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NBA Rookie Rankings: Victor Wembanyama doesn't need to flex against Rockets big Alperen Sengun


Another week of Rookie Rankings features a third matchup of Victor Wembanyama vs. Chet Holmgren, with dominant performances from both 7-footers. We also got a career-high night from one rookie and steady consistency from perhaps the most underrated rookie in this year’s class. There are only about 20 games left in the season, but while this is the time some rookies begin hitting that rookie wall, most of the guys on this week’s list just keep getting better.

Now let’s move on to this week’s rankings. Keep in mind that these rankings will reflect a rookie’s performance on a week-to-week basis only, not the collective season. These aren’t Rookie of the Year standings but rather a reflection on what the player has done over the past week. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top five performers from the NBA’s freshman class:

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In a matchup against the Houston Rockets this week, Alperen Sengun had some interesting words to say about playing against Wembanyama.

“He’s so tall but he’s not that strong yet,” Sengun said. “I was going at his chest and putting him under the rim.”

Sengun talked about how he had extra motivation in the matchup against Wembanyama after a previous meeting against the heralded rookie didn’t go so well for the Rockets big man. Their latest clash resulted in a career night for the third-year center as Sengun finished with 45 points, 16 rebounds, three assists and five steals. And while there were a couple of occasions where Sengun certainly overpowered Wemby under the basket, it wasn’t like he completely neutralized the 7-footer. In that same matchup, Wembanyama finished with seven blocks, five of which came on Sengun.

While Sengun had no issue backing Wemby down under the basket, once there, the rookie showed why he’s such a difficult matchup. It didn’t matter that Sengun was far stronger, Wembanyama’s length negated that.

Wembanyama struggled offensively in that game, but he made up for it on the defensive side. While Sengun certainly got the best of the rookie on numerous occasions, it wasn’t as if he was being bulldozed over. Tip your cap to Sengun, who is one of the league’s rising young stars and had the best performance of his career, but Wembanyama didn’t exactly make it easy for him.

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Miller really took it to the No. 4-ranked defense this week, putting up 18 points, five rebounds and three assists against the Orlando Magic. He showed why he’s a dangerous threat with or without the ball in his hands, and one play specifically highlighted his high IQ. With Franz Wagner guarding him, Miller used the screen to get inside the 3-point line, but once there, he had two defenders showing help while Wagner was recovering from the screen. Instead of forcing something up with Paolo Banchero and Jonathan Isaac surrounding him, he kept his dribble alive, drove to the rim, stepped back and nailed a jumper:

While this season hasn’t gone as planned for the Hornets with LaMelo Ball’s injury and then a roster overhaul that saw several players sent to different teams, it’s somewhat benefited Miller. He’s been able to play a variety of roles for Charlotte. So when Ball comes back healthy next season, Miller will come in having had a wide-ranging experience in his rookie season that will only aid in his development alongside the All-Star guard. 

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It was another strong week for Holmgren, which started with another matchup against Wembanyama and the Spurs. Each time these two have played each other this season, we get treated with an ultra-competitive matchup. While Wembanyama and San Antonio won their latest meeting, Holmgren had another strong showing against the No. 1 overall pick. Holmgren pulled up from 3, took Wembanyama one-on-one and overall just forced him to work extra hard on the defensive side of the ball. Wemby doesn’t make it easy because even if he’s a little late on a rotation or recovering, that length makes up for it. But Holmgren, also being a 7-footer, knows how to use his size to get past, around, or over the French phenom.

On this play you could see that Wembanyama was playing a bit too aggressively on defense against Holmgren out on the 3-point line, which is understandable given how efficient he’s been from deep this year. But by doing so, Holmgren catches Wemby with the pump fake, which results in him jumping, and gives the Thunder rookie a green light to the rim.

Holmgren also had five assists in that game, just the latest example of his great passing ability, especially under pressure. Several times, the defense collapsed on him in the paint, and he somehow managed to find an open teammate either out on the perimeter or near the basket for a bucket. 

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Reath started this past week as Deandre Ayton was sidelined with a hand injury, and he certainly took advantage of the additional minutes. He put up a season-high 26 points against the Timberwolves on 71.4% from the field, where he also went 5 of 6 from 3-point range. That’s no easy feat against a stingy defense like the Wolves, especially on a team that possesses the size that they do. But most of Reath’s 3s came on wide-open opportunities as Minnesota pretty much dared him to shoot it all night. That game plan didn’t work, and even when they did try to get late closeouts on the rookie big man, he attacked the rim for a dunk or layup. 

He’s really come on strong the past couple of months for the Trail Blazers, and while he primarily comes off the bench when Ayton is healthy, having Reath as your backup center is a bonus for Portland as it continues its rebuild.

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George’s week was cut short due to an illness, so he missed Wednesday night’s game against the Bulls as well as most of Utah’s game against the Wizards. But before that, he had two back-to-back standout performances. In one game, he flexed his scoring muscle, putting up 31 points on a ridiculous 51.2% from the field while going nearly 43% from 3-point range. In the game before that, he had 19 points, but it was his passing that really was a bright spot. He put up nine assists and did a great job finding the open man. He also whipped out some spectacular passes we typically see from elite guards in the league. While he’s only a rookie, George is already pushing himself into that conversation of one of the best young passers in the league.





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