With a little over 3 weeks until the 2022 NBA Draft, there are more leaks than a screen door in a submarine.
Jabari Smith Jr. seems to be a lock to go to the Orlando Magic at #1.
The Thunder are looking to trade up from pick 12.
According to B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman, Rival teams suspect OKC may have interest in Jaden Ivey at 2.
Hold up…. WHAT?
Jaden Ivey is a supreme talent, has elite athleticism, break neck speed, and has similar shades to his game that would have fans saying “Brodie?”.
However, Thunder fans have had to bear through a season worth of watching their two lead guards try to learn how to play off of each other.
Color me skeptical.
I get all the reasons why it makes sense (there aren’t many), but there are many more why it just doesn’t.
There is one big reason though, 7’1″ to be exact. With a 7’6″ wingspan. World beating confidence. Skill on both sides of the ball.
That would be, Chet Holmgren.
Who I said in my last article, “barring something crazy happening, Chet is going to be at the top of the Thunder’s draft board.”
Before we dive into why I feel like Chet is our future, lets take a look into the past for a bit.
It was November, 12th 2020. One of the most anticipated high school games of the year was about to happen. The #1 junior in the class, Emoni Bates was set to square off against the #1 senior Chet Holmgren.
When it was all said and done, Emoni did work with 36 points and 10 rebounds. Chet also put in work with 31 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 (!!) blocks. There was something else that Chet did however that Emoni did not; he won.
Which is something that Chet has done at every level he has played at. He led his high school team Minnehaha to 4 straight state titles. He led the USA U19 team to a 7-0 in FIBA competition en route to winning a gold medal. This past year at Gonzaga, he was a key piece in a team that went 28-4 going into the NCAA tournament before losing in the Sweet 16.
To put it simply; all Chet Holmgren does is win.
Corey Tuluba of the No Ceilings Collective has asked the question on many different forms of media, “Is winning a skill?”
Not only do I believe that it is, but I think that it is something that the Thunder, and Sam Presti value in terms of team building.
If you look at the players on this roster; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Josh Giddey, Kenrich Williams, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, etc. these are all guys that are hard nosed competitors, guys that not only want to win but have winning traits and make winning plays.
Let’s stay put for a second and just think about who is on the roster.
A majority of the aforementioned crop of guys, profile more as guards. Shai, Giddey, Dort, throw in also Tre Mann as an intriguing piece and you can see why fans turns into the Jordan Peele sweating gif when it’s suggested that we could look to add Ivey.
On the wings, there is less solidarity. Kenrich is a guy that any team could use, but he has been firm in his stance that he wants to retire a Thunder. Aside from him, you have Aleksej Pokusevski and Darius Bazley as guys who have had many years of development and the jury is still out on for what their future may hold. Throw in JRE as a weird wing/big tweener, and things get even more complicated. That being said there are winning pieces on the wings, and pieces with intrigue.
Then you get to the bigs…
Even going back to LAST YEAR Mike Muscala (we love you Moose), Derrick Favors, Isaiah Roby, Olivier Sarr, Jaylen Hoard, Moses Brown, Tony Bradley, and Al Horford. As good as some of those guys have been in moments, or even stretches its pretty safe to assume that they don’t have a long term future in the Thunders starting lineup (heck, three of them didn’t even have a future with the team).
Given that expansive and analytical roster breakdown that we just went through, one thing sticks out; there is a glaring need at the big position.
You know it, I know it, and guess what… Sam Presti knows it.
He knew it last year at the draft as well.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski in an interview with then ESPN Draft Analyst Mike Schmitz, “Last year they (the Thunder) tried to move up, tried to get up to three for Evan Mobley.” We famously had pick #6 in last years draft, and took the Australian golden boy in Giddey. Woj went on to say, “I think if the Thunder had the #1 pick last year, they would have taken Mobley. He was there at three, but they could not pry him out of Cleveland.”
Andrew Schlecht even theorized on the Down to Dunk podcast that with Mobley off the board, and the number of bigs/lack of creators near the top in this years draft that the Thunder went with their contingency plan in Giddey.
Evan Mobley is a popular player comparison for Chet. The defense for sure. Chet probably has a leg up (or an arm up) on the interior while Mobley edges him out on the perimeter. Offensively, while Mobley is more fluid in his movements, I believe that Chet has him in every other offensive category. Passing, shooting, efficiency, the whole shebang.
That being said, with how desperately Presti tried to get Mobley, I have a really hard time seeing him pass up a guy so similar in Chet, if he is on the board.
The reason many Thunder fans are even entertaining this notion that the Thunder want Ivey over Chet, or even Paolo is because the wild card nature of Presti.
To that, I would recommend you read a tweet from my Topic: Thunder co host Stephen Dolan:
It feels like everyone is looking for Presti to go against the grain because the James Bouknight to OKC headlines are still fresh on their minds. But history tells us this high in the draft, that’s not necessarily the case.
The highest Presti has gotten to pick was for the Seattle SuperSonics, and he did exactly what anyone else would’ve done, he took Kevin Durant. While we are trying to convince ourselves that he might get weird and take Ivey, swing for solely upside with Shaedon Sharpe, or go with the sure fire offensive explosion of Paolo Banchero… Presti might just do the easy thing and take Chet.
Given the gargantuan hole in the front court, Sam’s mad dash for Evan Mobley, and his winning pedigree, traits and play, it becomes easier to consider why Holmgren might be the guy.
As I mentioned before, he represented USA in the FIBA U19 Tournament. He alongside names like Kennedy Chandler, Patrick Baldwin Jr., Johnny Davis, and a guy by the name of Jaden Ivey (EVER HEARD OF HIM?).
Tyler Rucker of the aforementioned No Ceilings Collective, joined my podcast the aforementioned Topic: Thunder to talk draft coverage, and he recalled a story that a prominent scout told him during his time over seas at FIBA.
He recounted what the scout said to him, “I spoke to Jaden Ivey after one of the practices, and said, “So, who is the guy out here?” And Ivey just turned and said, “It’s Chet. And it’s not even close.””
One last time I will say this; if Jabari Smith is the #1 pick, the person that I think the Thunder will pick is Chet.
And it’s not even close.