Before Chet Holmgren was drafted No. 2 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in June, the biggest concern NBA teams had during the pre-draft process was his small frame and size. At a towering 7-foot-1 and only 195 pounds, many scouts wondered if he could sustain a rigorous 82-game NBA season without a major injury.
“Physically, he’s scary as hell,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports in March.
No matter how concerning his size is, Holmgren went his entire high school and college career without major injuries. He played his entire freshman season at Gonzaga and never backed down from a contest when he was the No. 1 recruit out of high school, avoiding major ankle, knee or foot injuries.
That all changed on Saturday when Holmgren suffered a Lisfranc injury to his right leg during a pro-am race in Seattle.
It was a star-studded event with LeBron James, Jayson Tatum, Dejounte Murray, Aaron Gordon and rookies Paolo Banchero, Tari Eason, MarJon Beauchamp and Holmgren all sharing the court in a packed gym at Seattle Pacific University. Two minutes into the game, James had the ball in transition with Holmgren dropping back and trying to challenge James at the rim. It is difficult to see when and how the injury was caused, but the match was called off just before half-time due to the excessively slippery pitch, which could have directly contributed to Holmgren’s misfortune.
The Thunder announced Thursday that Holmgren will miss the entire 2022-23 NBA season with Holmgren needing surgery in the coming weeks, a huge blow to this young, talented Thunder team. During the NBA Summer League in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, point guard Josh Guiday and Holmgren put on a show and began to form the on-court chemistry coaches and fans dream of. There were lobs off the pick-and-roll, long passes from Giddey in transition for easy dunks and blocks that turned into easy offense with how well Holmgren protects the rim.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to play with him, and we’re both team-first players and we want to win,” Giddey told Yahoo Sports last month.
With Chet Holmgren out, will the Thunder get Victor Webaniyama?
The rising potential of this Thunder team will be put on hold again this season with Holmgren on the sidelines. Last season, Giddey suffered a hip injury in February and was sidelined for the rest of the season. The Thunder won a combined 46 games over the last two seasons, and while the rebuild was quick, the loss was painful for fans.
Holmgren sitting out his rookie season is a tough loss for the Thunder, but on the bright side, it could open the door for another year of tanking for Oklahoma City to secure a high draft pick in a monster draft class of 2023 that is loaded with talent toward the top of the draft.
The Thunder still have a remarkable 38 draft picks (19 in the first round and 19 in the second) over the next seven years, and can afford another lost season to take advantage of landing either 7-foot-7 French phenom Victor Wembanyama; of the G League. Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson or one of the Overtime Elite playmaking guards Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson, all projected top-5 picks.
“The progress we’ve made in the offseason with the players we’ve added, the improvement of a lot of our existing players, some of the things we learned last year, we’re going into the season an improved team,” general manager Sam Presti said Thursday. “I don’t know how this season is going to go and if anyone thinks it does, they’re probably wrong, so we’ll have to see how it goes, and we do every year.”
Whether you want to call it tanking or be patient with the rebuilding process, Thunder fans will have to hold out for another year to hopefully see the full potential of this young, up-and-coming team.