Wembanyama is incredible, but the DPOY resides in Minnesota

Feb 27, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) dribbles
Feb 27, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) dribbles / Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
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Victor Wembanyama entered the NBA this season with rookie expectations rivaled perhaps only by LeBron James in 2003. He has managed to shatter those lofty expectations. The 7-foot-4, 20-year-old French phenom is averaging 21.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. He is the betting odds favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and recently has been making a surge for Defensive Player of the Year. If he were to win, it would be the first time a rookie has accomplished this feat.

NBA analyst Chris Broussard, who has a vote for the award, recently announced that he is "strongly considering" Wembanyama for the award. Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, who has won the award himself, also cast his unofficial vote for ‘Wemby.’

Two things are standing in his way of making history. First, a lack of team success—the Spurs are last in the West. Since the creation of the award in 1982, only two winners have been part of a team with a losing record. The second thing standing in his way (only slightly below his eye level) is his fellow countryman, Rudy Gobert, who anchors the league’s top defense. Gobert is the favorite to win his fourth DPOY, but gauging the temperature of NBA Twitter it seems a revolt is coming should he win again over the sensational rookie.

Recent articles have mounted the case for Wembanyama citing his ridiculous counting stats and gaudy defensive on/off metrics. Should these be enough to overcome the lack of team success?

First Comparison: Counting Stats

Of Victor Wembanyama’s eye-popping stats, his block totals are what jump off the screen. His 3.6 blocks per game are tops in the league and his 4.4 blocks per 36 minutes are more than any rotation player since Hassan Whiteside in the 2015-16 season. He also demonstrates his defensive versatility by picking up 1.2 steals per game.

Gobert, on the other hand, is averaging far fewer of these counting stats —just 2.1 blocks and 0.7 steals per game. However, there’s more to defense than blocks and steals.

For a center, one of the most important skills is to be able to affect shots at the rim. Both Gobert and Wembanyama rank highly in this category, however, Gobert is simply on another level. Opponents are shooting 48.4 percent within six feet of the rim compared to Wembanyama’s 53.1 percent.