OKC Thunder deploy eyebrow raising lineup, giving a taste of what fans have wanted to see

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

The OKC Thunder battled with the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday in a game that ended the longest winning streak the Oklahoma City Thunder have had since 2019. Though the game went down to the wire, OKC could not finish the comeback.

During this game, Mark Daigneault made an adjustment that some OKC Thunder fans have been dying to see. Going up against the League MVP in Joel Embiid and the bigger Philadelphia 76ers, the Thunder rolled out an additional big man alongside Chet Holmgren.

OKC Thunder fans got a look at a two-big lineup from Mark Daigneault, something they have clamored for.

Since the day Chet Holmgren was drafted back in 2022, the NBA world wondered if the second-overall pick could handle life as an NBA center. The OKC Thunder held firm and still believes Chet Holmgren is the center of the future. However, there is a pocket of the Thunder fanbase that believes Holmgren would play even better next to a big man.

Against the 76ers, it was Jaylin Williams who played alongside Holmgren. Last season, with the Gonzaga product on the shelf all year, Jaylin Williams represented the starting big man for the OKC Thunder. When the two were on the court together, it actually worked!

The two played alongside each other back at the NBA Summer League, and the pairing was not great. Fast forward to Saturday, and the two meshed together incredibly well. The key difference was the lineup made more sense against the 76ers vs the typical Summer League squad.

In Summer League, teams are typically trying out smaller or forward-heavy lineups, which throws a wrench into the defensive plan with Jaylin Williams and Chet Holmgren together. In addition to that, Holmgren’s shot fresh off his injury was not falling in Summer League, and Jaylin Williams shot just 20 percent from beyond the arc this Summer.

Against the 76ers, Jaylin Williams went 2-for-5 from Distance, while Chet Holmgren chipped in five triples on 11 attempts. That floor spacing helped the offense continue to run smoothly, while Jaylin Williams benefited from absorbing contact at the rim and Holmgren flying around to clean the mess up.

This week, Mark Daigneault has already alluded to playing that pairing more. The OKC Thunder will travel to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves with Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns before they welcome in the L.A. Lakers on Thursday. The Thunder end the week in Dallas against the Mavericks, who might have rookie Dereck Lively II back by then.

While I still believe the OKC Thunder will play better when Chet Holmgren is the lone big man, it is clear that having this change-of-pace option will be good for the franchise long-term.

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