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Talking about award races this early in the NBA feels a little unfair. After all, we haven't even reached the one month mark yet. But in a year where Victor Wembanyama was expected to run away with the Rookie of the Year award, so far it's looking like we could be in store for a closer finish than many expected.

Make no mistake, Wemby has been unreal. He's living up to the hype, and is looking every bit the once-in-a-generation talent that everyone projected him to be. His 38-point performance against Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns felt like one big "I've arrived" moment in what was the Spurs' second win in three days against the championship-hopeful Suns. But while Wemby is off to an impressive start, there's another rookie who is having just as good, if not an even slightly better, NBA start.

Chet Holmgren's numbers rival Wembanyama's in every way. The No. 2 pick in the 2022 draft fits like a perfect pair of jeans on the Oklahoma City Thunder. With a similar build to Wembanyama: a lanky, freakishly tall frame, Holmgren also possesses a lot of the same skills Wemby does. He has the same fluidity with the ball in his hands as Wembanyama, can put the ball on the deck to create for himself and can even bring the ball up the floor and initiate offense. Both he and Wembanyama have also already established themselves as elite rim protectors, with Holmgren's seven-block game displaying his ability to make an impact on defense.


Chet Holmgren










Victor Wembanyama










But where Holmgren may hold the tiniest bit of an advantage over Wembanyama for Rookie of the Year right now is his efficiency. His shooting splits of 55/50/89 are not just insane for rookie standards, they're unprecedented in the NBA. Holmgren's the only player in NBA history to average over 15 points a game, while scoring with the efficiency he's displaying. Sure, that may not hold over the course of the season, but Holmgren has just logged 10 games as a pro and his production is already historic.

This isn't to say that what Wemby is doing isn't impressive, but Holmgren's scoring mirrors the No. 1 overall pick while taking six fewer shots per game. Holmgren isn't the center of the offense like Wembanyama is with the Spurs, so by that simple fact Wemby's efficiency will be a tier below as he's doing it all on a young, rebuilding San Antonio team. But Holmgren's had the equally difficult task of fitting in on a team that was already on the upswing when he joined the starting lineup this year. 

While Holmgren was sidelined all of last season with a Lisfranc injury, OKC was quietly developing one of the best young cores in the league centered around budding superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort and last year's Rookie of the Year runner-up Jalen Williams. The Thunder primarily played small ball last season, to much success, so there were questions about adding the 7-foot-1 Holmgren to the mix. Would he throw off the chemistry the team built last season? Will he be able to fit into a specific role for the Thunder? Can someone of his build survive against the strength and size in the NBA? Through 10 games Holmgren's certainly quelled those concerns, and he's doing it as the team's third-leading scorer and top rebounder.

There's still tons of basketball yet to be played, so making any grand gestures this early in the season about Rookie of the Year would be foolish. If Holmgren manages to up his scoring average while maintaining the same level of efficiency, it would be hard to deny him the hardware. But for now, we'll just have to watch as these two unicorns continue to build upon their impressive rookie campaigns. That continues with their first head-to-head meeting of their NBA careers on Tuesday, as the Thunder and Spurs face off for an in-season tournament contest. It's sure to be a thrilling matchup, and -- if nothing else -- less than one month into the season the outlook on Rookie of the Year Award has shifted from coronation to conversation.