Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Simply how good can Chet Holmgren be?

Key Highlights:

  • Chet Holmgren is probably not Victor Wembanyama however he’s nonetheless a really particular participant in his personal proper
  • The considerations about Holmgren’s frailer body are a bit overblown (though they’re nonetheless current in sure sides of the sport)
  • In accordance with Cerebro Sports activities’ World Search software, Holmgren has been enjoying at a borderline All-Star degree as a rookie

Everybody needs to speak about Victor Wembanyama (even our personal writers), and rightfully so. The rookie heart is defying the legal guidelines of physics on a nightly foundation. However there’s one other generational expertise enjoying his first season of NBA basketball this 12 months, Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder large man Chet Holmgren.

In nearly every other 12 months, Holmgren can be the star of the present. Regardless of his inexperience, he’s already one of many three finest gamers on a Thunder staff that presently sits at first within the Western Convention.

However what makes Holmgren such a right away influence? What are his weaknesses? And simply how good can this 12 months’s different unicorn hope to be?

The Good

Those that had been paying consideration final 12 months knew that the 2022-23 Thunder had been a formidable bunch. The one factor holding them again from being a playoff staff in that marketing campaign was a scarcity of taking pictures and rim safety.

In idea, Holmgren was supposed to offer that mix. Sadly, Holmgren missed the entirety of final season with a foot damage. However he’s wholesome now, and he’s placing into apply all the things he was purported to be in idea.

Being a rookie NBA heart is a tall process due to how a lot duty that place has on protection. Holmgren has been capable of take a look at out of this studying curve because of his robust psychological and bodily instruments. He’s obtained a excessive basketball IQ (like Brandin Podziemski) and good court docket consciousness. Holmgren’s additionally lengthy (7’6 wingspan) and possesses nice response pace. And he’s an ambidextrous shot-blocker, which means he can block pictures with both hand.

Holmgren is within the 96th percentile in block fee amongst facilities (per Cleansing the Glass). He’s not some stat-padding block-hunter both. Holmgren’s inside presence leaves a optimistic imprint on his staff’s rim safety. When Holmgren is on the ground, the Thunder are within the 63rd percentile in opponent rim frequency and the 98th percentile in opponent rim accuracy.

Rim safety is a vital ability, however there are a handful of facilities that may present good rim safety when they’re enjoying in a defensive ecosystem just like the one in Oklahoma Metropolis (fifth in defensive ranking). Nevertheless, most of those choices are non-shooters that present paint safety at the price of spacing on offense.

Not Holmgren, although. He’s taking pictures 40% from downtown, which is within the 77th percentile amongst bigs. This opens up the lane for the perfect driving staff in basketball, and it offers the Thunder a pick-and-pop pitch they’ll flip to when vital. Holmgren can be a lob menace (he’s one in every of 16 gamers with no less than 95 dunks this season), which suggests he can be utilized in conventional pick-and-rolls, too.

A tactic groups have provide you with to defang pick-and-pop bigs like Holmgren is to veerback/late change the motion. This successfully neutralizes the pop…until your large is somebody who can punish the mismatch by placing the ball on the ground.

That brings us to the subsequent a part of Holmgren’s excellence. Not solely does he fulfill an vital want for this staff, however he additionally doesn’t take away from their id. So, the Thunder get all the advantages of getting Holmgren with out including any new weaknesses.

As we alluded to earlier, the Thunder are a drive-heavy staff. They common extra drives than any staff within the NBA (per NBA.com). Holmgren suits proper into this prerogative — he’s within the 59th percentile in drive quantity and the 93rd percentile in drive effectivity (per Pondering Basketball).

Again to the late change, when groups do this maneuver towards Holmgren, he can punish the smaller defender they attempt to ship at him along with his refined drive sport.

And if that isn’t sufficient, Holmgren additionally has nice footwork and contact within the midrange (92nd percentile in midrange effectivity). Watch any Thunder sport, and also you’ll see that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t the one Oklahoma Metropolis participant who executes a transfer or two that reminds you of His Royal Airness.

The Faux Dangerous

Let’s begin this part off by telling you what isn’t dangerous about Holmgren. Coming into the NBA, everybody was apprehensive that Holmgren’s frailer stature would depart him prone to greater brutes (which are coming again into fashion) within the put up. Nevertheless, the early returns of his matchup information (from NBA.com) appear to say in any other case.

2023-24 Holmgren Matchup Information*

Participant Partial Poss. FG% Towards Holmgren FG% This Season FTA per 100 Towards Holmgren FTA per 100 This Season
Anthony Davis 103.7 48.4% 55.8% 8.7 9.1
Rudy Gobert 189.9 61.1% 64.7% 3.2 7.4
Nikola Jokic 80.6 76.0% 58.1% 6.2 8.0
Jusuf Nurkic 61.4 33.3% 51.4% 0.0 6.3
Domantas Sabonis 107.9 56.3% 61.4% 3.7 6.5
Alperen Sengun 100.7 53.8% 53.7% 11.9 8.3
Jonas Valanciunas 60.4 61.1% 56.9% 1.7 5.3
Nikola Vucevic 59.2 33.3% 47.4% 3.4 2.4
Ivica Zubac 54.3 50.0% 65.4% 0.0 4.7

*Information Offered by NBA.com

Based mostly on these numbers, there are some giants that give Holmgren some issues (specifically Nikola Jokic). However for essentially the most half, Holmgren is holding these guys to percentages at/under their numbers for the season.

Now, matchup information isn’t good, however it’s a complete lot higher than somebody merely Holmgren, saying he’s skinny, after which continuing to jot down him off as a nasty put up defender!

The Precise Dangerous

Simply because Holmgren is healthier at defending conventional bigs than his physique sort would recommend doesn’t imply he’s the proper participant. As an example, the Thunder are one of many worst rebounding groups within the league, particularly when Holmgren is on the ground. They’re within the twelfth percentile in offensive rebounding fee and tenth percentile in defensive rebounding fee in his minutes.

A few of that is as a result of Thunder’s lineups. Most of their nominal energy forwards are comparatively small (like Jalen Williams). So, when Holmgren will get out of rebounding place to contest pictures, there isn’t any one on the again line that may adequately clear up the glass.

However a few of that is additionally attributable to Holmgren’s limitations within the physicality division. We additionally see this along with his screens. Of the 37 facilities who play no less than 25 minutes per sport, Holmgren is simply twenty seventh in display assists per sport. That is emblematic of the shortage of contact he makes whereas setting these picks (which, in flip, illustrates his lack of physicality).

The easy answer to this conundrum is that Holmgren simply provides some extra weight to his body. However what number of kilos can he pack earlier than he loses what makes him so distinctive as a basketball participant? Apart from, the Thunder are nonetheless succeeding regardless of this deficiency. So, how detrimental of a shortcoming is it within the grand scheme of issues?

Talking of his strengths, whereas he’s already an excellent defensive heart, Holmgren nonetheless has some micro-skills that want fine-tuning. A terrific instance of that is his hand placement on contests. The all-time nice rim protectors (like Anthony Davis, Invoice Russell, and Hakeem Olajuwon) use a shot-blocking method the place they contest the shot with one hand and use their different hand to play the move.

Holmgren’s rival already has this defensive transfer in his bag.

In the meantime, Holmgren normally simply contests pictures with each his palms vertical (as evidenced by him solely being within the thirty fourth percentile in steal fee amongst facilities). Holmgren’s present fashion has confirmed to be efficient for Oklahoma Metropolis’s protection this 12 months. But when he needs to degree up his defensive standing from actually good to elite, he’ll want so as to add little wrinkles to his sport like that tactic.

Offensively, Holmgren is an effective shooter, curler, and closeout attacker. He’s already a powerful function participant on that finish. But when he needs to be greater than that, Holmgren might want to enhance his passing (forty second percentile in Passer Score) and on-ball scoring.

The Backside Line

In accordance with Cerebro Sports activities’ World Search tool (which lets you examine participant seasons throughout completely different eras), the season that comes closest to Holmgren’s rookie 12 months statistically was Rasheed Wallace’s 2001-02 season (his age-27 season).

This was proper round Wallace’s peak as a participant. And at his finest, he was a top-25 participant within the league (he was a four-time All-Star). Based mostly on their statistical similarities, one might argue that Holmgren can be performing like a top-25 participant proper now (he’s twenty sixth total in Estimated Plus-Minus, per Dunks & Threes).

In any occasion, even when Holmgren is enjoying extra like a top-35/40 participant than a top-25 participant, he’s nonetheless only a rookie. The truth that he’s already this good at such a younger age (nonetheless simply 21) bodes properly for Holmgren’s long-term ceiling.

Many of the all-time nice bigs had been both defensive anchors who amassed most of their factors on the low block (like Tim Duncan) or offensive superstars who simply obtained by on protection (like Dirk Nowitzki). Holmgren isn’t like both of these archetypes. However that doesn’t imply he can’t be part of their ranks within the basketball pantheon.

Holmgren represents a change of guard for the middle spot. He’s a defensive anchor that operates extra like a wing/guard on offense.

(Sidebar: Some might argue that Kevin Garnett already completed this feat. However even he had a extra classical shot weight loss plan. Holmgren has already taken 257 profession threes. That’s solely 375 fewer threes than Garnett took throughout his total 21-year NBA profession.)

A merciless accident led to Holmgren having to share his rookie 12 months with a once-in-a-lifetime prospect. The early returns of the Wembanyama expertise level to the prodigy having a GOAT-level ceiling. That in all probability isn’t within the playing cards for Holmgren. However that doesn’t imply that Holmgren can’t change the way in which his place is performed, and turn out to be one of many best facilities of all time within the course of.

If you happen to loved this rookie breakdown, you’ll want to try our article on Brandin Podziemski. 

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