookie statistical leaderboard, it’s Wembanyama and Holmgren in the one and two slots. The only one Holmgren leads in is total minutes played with 1,509. In everything else (points, rebounds, blocks, field goals made, free throws), he’s second to Wembanyama. The point-center tandem with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been incredibly fun to watch and it’s clear the Thunder are finding Holmgren more organically in their offense than the Spurs guards are finding Wembanyama. When Holmgren went head-to-head with Nikola Jokic on Jan. 31, he looked like a seasoned vet defensively, grabbing 13 rebounds and recording five blocks.

Draft slot: No. 2

Previous rank: 6

The Hornets have lost seven straight games but Miller’s individual performances in each game have been pretty outstanding. The knocks on Miller’s game coming into his first season were his 3-point shot (he’s hit 10 of them in the last two games) and the lack of physicality in the lane (he’s had no problem finishing through contact). Miller had a season-high 35 points in the most recent loss to the Pacers where he scored in a variety of ways and committed only one turnover in 38 minutes. Losing is frustrating for any team that’s in the middle of a rebuild, but the vast improvement to Miller’s game in his first season has been very impressive.

Draft slot: No. 16

Previous rank: 7

At the start of the season, George’s role was more of a playmaker and that aspect of his game kept him on the court. He’s now turning into more of a reliable scorer for the Jazz, something he was known for throughout his high school and college career. George has always been good in catch-and-shoot situations, but his footwork has improved off the dribble, getting his feet set and shoulders square. George has put up double figures in the last five games, including going for 19 points (5-for-9 from 3-point range) and 11 rebounds in a win over the Bucks on Feb. 4.

Draft slot: No. 12

Previous rank: 4

Lively is currently out with a nose injury but strung together two impressive games prior to getting hurt. He had a double-double (20 points and 11 rebounds) in a win over the Magic on Jan. 29, and in a win over the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 26, he had one of his most complete games where he went for 9 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and 4 assists in 28 minutes. He is becoming Luka Doncic’s favorite target in the pick-and-roll and has brought immediate rim protection for the Mavericks all season long.

Draft slot: No. 19

Previous rank: 5

The do-it-all tough guy that’s willing to do anything for the Warriors, Podziemski had a season-high 14 assists (and added 12 points) in a win over Memphis on Feb. 2 and is now averaging 3.6 assists per game. He initially saw early playing time because of his rebounding, most noticeably on the offensive end, and now he’s becoming more of a facilitator. Podziemski is the second player in back-to-back years out of Santa Clara (the first was Thunder forward Jalen Williams) to be an instant impact addition in his first year in the NBA.

Draft slot: No. 3

Previous rank: 9

It was a slow start to the season for Henderson. He was coming back from an injury, the Trail Blazers were adjusting to a new lead guard and not winning a lot of games. The game seems to have slowed down for Henderson and he’s looking more like the young guard who was causing havoc in the G League last season with the Ignite. The Trail Blazers still aren’t winning many games, but Henderson’s offensive production has significantly improved. In a recent loss to the Nuggets, Henderson had 30 points and only two turnovers in 37 minutes. The very next game in a back-to-back at Denver, Henderson flirted with a triple-double with 14 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds.

Draft slot: No. 20

Previous rank: unranked

After leading the G League in scoring and completely dominating competition the first half of the season, Whitmore has carried that over to meaningful minutes with the Rockets. His shot selection has improved, he’s finishing through contact and he’s one of the best scoring guards in the rookie class. In his last six games, Whitmore is averaging 19.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in only 20 minutes of action. He’s also handling ball pressure well, committing only seven turnovers in the last 11 games.

Draft slot: No. 48

Previous rank: unranked

Jackson fell to the second round of the draft after an inconsistent freshman season at South Carolina and mixed reviews from teams during the pre-draft process. Memphis looks to be the perfect fit for the 6-9 forward and his minutes have increased due to ongoing injuries with the Grizzlies. In back-to-back games in January, Jackson had 20+ points and six rebounds. He’s scored in double digits in eight out of the last 11 games and, although his time on the court continues to fluctuate, he’s getting the reps he needs against NBA competition to grow his game.

Draft slot: No. 18

Previous rank: 3

After a hot start to the season and seamlessly transitioning into the Heat system, Jaquez has cooled off in the last month. His offensive output has been minimal as he hits a mid-season shooting slump, averaging just 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in the last five games. In December, Jaquez saw many more touches on offense, put up a double-double (31 points, 10 rebounds) on Christmas Day, and averaged 16.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists during the month.

Honorable mention:

Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons

Anthony Black, Orlando Magic

Jordan Hawkins, New Orleans Pelicans

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