Latest MVP rankings should slam the door on Wembanyama ROY discourse

Victor Wembanyama has teetered as the leader in the Rookie of the Year race, but recent MVP rankings shut down his main would-be challenger.
San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages

Rookie of the Year is always one of the most contested end-of-season awards in the NBA. Every fanbase has a narrative that they're trying to drive and every media member has their view on who should win and what supporting case is the strongest. But unlike years past, the San Antonio Spurs have a serious vested interest in who wins this time.

Victor Wembanyama has been the front-runner for the 2024 Rookie of the Year since he declared for the draft. It didn't matter where he ended up; Wemby would always be the clubhouse leader for the award. But through the first few months of the season, we've seen him jockey for the top position in the NBA rookie rankings with Oklahoma City Thunder second-year star Chet Holmgren.

Before getting too deep into this, let's be clear that this is not an anti-Chet piece. I think he's an amazing player; he's got a limitless future, and watching him go toe to toe with Vic over the next few years is going to be a storyline that I'll thoroughly enjoy watching. But in no universe should he win Rookie of the Year over Victor Wembanyama.

Chet's teammates give him an unfair edge for box-score watchers

Stylistically, Chet and Vic are relatively similar. They play the same position, have similar builds, and their ability to stretch the floor and protect the rim at an elite level is eerily similar. So while their games might look similar, the situations they're in couldn't be more different. And that's a key reason why Wembanyama isn't the unquestioned favorite to win Rookie of the Year.

With all due respect to the other players on the San Antonio Spurs, Holmgren has a distinct advantage over Wembanyama every time he touches the floor, simply due to who he's playing with. Vic struggles to get looks night after night while the Spurs work through who should be their starting point guard. Meanwhile, Chet takes the floor next to a bona fide MVP candidate.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been on an absolute tear this season. He's averaging 31.4 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game to go along with 2.7 steals. He gets to the rim and draws fouls at an elite level, showcasing a strong all-around game. He's the engine of the 6th-best offense in the NBA, an unquestioned top-ten player, and a legitimate MVP candidate.

That's who Holmgren has running his offense night after night. Vic is working with a second-year player who's still learning the position and whoever else the Spurs feel like trying out. Bless his heart; he's got a great future ahead of him, but Jeremy Sochan isn't Shai. Neither are Tre Jones, Malaki Branham, or anyone else the Spurs might try at point guard before the season is over.

Arguing that those things don't make a difference is nonsensical. It's in the amount of attention he draws, the pressure he puts on opposing defenses, and the kinds of looks he can create for teammates. Shai is extremely talented and makes his teammates' lives much easier every time he plays.

Wembanyama struggles to get the ball and is every defense's top priority every night. Despite that attention, he's still putting up insane numbers. Imagine what he could do playing alongside a point guard like SGA.

Details are important when discussing players with such great potential

Playing with an MVP candidate is the most obvious difference between Chet and Vic, but there are plenty of others. Never mind the fact that the Thunder have significantly better three-point shooting, giving Holmgren more room to work than what Wemby typically faces. Not to mention the fact that this is actually Holmgren's second season in the NBA despite the rookie label.

Of course, none of this is Holmgren's fault, and it shouldn't automatically discount him from the Rookie of the Year conversation. But it is critically important context that every voter should consider when casting their vote. If you stripped away their teammates, and the teams they played for, putting them in totally equal situations, it's hard to believe anyone would believe Chet would impact said team more than Wembanyama.

Throughout the season, I do believe that Vic will slowly pull away in the debate, but it hasn't happened yet. If this does come down to a wire-to-wire finish, I hope voters take into consideration what playing with a guy like SGA does for Chet. If they view the two equally and fairly, Wembanyama should easily walk away as the 2023–24 Rookie of the Year.