The OKC Thunder found a defensive fulcrum to mask their weaknesses.
While their record may not show it, Oklahoma City was a better defensive team than you’d expect last season. They finished 17th in defensive rating and 13th in defended field goal percentage but struggled in two vital areas: corner 3s and floater-range (or paint shots outside of the restricted area).
Theoretically, Holmgren should alleviate part of these weaknesses through his exceptional rim protection. Without a true center to cover the paint, Thunder players of all sizes and positions would converge at the basket to contest shots. Skilled playmakers and shot creators took advantage of them by distracting defenders with rim pressure and kicking out to corner shooters or dropping in floaters and baby hooks.
Using his 7-foot-6 ‘Go Go Gadget Arms,’ Holmgren can contest and sometimes block floaters more easily than your average center. It’s hard to find a player with that level of rim deterrence who’s as agile as Chet. The 20-year-old is capable of rotating on defense to track ball-handlers or screeners in a pick-and-roll. In theory, that should cover some of his team’s blind spots in the paint.
As for corner 3s—widely considered one of the most valuable shots in basketball—this new layer of rim protection should empower the OKC Thunder guards and wings to stick with shooters and close out with confidence. This issue extends far beyond the team’s center position, but adding personnel to protect different areas of the court floor will aid head coach Mark Daigneault in shoring up the team’s perimeter defense.