Victor Wembanyama is having the second-best rookie season of all time despite the Spurs’ penchant for losing

Victor Wembanyama came into the league as the most hyped prospect since LeBron James. Somehow, he has over-delivered in his rookie year.

Wemby’s 20.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, league-leading 3.4 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game only scratch the surface of how amazing he’s been. No one will ever top the 38 points and 27 rebounds that Wilt Chamberlain averaged as a rookie. But this rookie year that we are all witnessing stands up to anyone else.

Victor Wembanyama San Antonio Spurs

Victor Wembanyama is the most complete rookie in NBA history

There have been other rookies that have scored more points, grabbed more rebounds, recorded more assists, or blocked more shots. But nobody has shown the whole package to the level of Wembanyama. He’s the first rookie in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks per game.

Those stat lines have been matched before, 16 other times. Wembanyama is doing it at age 20, and the rest of the guys were Hall-of-Famers in their prime. Wemby is also accomplishing these feats in almost eight fewer minutes per game than anyone else ever has before.

Add up points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks per 36 minutes among rookies and Wembanyama completely blows the competition out of the water. He’s the leader in that statistic by a mile.


Victor Wembanyama

David Robinson


Shaquille O’Neal

Michael Jordan

Ralph Sampson

Luka Doncic

Five-by-five games are one of the most rare feats in NBA history. They’ve happened less often (22) than perfect games pitches in baseball (24). It took Wembanyama 51 career games to record his first one, and he’s come close a few other times as well.

Wembanyama has the passing and handle of a guard, the size and rebounding of the best shot blockers in NBA history, and is the best pull-up shooting big man in the league, hitting 42.5 percent of those 3’s.

Forget the rookie qualification. There has never been a player so dominant in so many different areas.

Victor Wembanyama’s per-minute statistics rival anyone else’s

The idea that Wembanyama is the second-best rookie of all time is controversial for one reason only — because the Spurs have kneecapped his production.

They started out the year intentionally playing him without a point guard or good spacing, putting him in the toughest possible situation to succeed. He played well anyway and took off once he was moved to center alongside a bottom-tier starting point guard in Tre Jones who could at least throw him a lob once in a while.

The biggest impediment to Wembanyama’s statistical production though has been an intentional limit on his minutes. Wemby is the best rookie in his class but fourth in minutes at 28.7 per game. Once he inevitably wins the Rookie of the Year award, he will have the lowest minutes average of any winner aside from Malcolm Brogdon, who won the award over Joel Embiid due to injuries.

It’s not as if Wemby hasn’t been capable of playing more. He even tried to surreptitiously check himself into a game due to frustration (it didn’t work).

If you scaled Wembanyama’s minutes up to a typical amount for a rookie with his level of production, his statistics would be on par with or better than the greatest rookie seasons. Here’s how they look on a per 36 minute basis.


Wilt Chamberlain

Victor Wembanyama

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Oscar Robertson

Michael Jordan

Stastics via Stathead

Wemby’s offensive numbers are gaudy, and that’s not even close to the best part of his game. When you factor in his defense, he starts to look on par with Chamberlain and better than everyone else in league history.

Victor Wembanyama is the best defensive rookie ever

There has never been a rookie named All-Defensive First Team in NBA history. Four have been named to the Second Team — Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Manute Bol. Wembanyama should be the fifth.

Wemby is already easily a top 10 defender in the league. He’s second in Defensive Player of the Year odds behind Rudy Gobert at BetMGM, and there’s a case to be made that The Alien should actually be the one to take down that hardware.

Wemby’s defensive numbers are outrageous. His 3.4 blocks per game are tied for the most in the past seven years. He and last year’s DPOY winner Jaren Jackson Jr. are the only players to average at least three steals and one block over the past 15 years.

MORE: Victor Wembanyama could be the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year

The stats don’t even begin to do justice to how much of a deterrent Wembanyama has been. Players are legitimately terrified of challenging him at the basket. They will think that they have a wide open layup before he teleports to the rim and swats them away. He looks like he’s defending five-year-olds, not even bothering to jump on many of his blocks.

Wemby is going to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards, once he gets some semblance of help. The Spurs were the worst defense in league history last season and retained most of their roster. He’s dragged them to 24th this year while playing in limited minutes.

Victor Wembanyama doesn’t have the narrative of some of the other all-time rookies

When you put together a list of the best rookies ever, Magic Johnson certainly deserves mention. He averaged 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists while leading the Lakers to a championship. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Bucks team improved by 29 wins, earning him a third place finish in MVP voting. Chamberlain bumped his team up by 17 wins and won the MVP award. Larry Bird’s Celtics went from 29 wins to 61 with the same core of players, and his 21-10-5 stat line pushed him to the Rookie of the Year award ahead of Magic.

Wembanyama’s Spurs team has somehow gotten worse than their 22-60 finish last season. That is always going to be used against him. But there is only so much that he can contribute to winning in his 28 minutes per game.

The Spurs have been 8.7 points per 100 possessions better with Wembanyama on the floor vs. off it, per Cleaning the Glass. That positive impact ranks in the 87th percentile of all NBA players this year. His impact can also be seen in the six games that he’s missed, where the Spurs have gone 0-6 and lost by an average of 11.5 points.

Wemby is simply too good to make the losing last. Once he begins playing normal minutes and gets a starter alongside him old enough to rent a car without paying a premium, the wins and awards are going to start flowing in.

As he sheds that losing criticism, we will look back and realize that he gave us one of the most special rookie seasons of all time. He didn’t get drafted into the best situation, but there is absolutely nothing that can stop him from being special.

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