3 Thunder players who are underperforming, 4 exceeding expectations at the All-Star break

Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages
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Chet Holmgren is exceeding expectations

There have been two additions to the Oklahoma City Thunder's rotation since last season, a year in which they lost in the Play-In Game. Cason Wallace, described previously, is playing a small but strong role off the bench. And Chet Holmgren, another rookie who has stepped in and been one of the best rookies of the last decade.

Bill Simmons has pitched an idea that MVP trophies should be sized according to the strength of the MVP race. Lesser winners should have smaller trophies, but years when two or more candidates played at an all-time level should necessitate a larger MVP trophy. If we apply that idea down to Rookie of the Year trophies, this year's award should be as tall as a basketball hoop.

Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama are having a Rookie of the Year race for the ages. Wembanyama is putting up elite numbers and getting better by the week, while Holmgren has stepped in and made a good team great, already one of the league's best rim protectors and a fearless scorer and shooter.

There is no skillset more valuable in the modern NBA than the "unicorn" big, an elite interior defender who can shoot well enough from outside to draw defenders. That kind of player unlocks a multitude of lineups, allowing extremely talented players to share the court who otherwise couldn't. The Thunder's ability to add to their team moving forward is much greater now that Holmgren has proven to be not just good, but great.

If Holmgren levels out as a player averaging 17 points, eight rebounds, 2.5 blocks and a pair of 3-pointers per game, he'll be an excellent long-term starter and worthy of the No. 2 pick they spent on him. What should make Thunder fans euphoric is that Holmgren should only continue to improve, likely making a number of All-Star games and All-Defense teams over the course of his career. Hope has become reality through his first 54 games.