Chet Holmgren and Evan Mobley have a lot in common. Both are lanky seven-footers with generational talents and immense potential. In addition, both are extremely talented defensively and should be vital cogs for their respective teams moving forward.
With Evan Mobley’s recent struggles in the playoff stage, the OKC Thunder and Chet Holmgren can use this opportunity to examine the potential bumps of playing a tall and lean star against geared playoff teams while laying the groundwork for schemes that maximize Holmgren and the team’s strengths.
OKC Thunder big man Chet Holmgren can learn a lot from Evan Mobley’s postseason experience.
A glaring weakness for Evan Mobley in his first-round playoff series versus the New York Knicks was his physicality when in front of bodies when rolling to the rim, resulting in some head-scratching possessions for the Cavaliers.
Evan Mobley tallied a disappointing 0.55 points per possession as a roll man against the Knicks. He also turned the ball over 22 percent of the time on these looks, partly because of his frame and the Knicks’ overwhelming backline defense.
Holmgren and Mobley almost share the same build, and getting drowned when defenses collapsed on them is a likely occurrence, especially when faced by great defensive teams.
Some of Mobley’s struggles can also be attributed to his patience and lack of floor navigation. He usually triggered floaters on short rolls. However, his touch — a tricky facet to qualify as many factors are involved — was as off as a dimmed, broken bulb.
Some possessions would have been better if Evan Mobley tried to touch the paint and kick out to shooters that rarely exist on the Cavs’ roster.
Chet Holmgren could see teams packing the lane against him, too. But it is easy to be confident in his touch, considering his college numbers show that his 69 percent true shooting rate is worth relying on.
However, it remains to be seen how Chet will read and react to similar situations where he is playing as a valve on offense. However, his upside as a playmaker is promising.
While we still have not seen what frontline position Chet will regularly occupy, playing the interior five or the center position should also be a point of attention if OKC will ever intend him to play that way — which is likely due to the schematic display we have seen from them this season.
It would be significantly magnified in the rebounding department. Evan Mobley, for instance, was torched by Mitchell Robinson on the glass on the offensive end. Yet, on lineups that he was playing the five, Mobley allowed a near 41 percent offensive rebound rate.
Overall, Mobley’s terrible interior play versus the Knicks may show us a glimpse of how teams will handle Holmgren. Looking at this and preparing to counter this is principal to building a contending team.
One thing, however, that Holmgren can flaunt over Mobley is his shooting. While shooting should be a major, if not monumental, weapon to counter this, capitalizing on defensive cracks to score higher percentage shots rather than relying on the one-dimensional nature of just shooting over a defender may propel Holmgren and the Thunder to heights that they are aspiring.
We remain curious about how Holmgren responds to teams’ playoff-level coverages. But, lucky for Chet Holmgren, he is seen as a better playmaker than Mobley to help him react and adjust to defenses, and there are reasons to be hopeful that the Thunder big man will be more aggressive.
Unlike the Cavs, the Thunder have a lot of players who can clean up on box-outs. Take this season as an example. While Jaylin Williams did not rack up a historic number of rebounds, there were plenty of instances where he held off the opposing big man for Josh Giddey and company to swoop in and grab the board.
Rebounding was one of Holmgren’s strengths in college, along with his shooting and playmaking. All assets that will help Chet Holmgren navigate life in the NBA and postseason.