Kia Rookie Ladder

Kia Rookie Ladder: Victor Wembanyama closing in on historic company

Victor Wembanyama's latest triple-double and his 20-10 stat line have him leading the way before the All-Star break.

Victor Wembanyama grabs an incredible 27 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks in 29 minutes to lead the Spurs over the Raptors.

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Victor Wembanyama is opening some distance between him and the rest of the field, including No. 2 Chet Holmgren, as the Kia Rookie Ladder heads toward the All-Star break.

The San Antonio center’s triple-double at Toronto Monday — considered rare because it included blocked shots (10) to go with 27 points and 14 rebounds — edged him deeper into 20-10 status this season. That is elite territory for any NBA player, but especially rookies.

In the 71 years that the Rookie of the Year award has been presented, only 16 players have won it by averaging at least 20 points and 10 boards. And only four rookies have put up those numbers and not won the award, which could be persuasive to media voters come April.

The four 20-10 guys who weren’t ROY winners were Elvin Hayes (1969), Clark Kellogg (1983), Hakeem Olajuwon (1985) and Alonzo Mourning (1993). They lost out as top rookie to, respectively, Wes Unseld, Terry Cummings, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Weekly recap:

• This is one of those “stats” or “records” that feels like political gerrymandering but it is true. Wembanyama is the only NBA player to have at least 75 3-pointers, 150 assists and 150 blocks in a season, and there still are lots of games left. Just keep words like “ever” or “NBA history” away from this, because nobody had any 3-pointers in the NBA until 1979-80 or official blocks until 1973-74. Mostly this speaks to the young Frenchman’s versatility.

• The numbers have people projecting future quadruple-doubles for Wembanyama, along with Kia MVP and Kia Defensive Player of the Year as likely honors for him over the next 15-20 years. For the record, only two ROY winners have gone on to snag the DPOY: Jordan and Robinson. They’re also the only two to have won all three trophies at least once.

• Holmgren continues to lead all rookies in plus/minus at +292, a sign of both his work and OKC’s overall roster and success. Wembanyama ranks 82nd out of 89 rookies at -169, while the Ladder’s No. 3 man, Charlotte’s Brandon Miller, is last at -316. Six of the 10 guys on this week’s Ladder are underwater in plus/minus.

Storyline to watch

Rising Stars and rookie reset. The format change was a blow to Ladder aficionados because it no longer directly pits the current rookies against the previous season’s. But it’s as close as we can get with this blended mini-tournament, so draw whatever conclusions you can from the participating graduates of the Classes of 2022 and 2023. The All-Star break itself is welcomed by most of the new guys for a breather right around rookie wall time.

Latest rankings

(All stats through Tuesday, Feb. 13)

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

1. Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

Season stats: 20.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 3.2 bpg
Last Ladder: No. 1
Draft pick: No. 1

And he is putting himself in great company, from The Admiral to The Diesel to The Dream. Hey, can somebody get this guy a suitable  “The…” nickname that sticks?

2. Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder

Season stats: 16.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.6 bpg
Last Ladder: No. 2
Draft pick: No. 2 (2022)

Slotted in behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams’ 30-point nights in a win at Orlando with 13 points, nine boards and five blocks. Of course, every rookie has his ups and downs.

3. Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets

Season stats: 16.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 apg
Last Ladder: No. 3
Draft pick: No. 2 overall

NBA analyst Tim Legler: “He is the reason you want to watch Charlotte.” He’s averaging 23.1 points and hitting 42.6% of his 3-pointers so far this month.

4. Brandin Podziemski, Golden State Warriors

Season stats: 9.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.7 apg
Last Ladder: No. 5
Draft pick: No. 19

Podziemski leads Golden State in plus/minus at +158 and is second among rookies behind Holmgren. The Warriors are 9-6 when he plays at least 30 minutes, 17-19 when he does not.

5. Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat

Season stats: 12.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.6 apg
Last Ladder: No. 4
Draft pick: No. 18

Inconsistent since return from groin strain: 7.9 ppg, 36.6% FG. Called a “perfect fit” for the Heat by Bucks coach Doc Rivers. He’s got a busy weekend ahead (Rising Stars, Dunk Contest).

The next 5:

6. Cam Whitmore, Houston Rockets

Season stats: 11.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.5 apg
Last Ladder: No. 7
Draft pick: No. 20

“Midseason emergence” = 15.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 40.7% 3FG since Jan. 13.

7. Dereck Lively II, Dallas Mavericks

Season stats: 9.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg
Last Ladder: No. 6
Draft pick: No. 12

Broken nose has him 0-for-February. But home life is good.

8. Scoot Henderson, Portland Trail Blazers

Season stats: 12.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.7 apg
Last Ladder: No. 9
Draft pick: No. 3

Back from foot injury vs. Wolves for 14 points, nine assists … and this.

9. Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons

Season stats: 8.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.9 apg
Last Ladder: Not ranked
Draft pick: No. 5

Chicken or the egg: His strong week (11.8 points) or Pistons’ 2-2 record?

10. Keyonte George, Utah Jazz

Season stats: 11.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.2 apg
Last Ladder: No. 8
Draft pick: No. 16

Streak of seven games with 10+ points ends in start (and blowout loss) vs. Warriors.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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