We are almost halfway through the 2023-2024 NBA season. There have been a ton of intriguing storylines this season. LeBron James is 39 years old and is still averaging 25 points per game. Ja Morant was suspended for 25 games and then came back and sustained a season-ending injury. Draymond Green hit Jusuf Nurkic in the face and was suspended for 12 games. But from a draft perspective, the most intriguing storyline has been the Rookie of the Year race. Here is a list of the top NBA rookies nearing the halfway point in the NBA regular season.
10. Ausar Thompson – Small Forward – Detroit Pistons
Season Stats: 8.1 PTS, 6.7 REB, 2.1 AST, 44.6 FG%
When the Detroit Pistons selected Ausar Thompson fifth overall in the 2023 NBA Draft, people expected big things. Ausar and his brother Amen have been highly publicized. The duo of talented forwards became the first siblings to both be drafted in the first top ten picks – they did it in consecutive picks. The Detroit Pistons hoped Ausar Thompson would be a shot in the arm. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case so far. Thompson is scoring just over 8 points per game and is playing only 23.6 minutes per game. Both his points and his minutes per game have seen a reduction in December and early January. Ausar Thompson cracks the list due to his potential and some of his early performances. The key for both Thompson twins to unlocking their potential will be improving on their shooting. 15.5% from three makes it difficult to keep defenders honest. It remains to be seen whether they can improve enough to justify such high draft positions.
9. Toumani Camara – Power Forward – Portland Trail Blazers
Season Stats: 7.2 PTS, 5.0 REB, 0.9 AST, 41.1 FG%
When the 2023-2024 NBA Draft season started, little to no one thought that Toumani Camara would be one of the better rookies in the class. The Suns drafted Camara in the second round with the 52nd pick; they would later move Camara to the Trail Blazers. Camara played in college at Georgia and Dayton and in his senior year he scored 13.9 points per game. In the NBA, Camara has shined as one of the best young two-way players. The 6-foot-7-inch forward is not only good at getting to the rim, he plays a smothering form of on-ball defense. Most second-round picks don’t do what Camara has – play a significant role on their team early on. Expect even more growth from the 23-year-old.
8. Brandin Podziemski – Shooting Guard – Golden State Warriors
Season Stats: 9.2 PTS, 5.5 REB, 3.2 AST, 46.3 FG%
Brandon Podziemski is benefiting greatly learning the nuances from the GOAT Steph Curry. The 19th pick of the 2023 NBA Draft is shooting 40.2% from three. Podziemski played one year at Illinois from 2021-2022. Then the 6’ 4” guard transferred to Santa Clara. With the Santa Clara Broncos, Podziemski scored 19.9 points per game making him WCC co-Player of the Year. The Warriors selected the sharpshooter with their first-round pick. Although Podziemski has had some success, he has not put up the numbers the Warriors had hoped. While he has hit a rookie wall to some degree, he’s a confident player who maximizes his abilities well. If Podziemski puts it all together, the Warriors could have a new weapon, or at worst a trade chip.
7. Jordan Hawkins – Shooting Guard – New Orleans Pelicans
Season Stats: 10.7 PTS, 2.8 REB, 1.5 AST, 40.1 FG%
Jordan Hawkins has had a very interesting rookie season so far. Hawkins is scoring over 10 points per game this season for the Pelican. Hawkins, the 21-year-old, was the 14th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft out of UConn. In his rookie campaign, Hawkins has been playing an inconsistent amount of minutes per game. When he plays, Hawkins has been great. The problem is Hawkins has mostly seen the bench the last two months. The change is mostly because of the return of Trey Murphy III from injury. Hawkins’s game is characterized by his excellent three-point shooting – 38%. The rookie’s best game came against Dallas when he put up 34 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. If Hawkins plays more he will end up higher on this list.
6. Keyonte George – Point Guard – Utah Jazz
Season Stats: 11.1 PTS, 3.0 REB, 4.5 AST, 37.0 FG%
Keyonte George has been one of the better rookies in the NBA this season. The 6’ 4” combo guard has been a steady piece for the Utah Jazz. George went to high school at IMG Academy and then spent one year at Baylor. With the Baylor Bears, George scored over 15 points per game – good enough for Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors. The Texas native was the 16th overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, and quickly proving to be one of the steals of the draft. This season, George has found success in the NBA as not only a good scorer but an above-average passer. Keyonte George has played well thus far as a rookie and has helped propel the Jazz to a record over .500 (as of writing).
5. Scoot Henderson – Point Guard – Portland Trail Blazers
Season Stats: 12.7 PTS, 3.1 REB, 5.0 AST, 36.4 FG%
Scoot Henderson had high expectations coming into the NBA. And as the season has progressed, he has begun to live up to them. The point guard was a five-star prospect coming out of high school. Henderson could have gone to college anywhere he wanted to but decided to go the G League Ignite route. With the Ignite, Henderson scored over 16 points per game. His standout play over two years in the G League allowed him to become the third overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. This season, the 6’ 3” Georgia native is scoring over 12 points per game for the Trail Blazers and has four double-doubles. Henderson’s success this early on is impressive because he is still only 19 years old. If Henderson gets more minutes and starts to mature, he can develop into one of the best young point guards in the league.
4. Jaime Jaquez Jr. – Small Forward – Miami Heat
Season Stats: 14.0 PTS, 3.9 REB, 2.7 AST, 51.3 FG%
Talk about the perfect fit, for a team known for their culture, as well as any team in the league. Not only has Jaime Jaquez Jr. been underrated as a rookie, he is also underrated on his own team. Jaquez Jr. shares the court with talented teammates –Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, and Duncan Robinson. But, Jaquez Jr. has been a solid weapon for the Miami Heat all year long, despite being drafted in the second half of the first round. The small forward is averaging nearly 14 points per game and in December that number went up to 16. Jaquez Jr. is not only a fluid mover of the basketball, but he is also a 36% three-point shooter. Jaime Jaquez Jr. looks like he is going to be a solid two-way player for a long time.
3. Brandon Miller – Small Forward – Charlotte Hornets
Season Stats: 13.9 PTS, 3.7 REB, 2.2 AST, 41.5 FG%
Brandon Miller was the second overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft and proving to be the right pick. The Alabama product is only 21 years old and has been a solid weapon for the Hornets. Miller is shooting an impressive 38% from beyond the arc this season. He has also shown talent in the paint. Despite his early success, Miller is fifth on the team in points per game. Additionally, the Charlotte Hornets are 8-27 this season and Miller is not necessarily having a huge impact so far on wins and losses. Perhaps the presence of overrated LaMelo Ball is partially to blame for Charlotte underachieving. While Miller has had some success this season, he’ll look to improve on consistency and to impact games more in the second half of the year.
2. Victor Wembanyama – Center – San Antonio Spurs
Season Stats: 19.4 PTS, 10.2 REB, 3.0 AST, 45.2 FG%
Victor Wembanyama is the lone bright spot for an abysmal Spurs team. As of writing this, the Spurs have a record of 6-30. Wembanyama is averaging a double-double each game as a rookie. “Wemby” leads San Antonio in points per game this season despite just turning 20 years old. Additionally, Wemby recorded his first career triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in only 21 minutes. The Spurs offense runs through the talented center. But Wemby can hardly be considered a traditional center. Wemby is an above-average three-point shooter and runner of the floor for someone his size. The freaky center will be a staple of San Antonio for a long time.
1. Chet Holmgren – Power Forward – Oklahoma City Thunder
Season Stats: 17.9 PTS, 7.3 REB, 2.7 AST, 55.7 FG%
There is a serious debate as to whether or not to put Victor Wembanyama here. Holmgren and Wembanyama are statistically similar. You could argue that because Wembanyama is surrounded by a worse supporting cast, he has not been able to fully showcase his abilities. That being said, the Thunder having a winning percentage of .488 last season and.694 so far this season helps Holmgren, and it’s clear he is having a big impact. A good deal of the team’s surge forward from last season can be attributed to the rookie power forward. Holmgren has been a reliable scorer and consistent and clutch performer for OKC and has only failed to hit double digits in two games this season. Pairing Holmgren with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams bodes extremely well for the future of the Thunder.