2024 PBT NBA Awards: Wembanyama for Rookie of the Year; Gobert Defensive Player of Year

Over the course of the next few days I will continue to share my NBA Awards ballot, with a couple up today.

2024 NBA Rookie of the Year

1. Victor Wembanyama (San Antonio)

2. Chet Holmgren (Oklahoma City)
3. Brandon Miller (Charlotte)

I wouldn’t call this a no-brainer because that comes off as an unfair insult to Holmgren, who had a fantastic rookie season filling an important role for the West’s No. 1 seed. However, it was pretty clear — Wembanyama simply is on another level. If the argument is “Holmgren played in games that mattered for the playoffs,” know that’s just not something that carries a lot of weight with Rookie of the Year because the nature of the NBA Draft is to send the best players to the worst teams (plus, Gregg Popovich and San Antonio made some interesting choices early in the season playing Wembanyama at the four and without a traditional point guard). Wembanyama averaged 21.4 points and 10.6 rebounds a game, but more importantly was a defensive force as well and he found his comfort level with the game as the season wore on.

The only other consideration here was Miami’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. in the third spot, but his 3-point shooting and game tailed off the second half of the season while Miller found a groove and showed why he deserved to be the No. 2 pick. Jaquez was close (and is on my first-team All-Rookie ballot) but I went with Miller.

2024 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

1. Rudy Gobert (Minnesota)

2. Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
3. Bam Adebayo (Miami)

There were four clear big men in the mix for three spots, with Wembanyama being the other — and I expect most voters will have the rookie in their top three. I strongly considered it, he certainly impacted that end of the floor at the highest of levels and made first-team All-Defense for me. Wembanyama will win this award numerous times, maybe starting next season. However, the other three on this list played defense at the same level and impacted winning for their teams more in doing so, that’s why they made my ballot. Gobert has become more mobile and moves better on the perimeter than he used to, and he anchored the best defense in the league this season, he was clearly in the top spot. You can pick a hole in the games of Davis and Adebayo — shooters Davis covered didn’t see a big drop in their expected field goal percentage (using Second Spectrum tracking data) and Adebayo isn’t the deterrent in the paint that Davis, Gobert and Wembanyama are — but it wasn’t enough for me to put Wembanyama in front of them this season. But his time is coming.

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