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Wemby vs. Chet: Round One
Rookies Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren face off for the first time in an NBA regular season game tonight.
Rookies Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren face off for the first time in an NBA regular season game tonight, the first of what will hopefully be many battles between these potential superstars. Let’s take a closer look at what these two unicorns have accomplished in the first 10 games of their NBA careers.
Wembanyama is averaging 19.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 2.4 BPG for the San Antonio Spurs, leading the team in all three categories. The last player to average at least 18 PPG, 8 RPG, and 2 BPG through the first 10 games of his career was Shaquille O’Neal in 1992-93.
Wembanyama has produced at least 10 points, five rebounds, and one block in each of his first 10 games. Since the NBA began tracking blocks in 1973-74, only five other players — all of whom are Hall of Famers — have started their careers with 10 such games in a row:
Bill Walton (1974-75)
Hakeem Olajuwon (1984-85)
Patrick Ewing (1985-86)
Dikembe Mutombo (1991-92)
Shaquille O’Neal (1992-93)
The Spurs have leaned heavily on Wembanyama, as he’s using approximately 30.2% of their offensive possessions when he’s on the floor. That figure ranks 14th in the NBA among players on pace to play at least 2,000 minutes this season. Since the NBA began tracking individual turnovers in 1977-78, the only qualified rookie to record a possession percentage of at least 30% for a full season is Luka Doncic in 2018-19 (31.1%).
Due in large part to the above, Wembanyama has struggled a bit with his efficiency, shooting just 44.7% from the field and 29.8% from 3-point range. He also ranks seventh in the NBA in turnovers per game, coughing it up an average of 3.8 times per contest.
Wembanyama is already a terrific shot blocker, ranking second in the NBA with 24 blocks. Over the last 30 seasons, the only rookies to record more blocks through their first 10 games are Kenyon Martin (31, 2001-02) and Tim Duncan (25, 1997-98).
Among players on pace to play at least 2,000 minutes, Wembanyama ranks eighth in the NBA with a defensive rebound percentage of 25.8%. He also ranks 18th in the league in defensive rebounds (68) and 19th in total rebounds (88).
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Holmgren has been incredibly efficient for the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaging 16.4 PPG with shooting percentages of 54.9% from the field, 50.0% from 3-point range, and 89.5% from the free throw line. Using the current statistical minimums for league leaders, Holmgren is the only player in NBA history to record 50/50/85 shooting splits through the first 10 games of his career. In fact, Holmgren is the first center in NBA history, rookie or otherwise, to record those splits though his first 10 games of a season.
Holmgren is just the third rookie in franchise history to score in double figures in each of his first 10 games, joining Xavier McDaniel (1985-86) and Kevin Durant (2007-08). Durant (201 points) and McDaniel (171) are also the only rookies in franchise history to score more points through their first 10 games.
Holmgren has a true shooting percentage of 69.1%, the second-highest such figure in the NBA among players averaging at least 15 PPG this season (Kristaps Porzingis, 70.5%). The only other rookie in NBA history to average at least 15 PPG with a true shooting percentage of 65% through his first 10 games is Reggie Miller in 1987-88 (16.5 PPG, 65.4 TS%).
Thanks to the presence of All-NBA guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Holmgren has shouldered a much lighter offensive load than Wembanyama. Holmgren’s possession percentage is 20.1%, just slightly higher than league average. That figure ranks fourth on the Thunder behind Gilgeous-Alexander (31.8%), Josh Giddey (26.7%), and Jalen Williams (21.0%).
Holmgren ranks third in the NBA with 23 blocks, just one spot behind Wembanyama. He blocked seven shots in just his second career game, tied for the second-most rejections in a game by any player this season (Brook Lopez, 8).
Let’s end this post with one final piece of trivia that ties these two together. Only two players in NBA history have made 15 or more 3-pointers and blocked 20 or more shots through the first 10 games of their career. One is Victor Wembanyama, the other is Chet Holmgren.