Solid role players making a positive impact:
8- Dereck Lively, Dallas Mavericks
7- Cason Wallace, OKC Thunder
6- Bilal Coulibaly, Washington Wizards
5- Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat
Wallace, Lively, and Jaquez Jr. are all playing significant minutes for surefire playoff teams. Lively has been fantastic as a pick-and-roll partner to Luka Doncic and a finisher around the rim. Wallace has been shooting the lights out for Oklahoma City and impressing as a 3-and-D guard. Jaquez Jr. is already making an all-around impact with his size, defense, and scoring ability.
The Washington Wizards rookie Bilal Coulibaly almost cracked the top 5. This 5-through-8 is very difficult to rank. Jaquez Jr. barely edged the others due to the fact that he gets regular minutes for last season’s NBA finalists. This could, however, very easily change.
Coulibaly’s defense is as advertised, as he already has 13 steals and 10 blocks for the season. What has been an extremely pleasant surprise for Washington has been his jump shot. He is 18/39 from three-point range through 13 games and has a well-above-average efficiency with 63.3 True Shooting. If he keeps that up, he will be higher on this list.
Playing well in heavy minutes:
4- Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets
3- Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons
These two are the only rookies that are playing over 30 minutes per game. Thompson has been struggling with his shot, but he has been an excellent defender so far. He is averaging an impressive 11.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game.
Brandon Miller isn’t necessarily setting the world on fire, but he is consistent, playing hard and scoring with average efficiency. That’s more than good enough for a 20-year-old rookie.
A tier above everyone else:
2- Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs
1- Chet Holmgren, OKC Thunder
Wembanyama has mostly lived up to the hype, leading the rookie class in points. He has had impressive stretches of defensive plays and shot-blocking. Yet, his individual production hasn’t translated to team success. The San Antonio Spurs are the worst team in the league, and Wembanyama’s inefficient offense is certainly a contributing factor. A 7’4 big man with his skill set needs to be more efficient than 50.9% True Shooting.
He could easily win this award in any other year but the No. 1 on these power rankings has been playing at a different level.
Holmgren is having a rookie season for the books. As one of the most impactful rookies ever, the Thunder center is averaging 17 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 2.1 blocks per game on insanely efficient 56.5/46/90.7 shooting splits. His defense has been equally stellar as one of the best young rim protectors in the league. Plus, he is doing it in one of the best teams in the NBA. It’s his award to lose.