I am going to start with the obligatory summer league disclaimer. This is Summer League, we should not overreact.
Second overall pick Chet Holmgren looked nothing short of amazing last night in a debut that could not have possibly gone any better. He finished the first quarter of his professional career with 13 points and three 3-pointers made. He checked out of the game for the rest of the night in the third quarter with 23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 blocks (a Salt Lake City Summer League Record, that Chet wants to “break again”). Not too bad.
His shot-blocking abilities were the number one driver of the hype behind him all year and Holmgren certainly put these skills on display last night. One of them coming against consensus first-team All-American Kofi Cockburn and two of them coming against 7’6″ Tacko Fall.
He made his presence felt in the opening minute of the game. Cockburn was unable to find an angle to finish at the rim before being blocked by Chet’s long arms. Cockburn tried using his bigger body to create separation and whilst Chet did get pushed back, his length nullified the advantage of Cockburn. This is an example of why Holmgren’s lack of strength relating to guarding the interior may be overblown.
This next block showcases two of his most renowned talents; shot-blocking and transition playmaking. He sticks with #42 (yes, we’re disrespecting summer league players today) on the Jazz as he attacks the rim, forcing him to come to a stop and turn around for a jumper. Holmgren easily gets the block and recovers the ball with the around-the-back dribble and transition pass to Jalen Williams for the and-one (Williams had a fantastic game himself today). His lateral quickness isn’t anything special, but he’s able to keep up with perimeter players thanks to his length. A 7’1” big who you can rely on to grab-and-go and lead the fast break is invaluable in the modern NBA, allowing the Thunder to push the pace in transition for easy buckets.
This block is probably his best play of the night. I could not tell you what went through the mind of #70 as he attempted to put Chet on a poster. He’ll think twice about that next time. Excellent work from Chet to go straight up and get two hands on the ball whilst avoiding a foul. I would also like to give credit to Josh Giddey for his help defense here: watch how he drops down to close off any opportunity for a dump-off, allowing Chet to focus solely on contesting the shot:
Chet’s scoring arsenal was on display today, too. Is he finally getting to show the world what he can do after being rather under-utilized at Gonzaga last year? His seven made field goals consisted of four threes, two dunks and a Dirk-esque mid-range jumper.
This is what we’ve all been looking forward to seeing. The Giddey and Chet combination is going to be a prominent feature of the Thunder offense for years, and it all started with this pick-and-pop three. You can’t leave Chet with that much space, or you’ll be punished.
Now watch this one, Thunder fans. Does a seven-footer stringing together an in-and-out and behind-the-back dribble with a little hesitation at the end, before knocking down a three over the outstretched arms of a defender, remind you of anyone?
Yeah, #35. A guy who Chet has been compared to frequently across recent years as they are both slender, 7’0″ unicorns who can handle and shoot the ball. Sure, they have their differences, but the comparison is far from unjustified:
This bucket right here is what got me the most excited:
We just touched on his pull-up three that sparks memories of Kevin Durant, but this one may resonate more with Dallas fans who watched Dirk Nowitzki play for their franchise for 21 seasons. Chet spins off the defender before hitting a familiar one-legged fadeaway at the elbow.
As we’ve covered at Daily Thunder, Holmgren was fairly limited offensively in his role at Gonzaga, being relegated to a play finisher who spotted up on the wing for three and finished lobs. But his scoring arsenal extends far beyond those walls and he will have every opportunity to showcase his bucket-getting abilities in Oklahoma City.
There are some skills that Chet can show in Oklahoma City that he didn’t get to showcase at Gonzaga…He should have more freedom playing for a team that has has talent development as its primary goal, trying those things he could get away with in high school and AAU but not against college competition.Aidan Elrod, “How About That Thunder 2022 Draft Class?”
If Chet is to become more of a self-creator in the NBA, the mid-range is going to be a crucial aspect of his game. If he can get to his spot off the dribble and shoot over people on face-ups, that will be hard to stop when you pair it with his knockdown jumper and finishing abilities.
Holmgren has also been touted as an exceptional playmaker for a big man, being able to find cutters and hit them on the money. Here, Jalen Williams cuts to the basket off Holmgren and loses his defender. Chet has no trouble finding him over the top for the easy slam. JDub’s impressive debut featured 17 points on 8/11 from the field.
I’ll reiterate once more that yes, it is summer league, but this was a fantastic performance from a player touted by many as the best player in the draft class all year. Oklahoma City plays again versus the Memphis Grizzlies today. It is yet to be known how many summer league games Holmgren will play, so soak up every minute he’s on the court because we won’t be seeing him until October after summer league is completed. To quote Josh Giddey on Twitter, Chet Holmgren is quite clearly “HIMMM”.