With the NBA Lottery in the rearview mirror, the guessing is over as the OKC Thunder confirmed their positions in the lottery with the second and 12th picks.
Given the confirmed placements via the bingo balls, many of the national sites have updated their mock drafts. Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated joined that group with his recent mock draft.
SI.com taps Chet Holmgren for OKC Thunder with the second draft pick
Of the national scribes who offer mock drafts, Kevin O’Connor is who most fanatics follow although there are many other analysts and contributors to pick from.
ESPN has Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony opining on Draft prospects while Sports Illustrated has Jeremy Woo offering his thoughts.
The latter dropped a new mock draft after the lottery and pegged Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren for the OKC Thunder. Casual fans might not catch the point Woo makes about the uncertainty of what GM Sam Presti will do but the Thunder faithful completely understand why the SI scribe made this point.
In his rationale for why OKC would select Holmgren, the most obvious point is how well he fits the typical ethos of the Thunder based on his length, skill, and upside.
The following is a portion of the excerpt Woo offered on Holmgren:
"Holmgren has been a polarizing player amongst teams I’ve spoken with, but everyone pretty much acknowledges his upside as a high-impact defender with some offensive versatility. He has the size and length to protect the basket, and instincts that have mostly compensated for his lack of strength. What should be tested for the first time in the NBA is his foot speed defending in space and covering ground, and if Holmgren proves he can battle on switches and menace drivers as a roving rim protector, whatever else he gives you as a scorer will be gravy. He is a capable jump shooter and has great touch around the basket, but isn’t likely to be an offensive focal point early in his career, if at all. The Thunder have the patience to take a big swing here, and Holmgren should address a major need for improved interior defense."
Part of the reason for Holmgren landing second on Woo’s list is based on the belief the Orlando Magic would select Jabari Smith Jr. ahead of Holmgren. Coach Jamahl Mosley has numerous guard and center options on his squad so it’s reasonable to assume they’d prefer to add a wing or forward player.
That said, when you have the top draft pick you take the best player in the class — period. Even if you have a glut of players at that position you don’t veer from that path. This is why I’m not convinced Orlando would pass on Holmgren simply because he plays the forward/center role.
If the Magic were looking to fulfill gaps and needs they’d be concentrating on scoring as a premium and Holmgren isn’t the prospect topping that ability. On the other hand, the front office has shown a real desire to add length and wants bigs with two-way capabilities akin to their current roster that boasts Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba, and Wendell Carter Jr. (and more).
Assuming the scouting group felt each of the top three projected picks offered equal value it does stand to reason they would select Jabari Smith Jr. or Paolo Banchero.
As for the OKC Thunder, Woo correctly notes how Holmgren would fit the template Sam Presti appears to be aiming for in his rebuild of lengthy players with the ability to create shots and handle the ball.
Holmgren almost feels like a different version of Aleksej Pokusevski when you look at their body type but they offer vastly different skillsets. The Gonzaga big man is much more defensive-minded although he’s got the potential to become a gifted versatile offensive big.
I won’t dive too deeply into the game assessment here since our draft prospect profiles are coming shortly but suffice to say Woo selecting Holmgren for OKC isn’t an outlier.