Numbers Don't Lie: Wembanyama's mounting case for winning second major award

Victor Wembanyama
Victor Wembanyama / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama is having quite the season. He is not only the Rookie of the Year frontrunner but is increasingly seen as a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Wembanyama's individual stats would normally make him a shoo-in for the award, averaging a stellar 3.5 blocks per game and 1.3 steals per game. After all, having a rookie lead the league in a major category is nearly unprecedented in this day and age.

Especially rookies are generally awful on that end. Despite that, Wembanyama is seen as an underdog in the Defensive Player of the Year race, with Minnesota Timberwolves star Rudy Gobert the favorite. However, Wembanyama's play has seemingly begun to win award voters over to his side.

Can Victor Wembanyama actually win Defensive Player of the Year as a rookie?

The Spurs currently rank 23rd in defensive rating, far below league average and even further below the Timberwolves' top-ranked defense. However, Wembanyama has missed 10 games and played fewer than 30 minutes per game, meaning that his on-and-off numbers have a larger sample size than most.

As Kirk Goldsberry points out, when he is on the floor, the Spurs have a defensive rating that would blow the Timberwolves and the rest of the league out of the water. On the other hand, when he sits, the Spurs have one of the worst defensive ratings in the NBA. The Defensive Player of the Year is meant to reward the best defensive player and the numbers show that Wemby has absolutely been the best.

The Ringers' Ryen Russillo even recently announced that he planned to vote for him for Defensive Player of the Year. With 13 games remaining, Wembanyama and the Spurs don't have much to play for with them out of play-in contention. Still, he can make his case by continuing to add to his impressive block total, which is already 213 and counting.

All in all, Wembanyama has built a surprisingly strong case to win Defensive Player of the Year. However, he may face an uphill battle with three-time winner Rudy Gobert seemingly ahead of him in the award race.