Who’s better: Chet Holmgren or Victor Wembanyama?

The NBA has seen an increase in its star players. And by increase, we’re referring to the size of the players. Kevin Durant of Phoenix and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo play on the wing and are 6-foot-10 and 6-11, respectively.

Centers in yesteryear are wings, sometimes guards, in today’s game.

Two of the newest bigs with a versatile game are rising stars Chet Holmgren of Oklahoma City and Victor Wembanyama of San Antonio, who stand over 7 feet tall. Both are listed as center/forward, but both are comfortable playing on the wing or the top of the key as they are inside the paint.

These two rookies are the leaders for the NBA Rookie of the Year award and are making strong cases.

Statistic Chet Holmgren Victor Wembanyama
Field goal percentage 53.1% 43.7%
3-point field goal percentage 39.5% 27.1%
Free throw percentage 86.5% 82.9%
Points per game 17.6 19.3
Rebounds per game 8 9.7
Assists per game 2.6 2.6
Steals per game 0.9 1.3
Blocks per game 2.2 2.7

Big man battle for NBA Rookie of the Year

Holmgren scored 11 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, had three assists, one steal, and four blocks in his last game, a 126-120 win against Dallas on Dec. 2. He shot 40% from the field and missed all three of his three-point attempts.

Wembanyama has a hip injury and hasn’t played since the end of November against Atlanta. However, in that Nov. 30 game, he scored 21 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, handed out two assists, nabbed two steals, and blocked four shots while shooting 56% from the field and 20% from three.

Heading into the season Wembanyama was the Rookie of the Year favorite.

He has a slender frame and was expected to have a learning curve as he got used to the more physical style of the NBA. He shows flashes of what he can be, but his hip injury might slow him down a bit.

He does need to improve his shooting, specifically from three-point range, which is at 27.1%.

Holmgren is one of four players to average at least 16 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks per game. He is one of three players to do that while shooting 50% or better, and he’s the only player to do that while having an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 60.3%.

Statistic Chet Holmgren Victor Wembanyama
eFG% 60.3% 48.1%
TS% 65.1% 52.8%
USG% 22.2% 30.3%
Value Over Replacement Player 1 0.1
Win Share 2.4 0
Win Share/48 .205 0

How Chet Holmgren, Victor Wembanyama fared against each other

Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma City is currently 13-6 and second in the Western Conference, behind the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Thunder ranks fifth in points scored per game at 119.7 and points allowed per game at 110.8.

San Antonio has gotten off to a terrible start at 3-16. Offensively the Spurs rank 23rd at 111.5 points scored per game and 27th defensively at 119.9 points allowed per game.

The two bigs have had one head-to-head meeting, and that came on Nov. 14. From a team aspect, the game was close early, but Oklahoma City pulled away and led by as many as 40 points at one point.

As far as the matchup, neither Holmgren nor Wembanyama were able to find much offensive success.

Game Stats Chet Holmgren Victor Wembanyama
FG% 30% 26.7%
3P% 20% 0%
FT% 1.000% 0%
PTS 9 8
REB 7 11
AST 3 2
STL 2 0
BLK 1 2
eFG% 35% 26.7%
TS% 41.4% 26.7%
USG% 18.5% 28%

While these stats are lacking from their typical season averages, it’s to be expected that they would both struggle when squaring off against each other.

There are not many 7-footers who are athletic and agile enough to play with these two players. Holmgren shot the ball better, but everything else matches up fairly even.

The NBA is all about spacing and shooting, and Holmgren provides the shooting that helps space the floor for his teammates. These two players will square off against each other again on Jan. 24.

Wembanyama might get most of the hype, Holmgren has gotten off to a better start.

Their stats are similar except for the fact that Holmgren is getting four fewer shots per game. It’s not surprising, considering he plays alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and San Antonio doesn’t have anyone comparable on their team.

When was the last time a center/forward won NBA Rookie of the Year

Rookie of the Year 2015-16 race

Place Player Pos. Team PPG RPG
1 Karl-Anthony Towns C Minnesota Timberwolves 18.3 10.5
2 Kristaps Porzingis PF/C New York Knicks 14.3 7.3
3 Nikola Jokic C Denver Nuggets 10.0 7.0

Something else to watch as the season unfolds is the fact that this year’s Rookie of the Year race might be between players who predominantly play center.

Over the past 10 seasons, the 2015-16 season is the only one. That season, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, and Nikola Jokic finished as the Top 3 vote-getters.

Towns won the award. But before the draft, there were questions about who should be selected first, Towns or Jahlil Okafor.

Minnesota made the correct choice. This year’s race for Rookie of the Year will be exciting to watch.

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Author: Chris Phillips

NBA News Sportsnaut