The home opener was a doozy for the Thunder, so Monday night in the Paycom Center was their chance for redemption. Luckily, they played the Detroit Pistons, who are significantly better than they’ve been in years past but not good enough for the resurgent Thunder, who handled the Pistons 124-112.
While OKC’s Big 4 finished with a combined 86 points on 53.3 percent shooting, the story behind tonight’s game was Chet Holmgren flashing, yet again, more facets of his game.
In three of Holmgren’s first four games this season, he’s displayed something different.
He’s shown us his incredible shot-blocking ability that NBA scouts and Draft experts were drooling over before the 2022 NBA Draft. In OKC’s 108-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road, Holmgren showed it all, scoring 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting and 3-of-4 shooting from 3, pulling down 13 rebounds, and rejecting 7 shots, which set a record for blocks by a Thunder rookie –– in his second-career game.
On Sunday, Holmgren didn’t boast a colossal stat line, but in a game where the Thunder we down and out early, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander couldn’t get anything going offensively, and Nikola Jokic was doing things only the best player in the NBA could do, Chet quietly got the job done, still scoring 19 points on 7-of-12 (58.3%) shooting.
Then, one day later, after guarding and being guarded by 285-pound Jokic, Chet “Needs to get Fatter” (according to Jokic), Holmgren went up against a pair of young, strong, and athletic bigs in Jalen Duren and Marvin Bagley. He didn’t seem to struggle much. Perhaps Holmgren had his most well-rounded performance of his four-game career, tallying 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals. All of Chet’s shot attempts came from three against the Pistons, netting 4-of-5 from long distance and hitting both free throw attempts.
Holmgren can score inside and outside of the paint. He can block shots, force players to adjust shots, and create quality shots for his teammates. Additionally, in situations where he knows he’s outmatched by a beefier center, he can manipulate them by hitting 3s at a more than respectable clip than 95 percent of his counterparts league-wide.
Through Holmgren’s first four NBA games, he’s averaging 15.0 points, 2.8 blocks, and 2.5 3-pointers made at a 62.5 percent clip, while shooting 60.3 percent from the floor. He is also the only player in NBA history to average 2-plus blocks per game and 2-plus 3s per game.
The season is young, but with the abundance of anticipation that has brewed behind Chet’s name over the last 16 months in Oklahoma City, it’s a great sign to see things come together for him this early in his career.