Thunder's latest move may confirm a popular Chet Holmgren theory

The Thunder spending on Isaiah Hartenstein tells fans plenty about Chet Holmgren's future.
Oklahoma City Thunder, Chet Holmgren
Oklahoma City Thunder, Chet Holmgren / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder drafted a future star in Chet Holmgren with the second overall pick in 2022. They had to wait a year after a foot injury kept him out, but it was worth it. Holmgren was a dominant force on both ends of the floor and helped OKC grab the top seed in the Western Conference. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, but the Thunder had issues.

Holmgren is 7’1 but listed at just 208 pounds. He struggled playing the five against the biggest players in the NBA, and Oklahoma City was one of the worst rebounding teams last season. It caught up to them in the playoffs as Dereck Lively III and Daniel Gafford helped the Mavericks upset the Thunder in the second round.

Sam Presti filled that hole on July 1 as he signed a massive deal with Isaiah Hartenstein. He was the best center available on the market, and his addition pushes Chet Holmgren to a new position.

Chet Holmgren will play more four with Isaiah Hartenstein on the Thunder

Hartenstein is a versatile big man, but he has not played minutes at power forward since his rookie season in 2018-19, according to Basketball-Reference. The 26-year-old got $29 million per year and figures to be a significant part of OKC's rotation. When he is on the floor with Chet, it will be the youngster playing the four.

Hartenstein can battle with the league’s biggest players and gives the Thunder a bit more versatility. Holmgren can be a roamer and weak side rim protector. It could unlock both players and make OKC a serious title threat.

Hartenstein averaged 8.3 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game for the Knicks last season. He will solve the Thunder's rebounding woes and free up Holmgren to crash in for a few easy ones without boxing out the opposition’s center.

Hartenstein is also an elite screener, which is something the Thunder lacked last season with Holmgren at the five. The newest addition will create some easy buckets and lift Oklahoma City to new heights.

Chet Holmgren shot 37.0 percent from 3-point range last season and has plenty of athletic ability. He played exclusively at the five as a rookie, but the Thunder needed a bigger body inside. Isaiah Hartenstein provides it and allows the 22-year-old to be maximized in several areas. It means playing some four, but Holmgren is more than up to that challenge.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a championship on their minds in 2025. They traded for Alex Caruso and signed Isaiah Hartenstein to put them in prime position. The Thunder finished first in the West as an extremely young group in 2024. The best is yet to come and credit Sam Presti for upgrading their roster.

Hartenstein got a massive contract, but the Thunder needed a center. He was the best available option, and OKC still has a mountain of draft capital and young talent to fix any other need that arises. Stay tuned because the Thunder are primed to be in contention for the next decade. It is on Presti to find the finishing pieces that push them over the top.