Chet Holmgren would like to remind you that Victor Wembanyama isn’t just going to run away with the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
The San Antonio Spurs rookie has been everything fans have hoped for, a 7-foot-4 wonder with an offensive fluidity that belies his size and elite defensive skills from Day 1, but Holmgren has been that as well for the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that is actively competing for the playoffs.
And Holmgren just had the first signature performance of his career, posting 36 points on 14-of-22 shooting, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Three of those points came on a game-tying, buzzer-beating, turnaround 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.
This video from the Thunder underscores how ridiculous a shot that was.
The Thunder proceeded to win 130-123 in overtime to improve their record to 9-4. It was a night of big performances for OKC, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also had 40 points.
Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama really are that good
Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, was somewhat lost in the shuffle entering this season after missing all of last season with a foot injury. Or rather, he just wasn’t an immediate crossover star like Wembanyama, the most-hyped prospect the NBA has seen in years.
However, the two have performed quite similarly since the season began for real. Their first matchup didn’t play as hoped, but each have looked like a superstar in the making. The difference is the Spurs are 3-10 after losing to the heavily struggling Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, as they continue to accept the growing pains that come with building an offense around a 19-year-old.
The Thunder don’t have that problem. They have Gilgeous-Alexander, as well as Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, Lu Dort and playoff dreams. And Holmgren has slid in perfectly with that group. That doesn’t necessarily mean what Holmgren is doing is more impressive, as teams have a lot more to worry about than him as opposed to Wembanyama, it’s just a different situation.
And all this talk ignores the presence of the Detroit Pistons’ Ausar Thompson, who is also off to a quick start as a rookie with 11.8 points, 10. 3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, plus his own standout defense. It’s hard to think of a rookie class more stacked at the top, and that’s with 2023 No. 2 pick Brandon Miller and No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson still figuring things out.
Either of Holmgren or Wembanyama would be a deserving Rookie of the Year right now. Fortunately, there is still so much basketball left to play and statements to make.