Chet Holmgren Quickly Shows He Belongs in Early Stages of Highly Anticipated NBA Career – InForum

LAS VEGAS — Chet Holmgren has had an abrupt introduction to pro basketball in recent weeks — from nonstop action that saw the Oklahoma City Summer League team play four games in five days between their Salt Lake City and Las Vegas action, to the square against legitimate NBA talent to endless media commitments.

After playing a game on Saturday night, Holmgren was taken from one media checkpoint to another, completing three separate engagements in the space of 20 minutes, capped by a scrum with reporters.

Honestly, he handled everything like a pro.

The Minnehaha Academy graduate, who finished second overall in last month’s draft, played the role of a top NBA prospect early in his pro career. That was true on the floor and off.

He wowed viewers with his stunning debut as he scored 23 points in 7-for-9 shooting – drilling three points and hitting Dirk Nowitzki-style stepback jumpers – plus seven rebounds and six blocked shots. Holmgren has consistently backed up that performance, demonstrating his successful, well-rounded game every time he has spoken up.

Holmgren lived up to his bill and proved he was up to the task.

“It’s just great to be able to get out there and compete, try to work on what I’ve been working on in the gym for the past few months, and try to get better,” said Holmgren, a prior year college graduate. Ball had graduated when Gonzaga turned pro. “I feel like I’m adapting well (to the pace). The pace and space (of the pro game) definitely help when I’m able to make choices and play in space. After not playing for a few months I just need to get used to it and make sure I have my wheels under me.”

In his Saturday game against Houston, which included a highly touted matchup with No. 3 overall Jabari Smith Jr., Holmgren finished with 12 points — eight rebounds and two steals.

There was never the slightest inkling that Holmgren was getting sucked into the one-on-one fight hype. At halftime of that game, the only thing he got upset with himself at halftime was that he didn’t feel like he was doing enough to protect the colour. He corrected that by blocking four shots in the last two quarters.

“With a guy like him, it’s easy to commit to a certain facet of the game, good or bad,” said Thunder Summer League coach Kameron Woods. “But he’s so unique that he affects the game in many ways.”

Houston Rockets guard Daishen Nix (15) attempts to make a pass while Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) during an NBA Summer League game on Saturday, July 9, 2022, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Stephen R Sylvanie / USA Today Sports

That’s why Josh Giddey, Thunder’s second-year guard, who plays in the Summer League after a memorable rookie season in Oklahoma City, said Holmgren was the man he wanted to pick for Oklahoma City. Their chemistry continues to grow, with Giddey calling Holmgren a “fun guy to play with.”

“He does everything, both sides of the floor,” Giddey said. “Extends the ground, knocks down threes, plays on the edge, can play in the middle area. On the defensive side, he’s protecting the rim like I’ve never seen before, so I know he’s behind me on that side.”

Woods noted that all production falls within Thunder’s schedule.

“He’s really smart. He’s bright. He wants to do things right, he wants to do things the Thunder way. Our conversations were really just learning the NBA game,” Woods said. “With a guy like him, it’s easy to want to use him in a lot of different ways, it’s easy to want to move away from what we’re doing because he’s so unique. But I think he did a great job trying to impose our style.”

Holmgren said he’s “just trying to learn from every single experience,” good or bad. While he’s dazzled with his skills, opposing bigs have made it a point to outmaneuver the lanky “center,” who as a 20-year-old is probably better suited to play for power forward but will surely be asked to do so under internal strain .

He has already demonstrated his ability to adapt and find counterattacks in the way he is attacked or defended. With Smith Jr. – a senior defenseman – guarding him in Las Vegas, Holmgren managed to work in the center of the floor to still make good shot attempts.

Experience. To learn. Adapt.

“The worst thing you can do is have a great game, great summer league, and not learn from it,” Holmgren said. “So we’re just trying to learn from everything that’s happening on our team, how other teams play against us, practice whatever it may be, just try to learn.”

That’s what Holmgren has always been. He is usually the most talented player on the floor, but only interested in doing what is necessary to have the highest probability of winning. In the early years at Minnehaha Academy, that meant doing lots of other things while allowing his other star teammates to score. As a senior with the Redhawks, it was usually about dominating the game in all its facets.

At Gonzaga, Holmgren had to play more of an interior game. In the NBA, the 7-footer is encouraged to use all his skills. The Thunder have a young core of talented guards and wings, but the 7-Footer unlocks so much more potential for the team’s success.

“He’s going to be a huge piece of our future,” Giddey said, “and what we do going forward.”

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