How Victor Wembanyama's first season ranks among rookies in NBA history


Victor Wembanyama’s NBA rookie season has finished. The San Antonio Spurs announced that 2023’s No. 1 overall draft pick will not play in Sunday’s season finale versus the Detroit Pistons, due to a sore right ankle. That ends his first NBA campaign at 71 games played.

For the season, Wembanyama averaged 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.6 blocks per game. He led all NBA rookies in scoring, rebounding and blocks per game average, providing the sort of impact expected from a No. 1 overall selection while becoming a must-see attraction for fans nearly every night. The 7-foot-1 French sensation will almost certainly win NBA Rookie of the Year honors.

Wembanyama, 20, went out on a high note in his final rookie game, scoring 34 points with 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks, in a 121–120 upset of the Denver Nuggets that could cost the defending NBA champions the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Wembanayama finishes his rookie season as the first player in NBA history to score 1500 points (1522), block 250 shots (254) and hit 100 three-point shots (128) in a single season. (He also compiled 55 rebounds, 274 assists and 88 steals.)

That certainly puts him in the conversation for best rookie season in NBA history. But where does Wembanyama stack up against other first seasons from the greatest players in the game?

How Wembanyama rates among the all-time greats

His 21.4 points per game is the highest for a rookie since Blake Griffin averaged 22.5 points during the 2010-11 season. The same goes for Wembanyama’s 10.6 rebounds per game, ranking below Griffin’s 12.1 average.

No rookie comes close to Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 37.6 points and 27 rebounds per game during the 1959-60 season.

Blocks have only been recorded as a stat in the NBA since the 1973-74 season, so the comparisons there are incomplete. However, with the information on hand, Wembanyama’s 3.6 blocks per game only rank behind fellow Spurs star David Robinson, who averaged 3.9 blocks in 1989-90.

The best measure of Wembanyama’s rookie success is probably PER (Player Efficiency Rating), the statistic developed by The Athletic’s John Hollinger that measure’s a player’s offensive performance (field goals, free throws, three-pointers, assists and rebounds) per minute while also incorporating blocks and steals.

For the 2023-24 season, Wembanyama’s 23.1 PER ranked No. 15 among all qualified players, ahead of stars like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker.

However, among all-time NBA rookies, Wembanyama’s PER ranks even more favorably. His 23.1 rating is the third-best since Chamberlain’s 28.2 mark. Only Robinson (26.3) and Michael Jordan (25.8) finished ahead of him during that span. He ranks higher than Shaquille O’Neal (22.9), Karl-Anthony Towns (22.5) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (22.5).

Did Wembanyama live up to his enormous hype? During his rookie season, was he the sort of generational talent that the NBA hasn’t seen since LeBron James? (James finished with an 18,3 PER, by the way.)

The numbers say yes. So do a season’s worth of highlights showcasing his length, athleticism and talent. Yet there is also plenty of room left for improvement.

Wembanyama can get bigger, stronger and more durable, perhaps capable of playing in more than 71 games. More importantly, the Spurs can build a better team around him and finish with a record better than the 21–60 mark (tied for worst in the West) they take into Sunday’s regular season finale.

The future for Wembanyama looks as exciting as his spectacular all-around game.



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