30 Teams in 30 Days: Thunder pick up pieces in wake of Chet Holmgren’s injury

Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are two of the few confirmed gamers on a rebuilding Thunder squad.

Oklahoma City Thunder

2021-22 document: 24-58

Key additions: Chet Holmgren, Ousmane Dieng & Jalen Williams (2022 draft)

Key subtractions: None

Last season: It was laborious to maintain observe of the Thunder with a roster that consistently modified and developed, because the franchise spent your complete season sifting via our bodies to find out who was an asset and who wasn’t. Outside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Darius Bazley and Josh Giddey, the others on OKC’s roster appeared somewhat nameless. Such was life for a workforce in the early phases of redevelopment, because the Thunder’s seek for an id continues after shedding franchise stalwarts Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in latest seasons.

Summer abstract: In a merciless twist of destiny, the franchise that relocated from Seattle basically suffered a setback, years later, in Seattle. That’s the place Holmgren, whereas enjoying in an August pro-am sport, landed on his proper foot and suffered a (*30*) injury that ended his 2022-23 season earlier than it started. These accidents usually take a yr to heal, however as with all foot accidents to massive males, it is difficult.

For Holmgren, this could go one of two methods. He can resume a standard NBA life and even prosper regardless of the momentary delay, very like Joel Embiid (navicular bone). Or this may very well be problematic and linger following rehab. Other highly-drafted gamers suffered knee accidents (Blake Griffin, Greg Oden) and sat for a yr; in the case of Oden, it was persistent.

There’s additionally the problem of Holmgren and his lack of weight and power and whether or not that may affect his skill to remain wholesome. Rather than change into an armchair sports activities scientist, it is best to permit that course of to truly develop and see what occurs. And that should wait for an additional yr.

Purely from a basketball standpoint, Holmgren’s physique was a speaking level even earlier than his injury. OKC, selecting second general in the Draft, had its pick of each eligible participant besides one (Paolo Banchero, a shock No. 1 general pick by the Orlando Magic). Therefore, OKC boss Sam Presti was confronted with an attention-grabbing choice: take Jabari Smith Jr. or Holmgren? They have been the following greatest prospects based on practically all scouting studies.

Presti ranks among the many NBA’s most interesting evaluators of younger expertise, and his Draft historical past since taking management of the membership in 2007 put him there. When Presti stated Holmgren was the pick, you merely nodded your head and assumed he did his homework and selected correctly once more.

If there’s a silver lining to Chet Holmgren’s injury, it is how rather more ready he’ll be when he takes the ground.

Yet the Draft is an inexact science. There are not any ensures, and the final rule of thumb is if you’re deciding on in the highest 5, do not take any possibilities. Does Holmgren assist that concept, or defy it?

From a bodily standpoint, it was undoubtedly a threat, and questions arose after his foot injury. Holmgren is a pipe cleaner who appears like he could be folded in half — he is heard all of the jokes by now. But that was the extent of his perceived weaknesses. In virtually each different manner, Holmgren is a freak of nature: a tall man with quick man abilities who can dribble past the paint, cross up defenders, in addition to see and stretch the ground. He can disrupt photographs whereas wielding a basketball consciousness that’s something however robotic.

Why draft somebody who may become fairly good over somebody who is perhaps a unicorn?

OKC snagged the 6-foot-10 Dieng, in a Draft-night commerce with the Knicks, and the 19-year-old might want to graduate from improvement faculty. Because they’re nonetheless reaping the future-pick advantages of buying and selling Paul George to the LA Clippers, the Thunder had a 3rd lottery pick (No. 13 general), which they used to pick Williams, a guard from Santa Clara, bypassing the possibility so as to add extra frontcourt assist in the shape of Mark Williams, Jalen Duren or Tari Eason.

The solely different vital summer time choice concerned Dort. As an excellent defensive guard who improved his taking pictures during the last yr, he clearly outplayed his contract, which paid lower than $3 million a season. He received his payday in the offseason, a reported five-year contract value $87.5 million — which works very far in the Midwest.

Despite that payout, OKC stays safely away from any wage cap hazard and will function a wage dumping floor (in the event that they so select) and add extra picks to their already years-long surplus.

This offseason was all about including extra rookies, creating them and laying a basis for the long run, all whereas hoping for a possible star. For a franchise that is not precisely a vacation spot spot at no cost brokers, that is the easiest way to enhance.

Given their youthful make-up and abundance of gamers who want minutes and reps, OKC is not out of the woods but. There will very possible be a spherical journey to the Draft lottery in 2023, particularly with Holmgren out of motion. That means the seek for a star continues.

By then, Holmgren will start the ultimate part of a rehab stretch and put together for … his rookie season.

Up subsequent: Memphis Grizzlies | Previously: New Orleans Pelicans

> 30 groups in 30 days: Complete schedule

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Shaun Powell has lined the NBA for greater than 25 years. You can e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and observe him on Twitter.

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