The Chet Holmgren hype and hate have both been strong since the off-season began and summer league games have only intensified this. Holmgren as a prospect remains incredibly polarizing, perhaps even more so than when he was drafted 2nd overall last year. After now watching two full summer league games, focused solely on Holmgren on and off the ball, what is the report? The best way to describe it is that he has been a chaotic, yet magical, disaster.
In the first game of the summer league against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, Holmgren had an up-and-down night, recording 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 29 minutes. The impressive counting stats do not tell the whole story, however. Holmgren had a fairly inefficient night from the floor shooting-wise (6-14), missed his only three-pointer, and shot 3-6 from the FT line.
He also had 3 turnovers and 4 fouls, ultimately looking like the fourth fiddle behind Jalen Williams, Jaylin Williams, and Tre Mann. Regardless, Holmgren had some moments that jumped off the screen and he still finished with a +13 +/-, good for 2nd best in the entire game.
Notes from watching Holmgren live in Salt Lake City
After watching every minute of the Jazz vs Thunder game on TV, it was crucial to get a feel of what Holmgren looked like live as well. Some initial courtside notes on Holmgren were that he has definitely packed on some muscle through his first season in the NBA despite his injury. After entering the league last season at just 195 pounds, reports were that Holmgren had added 13 pounds of muscle. Being able to see him live and in person definitely proved that this was not just hopeful rumors. He looks bigger.
Despite his slightly bigger frame now, it is still fair to say that he will struggle to play center in the NBA and perhaps even power forward, depending on the matchup. Throughout the game against Memphis, there were times when Holmgren put in a good effort to rebound and get positioning inside, but stronger players such as Kenny Lofton Jr. and even GG Jackson were able to muscle him out of his spot on entry passes and corral the loose balls instead.
He also had a bad tendency to dribble the ball too high and spin into defenders, fumbling the ball as he tried to drive. He finished the game against Memphis with six turnovers, three of which led to fastbreak dunks or layups.
The good plays and highlight moments however were breathtaking. Ranging from a nice turnaround jumper to a beastly drive into contact at the rim, to numerous well-timed contests and blocks, there are still clear reasons why the hype train was so strong for Holmgren last season before his foot injury.
Eye test aside, what’s the verdict?
Ultimately, in 31 minutes, Holmgren shot 3-8 from the field (4-4 from the FT line) and recorded 10 points. He also had 11 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 blocks, getting his quick hands involved on defense, also deflecting and impacting other numerous passes and shots as well. Unfortunately, Holmgren did miss all four of his three-point attempts and at times looked incapable of dribbling without losing the ball.
Once again the eye test showed that Holmgren was arguably the fourth-best player on the court for OKC, this time behind Tre Mann, Jaylin Williams, and Jared Butler. Holmgren now has 9 turnovers through two games and has yet to hit a three-pointer in summer league, so he is definitely still trying to shake off the rust.
Between ultra-high ceiling comparisons like Victor Wembanyama and moderately-low comparisons like Bol Bol, the jury is still out on Holmgren and what he will be in the NBA. The truth likely lies in the middle of those two-player comparisons. His basketball IQ and defensive positioning are much better than Bol Bol, but his fluidity and sheer size are not as dominant as Wembanyama’s. Regardless, it should be an interesting early season for him and OKC will be a must-watch team on NBA League Pass