Is Chet Holmgren enough to push the OKC Thunder from tanking to competing?

Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports).
Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports). /
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OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren (7) and guard Josh Giddey (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports) /

Hats off to OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti, who never deviated from his gut while navigating a sudden rebuild with precision and self-awareness. The Thunder architect steered the ship through contention with a triad of superstars and came out on the other side, evolving his team until there was nothing left to do but strip it down and start anew.

Fast forward through a frisky season with a rejuvenated Chris Paul and a few years of outright tanking to arrive at the doorstep of a new era led by No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren. A singular talent blending size, skill, and tenacity, Holmgren breaks the mold of NBA centers as we know them by playing with an innovative mindset on offense and an assertive approach on defense.

Holmgren defied expectations for the OKC Thunder in Las Vegas.

Draft analysts expressed concerns about Holmgren’s transition to the NBA, and rightfully so. His slender frame and questionable balance make him an easy target for the burly bigs he’ll face as a pro. Though he struggled at times, those concerns were generally eased at the Las Vegas Summer League, where Holmgren proved that his versatility defies all expectations.

Oklahoma City played a balanced game with equal ball distribution, offering a fair opportunity to many of its young players. The offense wasn’t specifically catered to him and he wasn’t put in a position to force shots. Yet the 7-footer managed to hit more than half of his field goal attempts, 40% of his 3s, and demonstrated his ability to make his mark near the rim without having to bang in the post.

A transcendent prospect who would’ve been a worthy selection with the top overall pick, Holmgren already has the weight of the OKC Thunder on his shoulders. Presti has seen what combo guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is capable of and sophomore Josh Giddey has shown great promise, but they need a frontcourt option to bind the team together.