Kia Rookie Ladder: Chet Holmgren holds steady; Jamie Jaquez Jr. soars –

Find out how Chet Holmgren is holding steady atop this week’s Power Rankings as’s Steve Aschburner joins GameTime.

New Orleans’ Jordan Hawkins didn’t beat Chet Holmgren as the Western Conference’s top rookie for October/November — heck, even Victor Wembanyama didn’t manage that — but he can make one boast that’s his and his alone:

No other Ladder rookie is going to experience the bright lights and big stage of the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament games in Las Vegas this week.

Getting a Semifinals shot at the Lakers on Thursday (9 ET, TNT) is a nice step for the Pelicans as they work to return to the playoffs, and it could mean a lot to Hawkins, too. Assuming he gets on the floor — coach Willie Green had the UConn shooter sit and watch the Quarterfinals victory over Sacramento.

Weekly recap

• Holmgren had his No. 1 rung validated with the monthly award for West rookies. He averaged 17.9 points on 53.7% shooting, leading OKC to a 12-6 mark through Nov. 30 with 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.

• Miami’s Jaime Jaquez Jr., drafted 18th overall and after nine other rookies in the East, earned his conference’s first newbie prize with 12 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and one steal per game. He shot 52.9%, including 39% on 3-pointers.

• Wembanyama is still in a neck-and-neck race at the Ladder’s top. But there was no way he was edging out Holmgren this week. By whatever standards, the NBA with the award determined the Thunder center was No. 1 through November. Then Wemby rested in the Spurs’ only game so far in December. Logic, see?

Storyline to watch

Delayed launch. For various and time-honored reasons such as injuries, roster logjams and baby-step development, we’re still anticipating rather than witnessing steady contributions from multiple prospects drafted in the Top 20. Among them: the Houston Rockets’ Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore, the Indiana Pacers’ Jarace Walker, the Utah Jazz’s Taylor Hendricks and the Orlando Magic’s Jett Howard. With three-quarters of the regular season remaining, and even G League experience to be had, there’s still ample opportunity for them to get traction.

Latest ranking

(All stats through Tuesday, Dec. 5)

1. Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder

Season stats: 17.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.2 bpg
Last Ladder: 1
Draft pick: No. 2 (2022)

Over the past 15 seasons, one team has had rookies hailed three straight years as the month’s best in their conference. That’s OKC, which added Holmgren to the list that includes Jalen Williams last season and Josh Giddey in 2021-22. Holmgren’s shooting was off from his norms — 48% overall, 1-of-9 from the arc — but he picked up his seventh double-double at Dallas Saturday with four blocks.

2. Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

Season stats: 19.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.7 bpg
Last Ladder: 2
Draft pick: No. 1

Wembanyama scored at least 21 points in four consecutive games before sitting out for the first time this season. That’s notable for a guy many thought would be nurse-maided by overly cautious Spurs bosses. His inactive game was the second of a back-to-back, but Wemby played both ends in San Antonio’s first two such sets.

3. Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets

Season stats: 14.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg
Last Ladder: 5
Draft pick: No. 2 overall

Miller’s usage rate jumped to 25.5 vs. the Knicks last week in the first game without injured LaMelo Ball. The rookie’s minutes and role should keep growing in that void. He drew praise from a veteran teammate whose job he might eventually take. “The thing that impressed me the most about him was his poise in the pocket, especially with the ball in his hands, not only making plays for himself but being able to see over the defense,” Gordon Hayward told

4. Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat

Season stats: 12 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.6 apg
Last Ladder: 6
Draft pick: No. 18

On the fringes of the Kia Rookie Ladder, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Jordan Hawkins have both found ways to impact winning.

Jaquez earned his official recognition while filling a key rotation role for the Heat. A reminder of the instant value a four-year college player can provide, he ranks in the Top 5 in nine individual categories. And the UCLA product has played the entire fourth quarter nine times, one of only 24 players league-wide averaging at least nine minutes per fourth.

5. Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons

Season stats: 10.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.7 apg
Last Ladder: 4
Draft pick: No. 5

Tough going for the Pistons’ rookie. First, there’s the losing (17 straight games as of this writing). Second, he suffered a right facial fracture. Third, he has moved to the bench and could lose time with veteran shooter Bojan Bogdanovic finally back. Fourth, foul trouble hurts playing time as well. Of such things are rookie challenges and growth made.

The Next 5:

6. Keyonte George, Utah Jazz

Season stats: 10.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.0 apg
Last Ladder: 7
Draft pick: No. 16

For fun, John Stockton’s stats after 20 games: 7.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 6.7 apg.

7. Jordan Hawkins, New Orleans Pelicans

Season stats: 12.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg
Last Ladder: 3
Draft pick: No. 14

Oddly, shooting 44.3% in the first halves of games but only 31% in the second.

8. Dereck Lively II, Dallas Mavericks

Season stats: 8.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg
Last Ladder: 8
Draft pick: No. 12

Big night vs. OKC with 20 points, 16 rebounds and 7 blocks. His 9 FGA tied his season high.

9. Cason Wallace, Oklahoma City Thunder

Season stats: 7.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.4 apg
Last Ladder: Not ranked
Draft pick: No. 10

Hitting 52.5% from the arc. At 71.2%, he’s second to Lively (72.2%) in rookie EFG%.

10. Brandin Podziemski, Golden State Warriors

Season stats: 7.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.2 apg
Last Ladder: Not ranked
Draft pick: No. 19

Draymond Green on Ladder newbie: “Irrational confidence.”

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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Ellis Wilder

Hey there! My name is Ellis Wilder, and I'm a student at the University of Calgary. When I'm not hitting the books, you can usually find me writing articles for sports and travel blogs. I've always had a passion for exploring new places and experiencing different cultures, so I love sharing my travel stories with others. Whether I'm hiking in the Rocky Mountains or exploring a new city, I always try to capture the essence of the places I visit in my writing. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy reading my articles as much as I enjoy writing them!

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