Elite defenders with impressive flashes:
8- Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons
7- Bilal Coulibaly, Washington Wizards
Despite playing even better than he did early in the season, Bilal Coulibaly fell one spot in this edition of rookie power rankings. That is due to the improved performance of his fellow rookies. Coulibaly is all the way up to over 26 minutes per game with impressive shooting splits of 53% from the field and 41.5% from three. He is a low-usage player who is only averaging 8.7 points and 1.7 assists per game, but his calling card was always going to be his defense anyway. And he has been as advertised on that end, making plays as a help defender and holding his own against the best perimeter offensive players in the league.
Ausar Thompson has possibly been more impressive than Coulibaly on the defensive end, averaging over a block and a steal per game. But, his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired as he has only made 6 out of 46 three-point attempts all season. His raw offensive game prevents him from rising in these rankings but he is certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with for a long time.
Much better than expected:
6- Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets
5- Dereck Lively, Dallas Mavericks
4- Cason Wallace, Oklahoma City Thunder
3- Jaime Jaquez Jr, Miami Heat
The No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller is averaging almost 15 points per game on near-league-average efficiency. He is hitting his three-pointers and plays two-way basketball. There is an argument to be made for him being higher on this list but Dereck Lively, Cason Wallace, and Jaime Jaquez Jr all play integral roles on very good teams. Lively starts and finishes games at center for the 13-8 Mavericks, an impressive feat for a 19-year-old. Wallace has been shooting the lights out for Oklahoma City, being one of the more efficient players in the league while playing solid perimeter defense. Jaquez Jr has been a jack-of-all-trades type of player for Miami. He does everything at a good level already. His upside is perhaps not as high as some of the other players on this list due to his athletic limitations, but he is going to be a solid role player for a long time.
Disappointing yet still impressive:
2- Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft was the heavy favorite to win the Rookie of the Year this season. As one of the most hyped prospects to ever step foot into the NBA, Wembanyama was expected to take the league by storm. He hasn't exactly done that but he has shown plenty of flashes in the 20 games he appeared in. He is averaging monstrous defensive numbers with 1.3 steals, and 2.7 blocks per game, despite the Spurs utilizing him mostly as a power forward. He is also averaging 19 points per game but he is only making 25.5% of his threes and has been inefficient from all areas of the floor while turning the ball over a ton. The Spurs can use him much better than they have so far, as he has spent most of his time taking jumpers instead of using his size and length in the paint. This is likely part of a long-term plan, but it has certainly hurt his rookie season performance so far.
In a tier by himself:
1- Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder
Since the last edition of the rookie power rankings, Chet Holmgren only solidified his place at the top. He has been the most impactful rookie by a mile according to all advanced stats and metrics. He is averaging 17.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals, and 2.4 blocks on 63.9% True Shooting on one of the best teams in the NBA. He has certainly been the best offensive rookie, and arguably the best defensive rookie through the first quarter of the season. Combining his individual scoring with his size, and his rim protection and length make him a sure-fire future All-Star and one of the best young centers in the league already. It is his award to lose.