Anyone who came just for the highlights was scratched and sent home. But Tuesday’s showdown between the league’s new, potentially dominant big men — played against a meaningful backdrop of in-season competition — did not disappoint.
San Antonio’s Victor Wembaniama and Oklahoma City’s Seth Holmgren held our interest while on the floor in OKC, as did the 1-2 spots on this week’s Kia Rookie Ladder.
The 1-2 battle at the top of the ladder is tight. But with the first full month of the 2023-24 season over, most of the movement has come at the lower levels, with the rookies’ roles still defined.
- The two young centers did not protect each other. But Holmgren’s team smoked the Spurs 123-87, and he was +30 in 29:39. Vembanyama played 28:21 during which San Antonio was outscored by 31 points (compared to minus-7 in the 19:39 he sat).
- The third and fourth picks in the Class of 2023 are out with ankle injuries. Portland Trail Blazers guard Scott Henderson hasn’t played since Nov. 1, missing five games and slipping off the ladder. Houston swingman Amen Thompson snapped the Rockets’ five-game winning streak.
- Miami Heat wing Jaime Jaquez Jr., Utah Jazz guard Keyonte George, and Washington Wizards forward Bilal Coulibaly capped the run with strong weeks.
A must watch storyline
It’s never too soon to start scanning the 2023 draft for a steal. For now, that honor goes to Detroit Pistons guard Marcus Sasser, who has the fifth-most points (112) and third-most assists (35) despite being selected 25th overall.
Keep an eye on Portland’s Doumani Kamara, though, as the 23-year-old from Brussels is getting rotation minutes and ranks fourth in rebounds and the No. Also tied for 11th out of 52 holes.
This week’s Top 5 on the 2023-24 Kia Rookie Ladder:
(All figures till Tuesday 14th November)
1. Victor Wembaniama, San Antonio Spurs
Season stats: 18.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.4 ppg
Last ladder: 1
DRAFT SELECTION: NO. 1
Vembanyama’s 14 rebounds Tuesday in a nationally televised game at the Paycom Center was an eye-popping stat that only he or Holmgren could match. Otherwise, he scored eight points on 4-of-15 shooting with a pair of assists and a block. He’s down to 43.2% shooting overall and 28.3% on 3-pointers.
2. Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder
Season stats: 15.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 ppg
Last ladder: 2
DRAFT SELECTION: NO. 2 (2022)
The Spurs had an 0-4 week, going 3-8 against Wembanyama. Holmgren, with a much-improved cast around him, helped OKC to a 7-4 mark, including 3-1 this week. Team success has historically not been a factor at best. But at some point, success and each candidate’s plus/minus numbers will play some role (Holmgren is +55 to Wembey’s -60 so far). He is shooting 52.7% overall and 46.3% on 3-pointers.
3. Auser Thompson, Detroit Pistons
Season stats: 12.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.7 apg
Last ladder: 3
Draft pick: No. 5
Filling out the stat sheets, the Athletics pushed the Detroit unit to official double-double status for the season (although he did so twice in his appearances). His 21 points against the Hawks Tuesday was his personal high so far. Although Thompson has not fouled out, he is tied for the NBA lead in fouls (40) with teammate Kate Cunningham and Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball.
4. Jordan Hawkins, New Orleans Pelicans
Season stats: 12.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 apg
Last ladder: 6
DRAFT SELECTION: NO. 14
Hawkins scored 25 against Dallas on Tuesday. Although he’s shooting 37.7% overall, he’s at 36.6%, and his 32 threes by at least 13 lead all rookies. „I know the next one is going in.”
5. Derek Lively II, Dallas Mavericks
Season stats: 8.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.1 apg
Last ladder: 5
DRAFT SELECTION: NO. 12
One test of a player’s worth is how his team performs without him. Well, Lively missed the Toronto game because he was sick, and the Raptors immediately outscored Dallas by 32 in the paint with a 12-rebound advantage.
6. Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets
Season stats: 12.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.6 apg
Last ladder: 4
Draft pick: No. 2 overall
Knicks missed Tuesday’s game in Miami with a sprained ankle in the first 10 minutes.
7. Jaime Jacques Jr., Miami Heat
Season stats: 9.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.1 apg
DRAFT SELECTION: NO. 18
Four straight games with 10+ points (averaging 31.2 mpg and 53.3% FG in that span).
8. Keonte George, Utah Jazz
Season stats: 8.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.8 apg
Draft Selection: No.16
9.0 assists as a starter, with a 2-1 record.
9. Bilal Coulibaly, Washington Wizards
Season stats: 8.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.8 apg
DRAFT SELECTION: NO. 7
A +5.5 week, including 20 points and nets.
10. Marcus Chaucer, Detroit Pistons
Season stats: 9.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.9 apg
Last ladder: 8
DRAFT SELECTION: NO. 25
Scored 26 points in 29 minutes at Milwaukee.
* * *
Steve Ashburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, find his archive here and Follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.
„Całkowity introwertyk. Nieprzejednany specjalista od sieci. Przyjazny fanatyk bekonu. Student ekstremalnych. Miłośnik piwa. Organizator.”