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As we enter the home stretch of the NBA regular season, Victor Wembanyama is on course to win the Rookie of the Year (ROY) award for best rookie. What’s more, the young Frenchman is on course for a historic statistical year.

With three-quarters of the NBA season behind him, there seems to be no stopping Victor Wembanyama ( 7-feet-4, 20 years old) from winning the Rookie of the Year title. His rivals, starting with Chet Holmgren, are no pushovers, but the Spurs’ inside man is a cut above the rest. His 20.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals put him at the top of 4 of the 5 main statistical categories among rookies. And he’s not content to simply dominate his age group: the Frenchman is in the process of achieving a statistically historic season for a rookie, in a team still in last place in the Western Conference (15 wins to 53 losses). Three facts illustrate his unique dominance for his young age.

Our podium for the ROY 2024 title

1. Victor Wembanyama (San Antonio). 20.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists
2.Chet Holmgren (Oklahoma City), 16.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists.
3.Brandon Miller (Charlotte), 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists.


Used As A Superstar

His raw stats, highlights and aura already make Wembanyama one of the NBA’s stars. But that’s also the case when you look at the way his franchise uses him. While his playing time has remained measured (29 minutes/game, 94th most in the NBA), his involvement in the Spurs’ attack is already that of a superstar.

His utilization rate (usage %, i.e. the % of a team’s actions that end up in a player’s hands) is in fact 31.7%: only five players are doing more in the NBA this season. What’s more, this level is unprecedented for a rookie (see graph below), and by far! If he remains as important in attack and his playing time increases over the coming seasons, his stats and impact could climb to frightening heights.


A Unique Shot-Blocker

The best NBA counter-attacker by far (3.5 blocks/game), Victor Wembanyama should become, after Manute Bol in 1986 (5 blocks/game), the second player to dominate this statistical category in his first season (blocks have only been counted since 1974). The record for best shot-blocker of the season, co-held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Marcus Camby and Mark Eaton (4 each), could soon fall. It’s enough to make you wonder whether the former Mets 92 star isn’t already the best NBA defender.

Especially as the Frenchman doesn’t just dominate on average: he’s also the leader in counter % (9.9%), i.e. the % of opponents’ 2-point shots he counters. In history, only Manute Bol (on 4 occasions, including a peak of 10.8% in 1989), Alonzo Mourning (10.2%, in 2006) and Mitchell Robinson (10%, in 2019) have done better, but all three were then mainly dedicated to defensive duties, whereas “Wemby” is also the center of his franchise’s attack.


A Vacuum Cleaner Of Rebounds

With 10.6 rebounds/game, Wembanyama is “only” the 12th best rebounder in the NBA this season. This position can be explained by his moderate playing time on the one hand, and his low offensive rebounding participation on the other, since his versatility on offense (notably his propensity to shoot 3-pointers) often leads him to play away from the basket.

But when it comes to defensive rebounding, he’s already one of the very best. When he plays, the Frenchman captures 30.9% of available defensive rebounds. A figure which is already enormous in itself (4th highest % this season), but which becomes almost staggering when compared with the best rebounding rookies in history (see graph below).

Lexicon: the number of rebounds is calculated over 75 possessions, so as to be able to compare the performances of players who sometimes have very different playing times. We’ve opted for 75 possessions because that’s roughly the number of possessions played by the best players in the NBA.

This post is originally from L’Équipe