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Can Wembanyama become the first rookie in NBA history to win the Defensive of the Year award?

In the fast-paced world of the NBA, rookies often find themselves grappling with the enormity of the league, struggling to find their footing amidst seasoned veterans. Yet, there are exceptions—prodigious talents that defy the norms, rewriting the narrative of what a rookie can achieve.

One such luminary is Victor Wembanyama, the towering 20-year-old center who has set the league ablaze with his defensive prowess.

Standing at a towering 7’4″, Wembanyama has officially become eligible for the coveted Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) award, igniting a fervent debate within NBA circles. His teammates and even his rivals, captivated by his defensive acumen, are adamant that he deserves serious consideration for the award. A feat no rookie has ever accomplished.

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If you watch the game, you see how he affects the game defensively. It’s tough because of our record, but I think most people know he’s already the best defender in the league.”, Spurs’ point guard Tre Jones stated.

Recently, Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving did not hold back in his praise for Wemby, drawing parallels between the French and past DPOY recipients.

He does do things like a Defensive Player of the Year would,” Irving said. “He’s showing signs that he’s exceeded all the Defensive Player of the Year stats of the previous guys that have won it. You guys see it. I don’t know who they’re going to pick, but I mean, he has all the tools to be named Defensive Player of the Year. He’s for sure a candidate.”

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In his most recent match, Wembanyama matched up consistently with 2-time MVP and defending NBA Champion Nikola Jokić, and proved exactly what the hype was all about once again. The French center wasn’t the most efficient scorer (9 out of 29 shots, 31% FG), but his rim protection was tremendous. Victor nearly notched a quadruple-double in his 34 minutes with 23 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, and nine blocks, an incredible number.

Jokić, who’s on track to win his third MVP award in 4 years, sealed the win for the Nuggets with 42 points (18 out of 32 shots, 56% FG), 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and one steal. He is one of the most efficient scorers in the league, intelligent, skilled, unselfish and makes the right read every play. All of this combined with his unrivaled passing skills, it makes him nearly unstoppable.

He (Wembanyama) got like 6 or 7 blocks on me, but we won the game, so that’s a good thing.” Jokic said after the game.

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The Serbian had nothing but high praise for the rookie, saying, “He’s humble, he is working hard, and he’s still hungry. That’s a really good combination.” He later concluded, “He’s a special player.

Michael Malone, Denver Nuggets’ head coach joined in the praise for Wembanyama, stating, “He’s the future of the NBA,” and then added, “We’re watching the ascension of the next great player in the NBA.”

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Despite his stellar performances, Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves remains the front-runner for this season’s DPOY. Gobert’s impact on the Wolves’ defense, currently the best in the league, has solidified his status as one of the greatest defenders in NBA history.

Regardless of his undeniable brilliance, Wembanyama faces an uphill battle in clinching the DPOY award, primarily due to his team’s poor performance. With a record of 18-58, his candidacy is somewhat overshadowed by the collective struggles of his team.

Wembanyama is displaying a level of maturity and composure beyond his years. He acknowledges the formidable competition posed by Gobert, but remains resolute in his determination to elevate his game to unprecedented heights.

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I know that Rudy (Gobert) has a very good chance of winning it this year, and it would be deserved. Let him win it now because after that it’s no longer his turn.”, Wembanyama said.

As we can see, Wemby doesn’t shy away from any challenge despite being 20 years old, and he tries to lead his teammates by the example. “For me, the obvious answer is always to be a leader by example first,” he said.

Despite his team’s struggling record, Wembanyama has emerged as the league leader in shot-blocking, swatting away an impressive 3.5 shots per game, added to 1.3 steals per game (16th in the league), and topping the charts in “stocks” (steals plus blocks) with a staggering 321 in 67 games.

Wembanyama’s statistical dominance extends beyond the current season. Like Kyrie said, over the past decade, no Defensive Player of the Year recipient has amassed more “stocks” than Wembanyama’s remarkable 321, eclipsing Jaren Jackson Jr’s last season stats (254 in 63 games). His defensive wizardry has positioned him as a front-runner for a coveted spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive teams—a feat not achieved by a rookie since the legendary Tim Duncan in 1998.

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Victor also joined Tim Duncan by being the only two rookies in NBA history to reach 1,400 points, 700 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 blocks in their first season.

As the Spurs are struggling to win, Wembanyama’s chances of winning DPOY this season are considered slim. However, he is poised to become the sixth rookie in NBA history to earn a spot on one of the All-Defensive teams. His defensive stats speak for themselves: leads the league in blocks per game and block percentage, sixth in defensive win shares, third in defensive box plus/minus, third in defensive rebound percentage, tenth in total rebound percentage, and second in defensive rating.

Clearly a DPOY contender.

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Wembanyama is not only a DPOY candidate but also the front-runner for Rookie of the Year. His offensive game is developing, averaging 20.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He ranks 11th in Player Efficiency Rating, fifth in usage percentage, and 13th in box plus/minus. His importance to the team goes beyond numbers: he is the key player in San Antonio’s rebuilding process.

With each game, Wembanyama continues to make his case for DPOY. Since the All-Star Break, he’s averaged an incredible 4.4 blocks and 1.7 steals per game. His defensive impact goes beyond the numbers, as he alters shots and disrupts opposing offenses consistently.

In the following play, we can see how in just 18 seconds, Wembanyama prevents two 3-pointers from Myles Turner, who drained a game-high four triples on that night, guards two pick-and-rolls featuring two different threats, and forces a turnover on a drive in crunch time of a two-possession game.

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There are possessions like the one above where he doesn’t get credited with doing a single thing in the box score despite putting out a number of fires.

Additionally, in the off chance you think Turner got a rough whistle, just know that Wembanyama has such a quick second jump that he still managed to block Turner.

As the NBA season unfolds, all eyes remain firmly fixed on Victor Wembanyama—a defensive prodigy on the cusp of rewriting history. Whether he clinches the DPOY award this season or not, one thing is certain: Wembanyama’s ascent to defensive stardom is inexorable, and his legacy as one of the greatest defenders in NBA history seems all but assured.

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Victor’s impact on the NBA landscape has been nothing short of remarkable. As he continues to develop and refine his game, the league eagerly anticipates what the future holds for this basketball phenom.

The league is witnessing the rise of a one-generational talent, and Victor Wembanyama is just getting started.


  • Òscar Llopis I Balanyà

    23-year-old sports journalist, fluent in French, Catalan and Spanish. I am a football addict, who’s also interested in basketball and futsal. Above all, I’m a Barça lover and the biggest Messi fan in the world! If you have any exciting information or questions to ask, don’t hesitate to contact me!