HomeBasketball TodayThe Ultimate Showdown: Brandon Miller's Epic Battle against Titan Victor Wembanyama and...

The Ultimate Showdown: Brandon Miller’s Epic Battle against Titan Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren

advertisement

In less than two weeks, Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren will take the same court, giving us yet another chance to evaluate where each player stands in the Rookie of the Year race. However, this will be no ordinary game or event. Wembanyama and Holmgren will face one another in the 2024 Panini Rising Stars during All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis. A mini-tournament consisting of four teams and 28 youthful talents, the two top players in the NBA Rookie Rankings will obviously be the center of attention. However, don’t count out Brandon Miller in any event or race just yet.

Miller, who will be teammates with Wemby on Team Gasol for the Rising Stars event, has really started to come into his own in recent weeks. The Charlotte Hornets are a struggling team near the bottom of the league standings, which is why Miller has been given so much freedom to showcase what he can do.

With LaMelo Ball sidelined, Miller has arguably been the Hornets’ most complete offensive talent. The rookie forward has scored at least 20 points in five straight games, and he has scored at least 20 points on nine different occasions since the start of January. In fact, Miller ranks second in both points per game (19.0) and total points (304) in 2024, trailing only Wembanyama.

“You don’t create competitive spirit,” Hornets head coach Steve Clifford said of Miller recently. “That’s something I think is the number one thing to look for in a player, and he wants to win every night. There’s nothing more important than that.”

Everyone always wants to talk about Wembanyama vs. Holmgren in the race for Rookie of the Year, but Miller’s recent stretch of performances has put him right back in the conversation for this award. Wemby, Chet, and Miller will all put their skills to the test during All-Star Weekend in a showcase that will surely impact how we look at the NBA Rookie Rankings.

1. Victor Wembanyama – San Antonio Spurs

Victor Wembanyama with Gregg Popovich looking at him with stars in his eyes

2023-24 season stats: 44 games, 20.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, 1.2 steals, 46.2FG%, 30.1 3P%

The Rookie of the Year race is Victor Wembanyam’s to lose at this point. The San Antonio Spurs first overall pick has been everything they had hoped for, as Wemby has recorded a double-double in six of his last seven games. He has also recorded at least 20 points in 15 of his last 18 games. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Wembanyama is the fact that he has shown tremendous growth since his very first game in a Spurs uniform.

At first, everyone was constantly talking about Wemby’s length and his rim-protecting abilities. Sure, that is still relevant, and shot-blocking is a major part of his game. But what stands out about the favorite in the NBA Rookie Rankings is the fact that he looks more poised and confident in his abilities to be an all-around offensive weapon.

Read also:   Breaking News: Nuggets' Jokic and Murray Injury Updates for Blazers Showdown!

From dishing out assists to moving around the court to making the extra pass instead of rushing shots, Wembanyama is becoming a lot tougher to guard than he already is. After averaging 24.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in the month of January, as well as shooting 50.6 percent from the floor in those 14 games, Wemby is the clear favorite to win the rookie award this season.

2. Chet Holmgren – Oklahoma City Thunder

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander saying "Now that's a ROTY!" next to Chet Holmgren

2023-24 season stats: 50 games, 16.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 53.3 FG%, 38.6 3P%

Wembanyama clearly has the stats backing him for Rookie of the Year. However, Chet Holmgren’s value and the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder can’t be overlooked. As crazy as it is to say, the Thunder are the best team in the Western Conference this season after finishing near the bottom of the league just two seasons ago.

Holmgren has played a huge role in the Thunder being able to improve simply because he is the anchor of their defense. Wembanyama leads the league with 3.1 blocks per game, yet Holmgren is right behind him at 2.6 blocks per game. As far as other defensive metrics go, Holmgren has a leg up on his rookie counterpart in defensive win shares, and the two are tied in total defensive rating.

On offense, Holmgren’s ability to stretch the court and knock down three-pointers has allowed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to do what he does best in the mid-range area. If you want to base the NBA Rookie Rankings on impact, Holmgren is probably your guy. Number-wise, Wemby still has an edge over him.

3. Brandon Miller – Charlotte Hornets

Hornets' Brandon Miller

2023-24 season stats: 43 games, 16.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 44.0 FG%, 38.8 3P%

Without LaMelo Ball on the court and Terry Rozier now in South Beach, the 2023-24 season has been a chance for Brandon Miller to show why he was selected second overall behind Wembanyama in this year’s draft. Early on, Miller displayed his offensive prowess as a secondary scoring weapon. Now, he is the primary scorer for the Hornets, seeing upwards of 20 shot attempts per game in recent matchups.

After recently recording a season-high 29 points against the New York Knicks last week, Miller went on to score a new season-high 35 points on 10-25 shooting a few games later against the Indiana Pacers. Miller made a season-high 10 free throws in this game against Indiana.

The most impressive numbers associated with the Hornets rookie over his recent stretch of games is the fact that he’s shooting 48.6 percent from the floor on 17.2 shot attempts per game over his last five contests. While this may be a small sample size, it goes to show how efficient an offensive player Miller can be in this league. At just 21 years old, the Hornets have seemed to find their No. 2 guy next to Ball for years to come.

Read also:   Battle for the Play-In: Warriors vs Lakers

4. Jaime Jaquez Jr. – Miami Heat

Miami Heat star Jaime Jaquez Jr. and head coach Erik Spoelstra in front of the Kaseya Center.

2023-24 season stats: 33 games, 13.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 49.7 FG%, 33.9 3P%

With Tyler Herro back from injury and the Miami Heat recently acquiring Rozier from the Hornets, Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s role has decreased. This was to be expected, as the rookie swingman helped fill a lot of the gaps for the Heat while they were dealing with injuries. Nobody really expected Jaquez to be a factor right away, yet his presence has been one of the only steady factors on Miami’s roster.

Not only does Jaquez have a high basketball IQ, but he just has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, regardless if he is defending someone or going up for a rebound. Good things happen when Jaquez has the ball in his hands, which is why he has been the perfect fit on a Heat roster that covets smart players. It is also worth mentioning that he has dealt with a groin strain recently, so cut the rookie some slack if you are just looking at his numbers.

Jaquez currently ranks fourth out of all rookies in scoring, total points, and field goals made. And would you look at that? He resides fourth in the NBA Rookie Rankings.

5. Dereck Lively II – Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks' Dereck Lively II in front smiling. In background, have Mavericks' Dereck Lively II dunking a basketball

2023-24 season stats: 36 games, 9.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 73.9 FG%

One of the biggest needs dating back to last offseason for the Dallas Mavericks was reliable play at the center position. Well, Dereck Lively has been everything this team had imagined in terms of an athletic big who can thrive in pick-and-roll situations with Luka Doncic. Although he is not the rim protector that Wemby and Chet are, Lively has definitely altered his fair share of shots this season.

The math regarding Lively and the Mavs is quite simple. Dallas is 22-14 this season when the rookie center plays. Without him, they are just 4-9 overall. That is definitely not a coincidence.

Many of the best teams in the league receive sturdy play from their frontcourt. Lively has proven to be effective around the rim, and he is only going to grow his overall offensive game with time.

6. Scoot Henderson – Portland Trail Blazers

2023-24 season stats: 23 games, 12.8 points, 4.6 assists, 3.0 rebounds 37.3 FG%, 31.5 3P%

The Portland Trail Blazers have increased Scoot Henderson’s minutes, allowing him to start to build his game on offense. Scoot has scored at least 10 points in six of his last eight games, including four straight. One of these recent games included a season-high 30 points on 8-15 shooting against the Denver Nuggets. The third overall pick currently ranks fifth in scoring and first in assists out of all rookies.

Read also:   Jokic Shatters Records with Mind-Blowing 30-15-15 Performance, Surpassing Chamberlain and James

7. Cam Whitmore – Houston Rockets

2023-24 season stats: 26 games, 11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds 48.1 FG%, 39.6 3P%

Cam Whitmore put everyone on notice when he won the Summer League MVP award. After spending some time refining his game in the G League, Whitmore has proven to be a key part of the Houston Rockets’ nightly rotations. All it takes is for one player to get injured in the NBA for a player to seize his opportunity, and this is exactly what has occurred with the rookie wing. Whitmore has recorded double-digit scoring numbers in 15 of his last 19 games, including at least 20 points in three of his last six games.

8. Brandin Podziemski – Golden State Warriors

2023-24 season stats: 41 games, 9.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 46.6 FG%, 35.8 3P%

Not much has gone right for the Golden State Warriors this season. However, Brandin Podziemski has been a bright spot for them as a player who can wear many hats. Along with shooting 35.8 percent from deep, Podz ranks sixth in rebounding and third in assists out of all rookies. Over his last five games, the Warriors rookie is averaging 12.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game. Podziemski has recorded 15 points and 11 rebounds in back-to-back games, as well as a 12-point, 14-assist double-double prior to these two games. He is the first rookie with three straight double-doubles and zero turnovers since at least the 1967-68 season, according to the Warriors.

9. Keyonte George – Utah Jazz

2023-24 season stats: 45 games, 11.2 points, 4.2 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 38.3 FG%, 33.2 3P% 

It seems like the Utah Jazz have found their future lead guard in Keyonte George. The rookie has scored 10 or more points in five straight games, including 21 points in 27 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets recently. The Jazz have a logjam of talent in their backcourt right now, which is why they may move someone at the trade deadline to free up more minutes and opportunities for George.

10. Ausar Thompson – Detroit Pistons

2023-24 season stats: 49 games, 8.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 47.6 FG%

Say what you want about the Detroit Pistons, but Ausar Thompson is the real deal. A few years from now, we are going to be talking about Thompson in the All-Defensive conversation, as he has all the tools to be an elite defender in this league for many years to come. In terms of his athleticism, Ausar is only going to get better on offense in due time.

advertisement


Source link
advertisement

RELATED ARTICLES
advertisement

Also Read