June 21, 2024

The day after securing his place as just the sixth unanimous Rookie of the Year, Victor Wembanyama came tantalizingly close to another historic achievement, landing in second for Defensive Player of the Year.

The honor ultimately went to fellow French big man Rudy Gobert, who clinched his fourth win, joining the ranks of Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace as the only four-time winners. Wembanyama garnered 19 first-place votes, 44 second-place votes, and 18 third-place votes.

Minnesota Timberwolves v San Antonio Spurs

The outcome aligns with expectations, especially considering insights from voters who had already disclosed their preferences. It had been evident that many hesitated to vote for a rookie playing on a team with a bottom 10 defense.

However, it’s noteworthy that Wembanyama was recognized as the top defender in the league by his peers in a survey conducted by The Athletic. This accolade is well-deserved, given his remarkable performance on the court.

Despite being frequently denied opportunities by opposing players, as illustrated by a memorable 3-on-1 situation against the Grizzlies late in the season, Wembanyama showcased his defensive prowess.

He led the league in blocks, stocks (a combination of steals and blocks), and block percentage, swatting an impressive 10 percent of shots directed his way.

Although Wemby didn’t clinch the title this year, his future prospects are undoubtedly bright. Securing the runner-up spot in his rookie season is a historic achievement in itself. Moreover, he still has the opportunity to make history by earning a spot on the All-Defense 1st team, which is now position-less starting this season.

Essentially, the 1st team comprises the top five defenders in the league regardless of position, while the 2nd team consists of the next five, and so forth. No rookie has ever made the first team, and only a select few, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Manute Bol, David Robinson, and Tim Duncan, have made the 2nd team in their rookie seasons.

Wemby’s accomplishments in his rookie season are nothing short of remarkable. Despite the immense hype and seemingly insurmountable expectations, he managed to exceed them, although he may not readily admit it.

Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs wins NBA Rookie of the Year  award | CNN

Moreover, there’s been murmurs about his potential to achieve Greatest of All Time (GOAT) status, although it’s premature to make such claims. Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that the future looks exceptionally promising for this rookie phenom. Assuming his development continues on its current trajectory, the version of Wemby we’re witnessing now may well be the “weakest” iteration—a notion that’s almost unfathomable.

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