With 11 straight losses for the San Antonio Spurs, not a lot has been going right for them. In fact, they currently have the third-worst average point differential in NBA history. Even so, number one pick and Rookie of the Year favorite Victor Wembanyama has been the bright spot thus far. While he has been more inconsistent than expected, he has had a number of big performances.
There was the 38-point outburst against the Phoenix Suns, 8 blocks against the Memphis Grizzlies, and 22 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals, and 4 blocks against the Denver Nuggets. Those have all been impressive performances, but all but one came at a loss.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the second-best record in the Western Conference, with fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Chet Holmgren playing a key role in their success. Winning normally doesn't have much bearing on the Rookie of the Year awards race, but it could, given how strong the candidates are.
Wembanyama faces an uphill battle to win Rookie of the Year.
Holmgren's numbers, while not as impressive as Wembanyama's, have been more efficient (69.3% true shooting compared to Wembanyama's 52.3% true shooting) and helped the Thunder win games. That has been enough to help him overtake Wembanyama in NBA.com's Kia Rookie Ladder.
That's unofficial, of course, but the thought of the most hyped draft prospect losing Rookie of the Year despite averaging 19.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game would be an upset, to say the least. Worse yet, it wouldn't be his fault.
The Spurs have committed to playing power forward Jeremy Sochan at point guard instead of Tre Jones, and the results have been train-wreckish. The Spurs and Wembanyama are better with a traditional playmaker on the floor. While Wemby is putting up very good numbers, he and his team could be that much better by making a change at point guard.
The Thunder have no such issues holding them back and Holmgren has the benefit of playing next to a top-15 player in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Wembanyama, on the other hand, is the best player on his team and plays with teammates who mostly struggle to get him the ball, whether in the post, in the pick and roll or by throwing him alley-oops.
There's hope that they can eventually get better at feeding him and that Wembanyama can figure out ways to score more consistently with or without his teammates' help. But perhaps the most likely outcome is that the Spurs will improve only marginally over the remainder of the season before having to decide whether to tank. Wembanyama is certain to continue putting up big numbers but that may not be enough for him to win Rookie of the Year with Holmgren on a surging Thunder.