Kia Rookie Ladder: How Victor Wembanyama’s rookie season compares to Spurs legends

The No. 1 pick is putting together a rookie season comparable to Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

This might sound backward, but what the heck: Not only is Victor Wembanyama having one of the greatest rookie seasons in NBA history, he’s challenging Tim Duncan and David Robinson as the Spurs’ top newcomer ever.

Because Duncan and Robinson made such huge splashes upon NBA arrival, you just need to see how Wembanyama compares to them to show his first-year impact. Here is a look at the trio as newbies:

Robinson (1989-90): 36.6 mpg, 24.3 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 3.9 bpg, 53.1% FG
Duncan (1997-98): 39.1 mpg, 21.1 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.5 bpg, 54.9%

Wembanyama (2023-24): 29.0 mpg, 20.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 3.4 bpg, 46.6%

The first two San Antonio bigs were runaway Rookie of the Year winners, which bodes well for Wemby. And for what it’s worth, here are Wembanyama’s stats if he played 36 minutes nightly: 25.7 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 4.4 apg, 4.3 bpg.

Here are the notes and updates for this week’s Kia Rookie Ladder:

Weekly Recap

• Injuries prompted Portland coach Chauncey Billups to start five rookies against Denver Saturday, becoming the first team to do so since Golden State at the end of the 2011-12 season. Then the Blazers did it again Monday at Houston, running out Scoot Henderson, Kris Murray, Rayan Rupert, Toumani Camara and Duop Reath.

• Camara ranks second among rookies with 138 offensive rebounds, behind only Wembanyama.

• Goodbye G League Ignite program. It produced 10 NBA draftees in its first three years before running aground this season.

• Toronto’s Gradey Dick averaged 32.8 minutes and 12.8 points in the past week, compared to 18.4 and 6.9 prior to that. He also showed that rookies can be sophomoric with that Orlando jersey swap.

Storyline to Watch

It’s endorsements-for-awards season. Just so we’re clear here, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Mark Daigneault — as he spelled out — isn’t a voter, doesn’t study rival players and won’t lobby for Chet Holmgren for ROY any more than he’ll tout Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to Kia MVP voters. He is, however, expectedly high on the OKC rookie.

“He’s improved in the pick-and-roll game,” Daigneault said. “The game has slowed down for him. Understanding when to pop, when to roll, when to hold screens, when to get out early, what the defense is doing, what coverage he’s seeing. All those things take time and they flood you at the beginning of your career. It’s not a curriculum — it comes all at you at the same time.

“The team is on that track, too. As he’s learning those things, the team is learning how to play with someone as dynamic as he is. We’ve had pop guys in the past but they weren’t vertical rollers as well. We have not had a player like this.”

Latest rankings

(All stats through Tuesday, March 26)

Keep track of how our rookie rankings continue to evolve throughout the season.

1. Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

Season stats: 20.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.4 bpg
Last Ladder: No. 1
Draft pick: No. 1

After the Spurs beat Phoenix without Wembanyama (ankle) Monday, Suns guard Bradley Beal’s comment elevated the rookie to genuine star status in a familiar NBA way. “We thought it was going to be easy with no Wemby,” Beal said. The league leader in blocked shots (217) and blocks per game (3.4), he ranks 11th in total rebounds (654) to Holmgren’s 19th (565).

2. Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder

Season stats: 16.9 ppg, 8 rpg, 2.4 bpg
Last Ladder: No. 2
Draft pick: No. 2 (2022)

Up and down outings, with 35-14-3 blocks on 12-of-18 shooting vs. the Jazz Wednesday, but 6-4-0 on 1-of-10 at Milwaukee Sunday. Runaway rookie leader in plus/minus at +383, better than all but three teams (Celtics, Thunder, Timberwolves).

3. Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets

Season stats: 16.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 apg
Last Ladder: No. 3
Draft pick: No. 2 overall

A recent story reminded us that Miller considers Clippers star Paul George his GOAT. Here’s a look at George’s stats in, like Miller, his age-21 season (which was his second season): 12.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.6 steals while shooting 44% overall and 38.5% on 3-pointers in 2011-12. The Hornets rookie’s accuracy: 43.4% and 36.8%.

4. Amen Thompson, Houston Rockets

Season stats: 8.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.3 apg
Last Ladder: No. 6
Draft pick: No. 4

A point guard by nature and probably future, Thompson has logged time offensively against centers while Rockets’ big Alperen Sengun has been hurt. He has started 13 of 52 games, including the past seven, and averages 13.5 ppg and 10.2 rpg when he does.

5. Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat

Season stats: 12.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.6 apg
Last Ladder: No. 4
Draft pick: No. 18

Missed Sunday vs. Cleveland with a sore knee and ankle, was questionable vs. Golden State Tuesday, and then played 26 minutes to pick up injured teammates. Wear and tear are showing in scoring (from 12.9 to 10.4) and shooting (49.2% to 45.7%, 32.1% on 3-pointers to 28.6%) since All-Star.

The Next 5:

6. Dereck Lively II, Dallas Mavericks 

Season stats: 8.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg
Last Ladder: No. 5
Draft pick: No. 12

Numbers down (18.9 mpg, 4.9 rpg) since Daniel Gafford’s arrival.

7. Keyonte George, Utah Jazz

Season stats: 12.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.5 apg
Last Ladder: No. 7
Draft pick: No. 16

Leads rookies in assists (291), one of four with 200+, while 3rd in turnovers (149).

8. GG Jackson II, Memphis Grizzlies

Season stats: 13.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1 apg
Last Ladder: T-No. 10
Draft pick: No. 45

Dropped 35 points vs. GSW and his AAU coach Chris Paul. “To be out there on the court playing against him, it’s kind of a surreal moment,” Paul said.

9. Brandin Podziemski, Golden State Warriors

Season stats: 9.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.8 apg
Last Ladder: No. 8
Draft pick: No. 19

Flipped back to a bench role vs. MIA Tuesday, posting 6 points, 5 rebounds in 22 minutes.

10. Scoot Henderson, Portland Trail Blazers

Season stats: 13.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.8 apg
Last Ladder: Not ranked
Draft pick: No. 3

Proud of his G League Ignite roots, Henderson can best show it by having more weeks (19.8 ppg, 6.3 apg) like his latest.

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