Once skeptical, now optimistic about Chet Holmgren’s potential in OKC

Hopefully, by now, you’re aware of the results from the 2022 NBA Draft. If you’re not, know that Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder won the night.

Houston may have stolen perhaps the best player in the draft with the No. 3 pick by selecting Jabari Smith Jr., but Oklahoma City wasn’t satisfied with two lottery picks; they had to cop three.

Chet Holmgren was Oklahoma City’s second pick in a draft that you couldn’t miss if you were in the top three. Next came Ousmane Dieng with the 11th pick (which OKC received via a trade), then Jalen Williams followed with the No. 12 pick to round out the first round. With the 34th pick, OKC drafted Jaylin Williams out of Arkansas.

It’s well-documented that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the idea of OKC drafting Holmgren before the draft, strictly due to his lack of size (195 pounds). However, Sam Presti, per usual, was meticulous in his selections and chose four guys that will help the Thunder immediately while filling multiple holes in OKC’s roster.

But, I’m here to talk about why the Holmgren pick was better than I thought on the surface.

Okay, I was trippin’. Chet is the real deal.

Chet is the star of this Thunder draft class and potentially the best player in the entire draft. The best thing about him is that he doesn’t possess major weaknesses outside his slim frame. He’s a floor-spacer, a fringe 40% three-point shooter, and that’s only going to improve with practice. Holmgren is defensive-minded, averaging 10 rebounds per game and 3.7 blocks. He can handle the ball like a guard, get to his spot seamlessly, and be a scoring threat from virtually anywhere on the court.

As much as I don’t want to bring it back up, Chet being 195 pounds is a concern, only if he’s expected to guard traditional big men. It depends on the lineup that’s on the court with him, but OKC not having a solid defensive presence, or at least a “tough guy” in the paint was an issue last season, and I’m not sure who would step up in that department.

Darius Bazley is solid defensively and doesn’t back down from a challenge, but him versus centers over 7 feet doesn’t stand much of a chance. Derrick Favors is aging and likely can’t keep up with younger, active bigs. Mike Muscala is serviceable, but not the tough guy OKC needs, and none of us are entirely sure what Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is because he only played 49 games last season.

What makes me more optimistic and rather excited about Holmgren coming to OKC is that Presti addressed the “toughness” void. He did that with his pick, Jaylin Williams, out of the University of Arkansas.

My biggest concern, above Holmgren’s size, was the Thunder was not viewed as a “tough” team. When looking at championship-caliber teams, they have at least one player that has a certain edge to them, and before this draft, that person was non-existent. This isn’t to say Holmgren isn’t tough. He’s actually tough as nails. But that’s more in his work ethic and drive.

Williams was the energy guy, the glue guy, and the emotional leader on the Razorbacks in his two years there. Expect the same in Oklahoma City as he presumably grows into that role for the Thunder. As the 34th pick, Williams may not turn out to be a star, but maybe he will. Could he be a Draymond Green type of guy for this franchise? Who knows? But I believe he’ll have a “tough guy” role and will fit that role seamlessly. He may be slightly smaller than most big men he “may” guard at 6-foot-10, 245 pounds, but his defensive mind is there. He’s a defense-first guy, with super technique on the perimeter for a guy his size, while holding his own in the paint against guys his size and bigger.

Williams was on the SEC’s All-Defensive team last season while averaging 10.9 points and 9.8 points per game for the Razorbacks.

Again, does this draft answer all of OKC’s questions? No. Are there still things left to be discovered with these guys? Yes. But I feel like this draft class is the group that’ll jumpstart the revival of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

About the author

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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