Chet Holmgren was on the top of everyone’s mind at All-Star Weekend

Chet Holmgren #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)
Chet Holmgren #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images) /

The NBA All-Star Weekend has come and gone, and the NBA World was in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the events. The Oklahoma City Thunder sent Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Jalen Williams to the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities. But, despite his absence, Chet Holmgren was at the top of most people’s minds.

The OKC Thunder earned the second overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft via the NBA Draft Lottery, and the team selected Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren with the first of three eventual lottery picks and four picks total.

Despite all the excitement and optimism that existed in Oklahoma City on Draft night and the flames being fanned during NBA Summer League, Holmgren suffered a season-ending injury and has yet to step on an NBA floor. However, that did not stop many from speculating how much better he makes this Thunder core.

Throughout All-Star weekend, Chet Holmgren was at the top of people’s minds, from Josh Giddey’s connection to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s reliability and LeBron James’ shoutout.

The Chet Holmgren visions started on Friday morning. I asked Gonzaga teammate Andrew Nembhard about Holmgren and if the conspiracy theories were correct about the Zags being the foursome to vote Holmgren into the NBA All-Star game.

While Nembhard said he did not vote Holmgren into the mid-winter classic, he explained why we would see Chet at next season’s Rising Stars event, “I love his game. He is what the league is, a versatile player who can stretch the floor at the five spot. Shot block,” he told me.

His college teammate is confident in his ability to have a great career. But then, Josh Giddey played in the NBA Rising Stars challenge, where he had instant chemistry with Cavs big man Evan Mobley.

Giddey’s dimes to Mobley left every Oklahoma City Thunder fan salivating over what his connection will eventually be with Chet Holmgren, who is also this skilled seven-footer that can stretch the floor even better than Mobley while also rolling to the rim off of Giddey.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was in attendance for Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams at the NBA Rising Stars event, where he saw Giddey’s great display with Mobley. When SGA was asked if that made him think of Holmgren, he said, “It did not cross my mind, but we think about that, talk about that, almost every day we see Chet…We are really excited about him.”

The NBA All-Stars shouting out Chet Holmgren did not stop with his teammate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; it expanded to the league’s biggest name, LeBron James.

When asked about Josh Giddey by an Australian reporter and the Oklahoma City Thunder, LeBron James spoke glowingly about the OKC Thunder core, “Josh Giddey is really, really good, man. Obviously, a tall point guard. He is a triple-double type of playmaker every night because of his ability to rebound at his size, distinctive passing, and score in the paint. I think he is going to continue to get better and better. They have a really good young core over in OKC. They do not even have Chet [Holmgren] there just yet.”

James went on to say, “Josh is a really good player, along with the other rookies that they have this year. Obviously, we know first-time [All-Star] Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander] is really good, and the rest of that crew over there. Pretty good player, for sure. You guys should be proud.”

To hear the NBA world, the NBA’s best player, talk about the Oklahoma City Thunder the same way fans do is just further proof this organization is heading in the right direction. This weekend while I was in Salt Lake City covering this event, no matter if it was media, players, or team representatives, if the OKC Thunder were brought up, they had glowing reviews with the necessary “and Chet is not even playing yet” caveat.

If the NBA season ended today, the Oklahoma City Thunder would be in the NBA play-in tournament, making a return to the NBA postseason after just a two-year absence, and their only top-five draft pick from this rebuild still waiting in the wings.

This season can go any direction from here on out, from the play-in to the NBA Draft Lottery. Both outcomes are music to the ears of Thunder fans, primarily because they already have a player on their roster that fills their most significant holes.

Chet Holmgren has elite potential as a shot blocker, rebounder, floor spacer, and plus playmaker for his size. These things would take the youngest roster in the NBA to the next level during the 2023-24 season. The NBA world is already taking notice.

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