On Tuesday, 2022 No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren and the Oklahoma City Thunder faced this year's top pick, generational prospect Victor Wembanyama, and the San Antonio Spurs for the first time in a regular-season game.
Holmgren's Thunder routed Wembanyama's Spurs 123-87, with both players finishing with single digits in scoring. However, Wembanyama won the rebounding battle 14-7.
Despite the lackluster introduction to what should be one of the NBA's top rivalries for years to come, the pair of versatile 7-footers lead a rookie class that has already appeared ahead of schedule -- even when accounting for a slow start for Scoot Henderson, the No. 3 pick in the 2023 draft. All season, ESPN's Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton will be checking in on first-year players -- including Holmgren, who is eligible for Rookie of the Year after missing his first season in the NBA due to injury -- and ranking their top 10.
In addition to Holmgren and Wembanyama, a pair of Detroit Pistons rookies have been making an early push for Rookie of the Year along with another starting 7-footer, Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II.
Let's break down what we've seen from rookies this season.
Holmgren or Wembanyama at the top?
Pelton: Chet vs. Wemby is a classic contrast between rookies who are effective in a smaller role and talented ones who are asked to do way too much because they've been drafted to a lottery team.
Wembanyama's current 31% usage rate would be the second-highest share of his team's offense finished by a rookie on record, according to Stathead.com, trailing only Joel Embiid's 36% usage rate in 31 games during 2016-17. Embiid was already a 22-year-old rookie, having missed his first two NBA campaigns due to injury. Wembanyama is shouldering the lion's share of the Spurs' offense as a teenager -- something even LeBron James didn't do as a rookie. (He had a 28% usage rate.)