The OKC Thunder have seen their full schedule released ahead of the 2023-24 NBA season, and while basketball is right around the corner, the more critical issue with this schedule is the early slate of games, which will put Chet Holmgren to the test.
With the addition of the new In-Season tournament, the league only announced 80 of the 82 games last week; the additional two games will be revealed after pool play of the in-season tournament, with tournament games set for Tuesdays and Fridays in November.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a middle-of-the-road strength of schedule, but the start of the season will present interesting obstacles for their rookie big man.
Chet Holmgren will be tested early in his young NBA career with matchups against premier big men.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will begin their season on the road against the Chicago Bulls on October 25th. Before December 1st, the OKC Thunder will take on the Cavs twice, Nuggets, Pistons, Pelicans, Warriors three times, Kings, Suns, Spurs, Lakers, Timberwolves, and 76ers.
That list of teams includes some of the league’s best bigs and varying styles of play for Chet Holmgren to adjust to on the fly in his young career.
From taking on the two best big men in the NBA (Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid) to teams with multiple starting bigs (The Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, and the Cavs’ Jarret Allen and Evan Mobley), to a more finesse All-Star in Domantas Sabonis, to a small-ball force in Draymond Green, potentially Zion Williamson on National TV, a traditional big in DeAndre Ayton, a budding rival in Victor Wembanyama, and a superstar in Anthony Davis.
The road to success as a rookie will be challenging for Chet Holmgren right out of the gate. The former second-overall pick will get the other big man’s best shot each night. Every little mistake will be highlighted across social media in an attempt to earn confirmation bias from the National landscape that does not believe Holmgren can play the center position in the NBA.
Mix that with the amount of talent faced in the first month of the season and the typical acclimation period for young big men, and you get a demanding schedule for the Thunder to navigate.
However, we have already seen Chet Holmgren in summertime pick up games against the likes of NBA superstars such as Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant and stand up to the challenge exceptionally well. If Holmgren comes out of the gates swinging and looks like the franchise-changing big man he was thought to be a year ago, that would be a massive statement to the rest of the NBA.
If Holmgren gets through the month of November and looks the part, there will be no more doubters of his talent, ability, or position. To make it through that gauntlet of NBA bigs, there is no one else for the league to throw at him.
Chet Holmgren was always going to be under the microscope but with the way the NBA schedule shook out; there is no doubt that judgments will be cast in either direction within the first 30 days.