This rookie class continues to be extremely productive in the first couple months of the season and is living up to the star-power expectations early on.
In what was thought to be a runaway season for Victor Wembanyama to land the top rookie honor, Chet Holmgren has made a compelling case. Both players are competing at a high level against some of the best players in the NBA. The pair are evenly matched and putting up similar numbers so far this season, with Holmgren shooting better from 3-point range and looking more polished off the dribble.
Here's an updated look at Yahoo Sports' rookie rankings for the 2023-24 season.
1. Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder
Draft slot (2022): No. 2
Previous rank: 2
Wembanyama might edge Holmgren in just about every stat line, but what Holmgren has managed to do on the court after taking an entire year off of basketball is nothing short of incredible. He's backing down players off the wing and hitting a defender with a turnaround, fadeaway jumper that is very Kevin Durant-esque.
Both rookies are putting up incredible numbers, but Holmgren has shot the ball more consistently, 40% from 3-point range and 53% from the field. For context, Wembanyama is shooting just 27% from 3 and 43.7% from the field. Holmgren is second in 3-point field goals made for the rookie class and leads all rookies with average minutes played. It's obvious he's a key part in the Thunder's rebuild and as much as Wembanyama might be changing the game for players over 7-foot, Holmgren is also carving his own path and making a name for himself.
Holmgren also made franchise history after his 33-point performance in a close loss to the 76ers on Nov. 25. He became the first rookie in Thunder history to record multiple 30-point games in the first month of his career, according to NBA History.
2. Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs
Draft slot: No. 1
Previous rank: 1
Wembanyama currently leads all rookies in points per game (19.3), blocks (49), steals (24), free throws attempted (76) and rebounds per game (9.7). With all the hype surrounding Wembanyama and what he did in France, leading his team to a LNB Pro A Championship series, none of this is too surprising. He still does things on the court no one has ever seen in the NBA with his one-legged 3-point runners, his tip passing and how smoothly he takes players off the dribble for his size.
“He’s 19 years old and he’s not getting tired or getting scared,” Nikola Jokić said postgame after facing Wembanyama for the first time this season. “He’s playing hard and he wants to be good. He’s going to change the game, 100%.”
In the game against the Nuggets, Wembanyama became the first player in NBA history to register at least 22 points, 11 rebounds, six steals, and four blocks in under 30 minutes (he did it in 25 minutes on the court).
It's a two-man race for the Rookie of the Year honors and right now. It's too close to call with both Wembanyama and Holmgren playing exceptionally well and neither starting to separate himself from the other.
Draft slot: No. 5
Previous rank: 3
Thompson has some of the most impressive highlights from any rookie early on, especially in transition. He runs the floor extremely well and can float in the air and is so crafty around the rim. Thompson's minutes will be limited after he suffered a facial fracture in the game against the New York Knicks on Nov. 30. Prior to that game, Thompson had back-to-back games where he scored in double digits and is one of the best on-ball defenders, capable of guarding every spot on the perimeter and dipping down in the post for the double-team or sliding over to block shots. He's already commanding the attention of some of the best players in the league, with Anthony Davis speaking highly of the young guard after the Lakers' 133-107 victory over the Pistons.
“We were just talking about it on the bench at the end of the game," Davis told reporters after watching Thompson play. "The way he plays is so smooth. It’s like he’s gliding on the floor. He's very athletic and he can score from anywhere. It’s going to be fun to watch him throughout the years.”
Draft slot: No. 14
Previous rank: Unranked
Hawkins helped UConn win a national championship last season thanks to his consistent outside shooting. He's backing his draft spot early on with how well he's shooting from behind the arc. The 6-foot-5 guard is shooting 40% from 3-point range in the last 10 games and had his biggest scoring night of the season on Nov. 25 against the Jazz where he posted a season-high 25 points and added six rebounds and three assists. He's leading all rookies in 3-point field goals (by a mile!) with 56 made 3s. Holmgren is next with only 32.
"I've spent a lot of time watching film on all the great shooters in the league," Hawkins told Yahoo Sports last May. "Just their tendencies, ball placement, how well they move off the ball and how good they are at getting to their spots."
5. Dereck Lively II, Dallas Mavericks
Draft slot: No. 12
Previous rank: 5
A lot of where a player is drafted and how much playing time they see early has a lot to do with team fit and being drafted into a system that caters to a player's playing style. No one drafted better based off of team need than the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving will always get the majority of touches on offense, but it's the rim protection and how Lively has been able to contain both Holmgren and Wembanyama that's been most impressive. In his most recent game against the Thunder, Lively had a season-high 20 points and recorded seven blocks in the 126-120 loss. He was a perfect 9-for-9 from the field and logged 39 minutes. He didn't shy away from Holmgren at the rim and even had a nice poster dunk at the end of the first half off a sideline out-of-bounds pass.
6. Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat
Draft slot: No. 18
Previous rank: Unranked
After a slow start to the season, Jaquez is hitting his stride and fitting right in with the veteran-filled Miami Heat team. His best game came in a 142-132 win over the Pacers and Jaquez finished with a season-high 24 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes. The 6-6 guard played all four years at UCLA and has the physicality to be plugged in right away alongside the perimeter. He's done things while getting into the lane that has even impressed his teammate Jimmy Butler. When NBA teams take a chance on an older player, they typically want to utilize him right away in the secondary unit and Jaquez appears to be in the perfect situation for what he's bringing to the Heat.
Draft slot: No. 2
Previous rank: 4
With LaMelo Ball out with a sprained ankle, Miller has stepped up and has taken more shots in the last few games. For all the pre-draft back and forth on whether the Hornets should draft Miller or Scoot Henderson, it's looking like they made the right pick for the franchise. In a loss to the New York Knicks on Nov. 28, Miller connected on 4-of-8 3-point attempts and finished with 18 points. The game before that (a loss to the Orlando Magic), he posted 20 points on 7-for-11 from the field. His outside shot creation has improved from last season in college, and he's been one of the best rookies in adjusting to the pace and spacing of the NBA game.
8. Cason Wallace, Oklahoma City Thunder
Draft slot: No. 10
Previous rank: Honorable mention
Wallace doesn't exactly jump off the stat sheet each night, but he's seemingly been able to slide in the OKC backcourt alongside anyone. Wallace played on and off the ball during his one season at Kentucky, and he has no problem doing the same for the Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is off to a hot start this season and is playing like one of the best guards in the league (29.9 points, 6.3 assists per game), and Wallace has found creative ways to get him and Holmgren the ball. When Wallace does get offensive touches, he's been very consistent. He's shooting 52.5% from 3-point range on three attempts per game and had a season-high 15 points in the overtime win over Dallas on Saturday night. Defensively is where he's most impactful with the way he pressures the ball, making it difficult to run half-court sets and he's one of the best defenders at fighting over screens.
9. Keyonte George, Utah Jazz
Draft slot: No. 16
Previous rank: 9
George is starting to find his role in the Jazz system and it's different from what he was known for during his one season at Baylor. George has been a prolific scorer his entire career before the NBA. He could get a shot off from anywhere on the court and really thrived with the ball in his hands. Now, in his rookie season, George is more of a facilitator and is leading all rookies in assists with 99; the next closest player is Marcus Sasser with 57. The way he's been able to find his teammates has kept him on the court for long stretches. George was one of the best players on the court in the 118-113 overtime win over Portland on Saturday night. George went head-to-head with Henderson and finished with 21 points, six assists and six rebounds.
Draft slot: No. 7
Previous rank: 10
Coulibaly is one of the youngest players in the league and there are glimpses of how productive he will be as a wing in the NBA. His 7-2 wingspan has been effective, particularly on the defensive end where he's had many deflections in games and grabbed three steals (and added 12 points) in a five-point loss to the Magic. Coulibaly is fourth in steals among all rookies but has played at least 60 minutes fewer than the three players in front of him.