The Oklahoma City Thunder have seemingly punched a one-way ticket to contention. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander playing at an MVP level, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams looking like rising stars, and a plethora of high-end role players, the Thunder are on a RocketShip to success.
Chet Holmgren has completely altered the way the OKC Thunder can play basketball. While last season's surprise 40-win season was exhilarating, this season's 13-6 start just feels different. More sustainable and the ability to have more high-end success. That is in large part due to Holmgren living up to the hype.
Chet Holmgren completely changes the trajectory of the OKC Thunder.
When you are held up as a unicorn prospect with generational guard-like skills in a seven-foot frame, elite shot blocking, and scoring, it is often hard to live up to expectations.
Somehow, Chet Holmgren has not only lived up to expectations but has surpassed them this early in his career. The Gonzaga product is averaging 17 points, eight rebounds, and two assists per game while shooting 53 percent from the floor, 39 percent from beyond the arc, and 86 percent at the charity stripe. This is to go along with two blocks and a steal per contest.
The fact that Chet Holmgren's blocks, even with each clip trimmed to the start of the action, is already a 5-minute and 21-second video through just 19 games in his NBA career shows how elite he has been at protecting the rim. That is not even to include all the shows he deters at the rim or the guards passing out of drives due to his presence.
This is a huge contrast compared to the Thunder's defense a year ago, which was more of a "ground rim protection" approach with Jaylin Williams sliding over for charges to end possessions. While Williams is elite at racking up charges and is better at contesting shots at the rim than he gets credit for, there is only so much the 6'9 big man can do as the lone rim protector on the floor.
Opponents are scoring on Holmgren at just a 50 percent clip at the rim, an impressive mark for a rookie. Chet Holmgren also ranks in the 78th percentile when defending the pick-and-roll, a staple of Modern NBA offenses.
Holmgren is not just a defensive threat. According to Synergy, Chet Holmgren ranks in the 90th percentile on all offensive possessions.
The rookie big man ranks in the 95th percentile as a cutter, 81st percentile in isolation, 75th percentile in transition, and in the 81st percentile as a pick-and-roll partner.
Chet Holmgren is shooting 45 percent on spot-up chances, knocking down catch-and-shoot looks at a 42 percent clip, and converting at the rim at a 70 percent clip.
There should be no doubt, that despite the preseason expectations for the award race, Holmgren is the Rookie of the Year through 19 games.
His high-end play on both ends of the floor not only shows his individual impact but leaves his fingerprints all over winning basketball.
Chet Holmgren completely changes the way the Thunder play basketball and is soon going to be a big part of their meteoric rise to contention.