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Thunder Big Man Edges Victor Wembanyama in ROTY Predictions

Jul 7, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Victor Wembanyama (1) shoots the ball against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Being labeled the greatest NBA prospect of all time isn’t enough for Victor Wembanyama to be favored to win every award. He will have plenty of time to earn MVP honors, but Rookie of the Year remains up for grabs.

In what is seen as a top-loaded class, only Scoot Henderson has the closest legitimate shot of winning the honors, but one man stands above them all. A player who was drafted a whole season before but missed the entire campaign due to an injury: Oklahoma City Thunder’s Chet Holmgren.

It wouldn’t be the first time a player won the award after missing the entire rookie season, but what are the chances history is really on Holmgren’s side?

Thunder Big Man Edges Victor Wembanyama in ROTY Predictions

The San Antonio Spurs and Thunder have similar storylines heading into the 2023-24 season, both with plenty of youth and amid a rebuild.

The Thunder are a couple of years ahead and have a bright future paving the way. Behind blooming All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, young swingman Josh Giddey, and Holmgren are knocking at the playoffs’ door.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are entirely starting over. The era of Tim Duncan is well in the past, and recently, San Antonio traded away Dejounte Murray – a player who looked to be a cornerstone of a rebuild.

With their skyrocketing potential, Holmgren and Wembanyama will have full reign offensively. They should have plenty of opportunities, barring any injuries.

In the ROTY race, the ESPN Summer Forecast Panel gave Holmgren 80 points from votes, just three ahead of Wembanyama. Holmgren pulled ahead despite earning 34.6% first-place votes to Wembanyama’s 42.3%.

The two remain neck-and-neck, which should make for exciting matchups.

The Evolution of Big Men Is Here

It truly is an exciting time to be an NBA fan. The era of big men is in full swing as they have game-breaking abilities the league has never seen.

This goes back to Dirk Nowitzki, who truly defined what it meant to be a stretch four and center. Being able to space the floor and have a lethal offense in the paint was a matchup nightmare.

Anthony Davis provided the next wave with potent defensive abilities like he displayed in college. His ability to dribble the ball, due to him playing point guard most of his life before a giant growth spurt, changed the landscape of the position.

Big men like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic once again dominate the league. These players, who can play multiple positions while showing they can either bulldoze their way to the rim, are proving to be the most skilled big men the league has ever seen.

Holmgren and Wembanyama have big shoes to fill. Still, both should set a precedent for the next wave of big men. Their athleticism, shooting ability and ball handling, paired with a seven-foot frame, have become almost unguardable.

The Last Word on Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama

Will history repeat itself with Holmgren earning Rookie of the Year honors despite missing his entire first season? Or will Wembanyama redefine the hype of a No. 1 overall pick?

It’s hard to say, but if Wembanyama is truly as great as advertised, he should have no issue winning the honors. Or perhaps the panel that decides the winner will consider overall team success.

The Spurs have a big hill to climb after finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference. Wembanyama may have been the answer they’ve been looking for all this time.


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