OKC Thunder are figuring out how to unlock Chet Holmgren

The Oklahoma City Thunder are figuring out how to unlock Chet Holmgren on the offensive end these last two nights, leading to team success.
Jan 8, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7)
Jan 8, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder could not be happier with the early season showing from rookie big man Chet Holmgren. Not only has he won back-to-back Rookie of the Month awards, but he has a legitimate argument to become the first rookie All-Star since Blake Griffin.

On Monday, after two straight disappointing losses, the Oklahoma City Thunder got back on track against the Washington Wizards, using offensive fireworks to down the lowly Wiz Kids. In that contest, Holmgren had his best offensive game of his career.

While the box score was not his career-high in points, and the highlight reel does not match a self-alley-oop or buzzer-beating triple to push a game to overtime, it was the exact formula for sustained success in the NBA, and the ability to take Oklahoma City to the next level.

On Wednesday, the Thunder turned in their second straight win against the Heat, righting their first-half wrongs, and began to figure out the zone defensive coverage that has given the team so much trouble these past two seasons.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have started to unlock their rookie big man in their recent stretch.

Holmgren is primed to be the NBA's Rookie of the Year, battling it out with the best prospect the NBA has seen since LeBron James; it is a testament to how good the Thunder big man has been that this race is not a formality.

Typically, when a prospect gets as much hype as Victor Wembanyama garnered, they just have to roll out of bed to stake their claim to the Rookie of the Year honor. Holmgren is putting up a fight, and in many people's eye is the leader in the club house.

Things are only getting better for the Gonzaga product, who missed all of the 2022-23 NBA season with a Lisfranc fracture, as he put up 31 points, four rebounds, and five assists on Monday, shooting 78 percent from the floor and 4-for-5 from three-point land.

He followed that effort up on Wednesday with a 23-point outing, on nine rebounds and a pair of assists. Holmgren shot just 1-for-5 from beyond the arc but did not miss a show inside of the three-point tape.

Throughout this mini-stretch, the OKC Thunder have done a fantastic job of finding Chet Holmgren more as a pick-and-roll partner, spoon-feeding him with good looks, easy rolls to the ring, and displaying his ability to run the floor in transition, as well as cut behind the defense.

As Holmgren gains chemistry with the roster, specifically Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams, it unlocks so much for his potential scoring output. The big man is currently averaging nearly 18 points, seven rebounds, and two assists per game while shooting 55 percent from the floor, 41 percent from beyond the arc, and 81 percent at the charity stripe.

All 11 of Holmgren's makes against the Wizards were assisted buckets, while seven of his 10 makes against the Heat came off of assists from his teammates. Setting him up for easy looks, combined with his ability to create for himself, makes him a matchup nightmare for teams.

Holmgren ranks in the 95th percentile in points per possession off cuts, the 82nd percentile in transition, and the 83rd percentile as a pick-and-roll roll man. This, coupled with his catch-and-shoot looks falling at a 43 percent clip, makes him a lethal off-ball play finisher for the Thunder.

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