Kia Rookie Ladder: Victor Wembanyama headlines 16 names to watch



Emerging Stars: Victor Wembanyama and 15 Others on the Kia Rookie Ladder

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As the NBA season kicks off, the spotlight is on the rookie class of 2023, bringing fresh excitement and anticipation to the league. The talk of the town centers around the remarkable Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs, a French sensation who is unlike any other rookie in NBA history. Wembanyama’s unique blend of skills, standing at a towering 7-foot-4, combines shooting range, impressive ball-handling, and a multitude of ways to contribute to the Spurs’ success.

However, the rookie class of 2023 boasts more than just one standout. There is a potential contender from the class of 2022 who might make the Rookie of the Year race intensely competitive this season.

Before the official ladder rankings are revealed in two weeks, let’s take a look at when some of the key contenders, along with a dark horse candidate, are set to make their debuts:

Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA debut: Wednesday at Chicago Bulls (8 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)

Chet Holmgren, the second overall pick in 2022, is a special entrant due to an injury that wiped out his entire rookie season, much like Ben Simmons and Blake Griffin. His extended rookie orientation might just work in his favor as he vies for the Rookie of the Year award. Already, Holmgren and Wembanyama are shaping up to be natural rivals.

No. 1 pick | Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

NBA debut: Wednesday vs. Dallas Mavericks (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Victor Wembanyama is undoubtedly the heavy favorite to secure the title of this season’s Kia Rookie of the Year. His dazzling display of skills has already caught the attention of basketball enthusiasts. Instead of being challenged for the top spot on the Rookie Ladder, he might find himself compared to the greatest rookie seasons in NBA history.

No. 2 pick | Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets

NBA debut: Wednesday vs. Atlanta Hawks (7 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)

Despite being the second overall pick, Brandon Miller wasn’t mentioned as a candidate for Rookie of the Year in the NBA GM survey, where 50% of respondents chose someone other than Wembanyama. Miller may not start right away, but Charlotte’s needs and the aging Gordon Hayward’s fragility could alter that plan.

No. 3 pick | Scoot Henderson, Portland Trail Blazers

NBA debut: Wednesday at LA Clippers (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)

Scoot Henderson may emerge as a strong contender for the Rookie of the Year title if he seizes the opportunity to showcase his skills. The Portland Trail Blazers have entrusted him with a significant role, especially in the wake of Damian Lillard’s departure. His shooting development will be a key factor to watch as the season unfolds.

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The NBA’s 2023 rookie class made their much-anticipated debuts this week, and several young talents showed glimpses of their potential. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the top picks and their initial performances:

No. 4 pick | Amen Thompson, Houston Rockets
Debut: Wednesday at Orlando Magic (7 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Amen Thompson, part of the Thompson Twin duo, showcased his athleticism and defensive prowess, averaging two steals per 36 minutes during the preseason. The Rockets are already buzzing about his potential as a future starter.

No. 5 pick | Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons
Debut: Wednesday at Miami Heat (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Ausar Thompson, the other half of the Thompson Twins, logged the most preseason minutes among rookies. The Pistons are considering him for a starting role, possibly replacing last season’s standout, Jaden Ivey.

No. 6 pick | Anthony Black, Orlando Magic
Debut: Wednesday vs. Houston Rockets (7 p.m. ET, League Pass)
In a crowded Magic backcourt, Anthony Black’s 6-foot-7 frame sets him apart defensively. Coach Jamahl Mosley is impressed with his defensive skills, although his shooting needs improvement.

No. 7 pick | Bilal Coulibaly, Washington Wizards
Debut: Wednesday at Indiana Pacers (7 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Bilal Coulibaly turned heads in the preseason, putting up impressive stats per 36 minutes: 10 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks. The French defensive ace could be a candidate for the All-Rookie team.

No. 8 pick | Jarace Walker, Indiana Pacers
Debut: Wednesday vs. Washington Wizards (7 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Jarace Walker started strong with 19 points and nine rebounds in his debut but found it challenging to maintain that level of production. His playing time will be hard-earned on a Pacers team pushing for a .500 record.

No. 9 pick | Taylor Hendricks, Utah Jazz
Debut: Wednesday vs. Sacramento Kings (9 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Hendricks, drafted ahead of teammate Keyonte George, had limited preseason exposure. He brings a defense-first approach, making Utah opt for his skills over George’s offensive game.

No. 10 pick | Cason Wallace, Oklahoma City Thunder
Debut: Wednesday at Chicago Bulls (8 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Cason Wallace stands out for his shooting ability, hitting 50% overall and three-pointers during the preseason. His defensive skills and range make him a promising addition to the Thunder.

No. 11 pick | Jett Howard, Orlando Magic
Debut: Wednesday vs. Houston Rockets (7 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Jett Howard is part of the Magic’s dynamic rookie duo, alongside Anthony Black. He showed a knack for three-point shooting during the preseason and could be a valuable frontcourt partner.

No. 12 pick | Dereck Lively II, Dallas Mavericks
Debut: Wednesday at San Antonio Spurs (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Lively, known for his rim-protecting skills, faced Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns in his preseason debut. Now, he’ll take on the challenge of playing against top talents like Victor Wembanyama.

No. 13 pick | Gradey Dick, Toronto Raptors
Debut: Wednesday vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Gradey Dick, a shooter from Kansas, must work on adding physical strength to his game to excel defensively and display the versatility he exhibited in Las Vegas.

No. 14 pick | Jordan Hawkins, New Orleans Pelicans
Debut: Wednesday at Memphis Grizzlies (8 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Jordan Hawkins, a sharpshooter from UConn, arrives at the Pelicans in time to address their three-point shooting needs. He’s expected to play a crucial role in filling the void left by Trey Murphy III.

No. 20 pick | Cam Whitmore, Houston Rockets
Debut: Wednesday at Orlando Magic (7 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass)
Cam Whitmore’s fall in the draft has piqued interest, and he’s poised to prove his doubters wrong. He previously earned MVP honors in the Summer League and will look to make an impact in Houston.

These rookies have set the stage for an exciting season ahead, and fans are eagerly anticipating their growth and development in the league.


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