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Chet Holmgren's sensational Summer League debut has NBA buzzing about second overall pick

Sporting News logo Sporting News 7/6/2022 Kevin Skiver

There weren't many players coming into the NBA Draft with more questions than Chet Holmgren. His size was always a concern, but his Summer League debut Tuesday was a promising start for the Thunder's second overall pick.

Holmgren put up a ridiculous stat-line of 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and six blocks, and he did it all with versatility and composure beyond his years against the Jazz's G-League affiliate, the Salt Lake Stars.

Where Holmgren looked most impressive was in the paint, where he was able to stifle several shots and set a G-League record for most blocks.

After the game, Holmgren was unimpressed.

MORE: Live scores, stats for California Classic Summer League

While Summer League games need to be taken with a grain of salt -- some of the biggest stars of the exhibition are Von Wafer and Anthony Morrow, after all -- it's solid framework for a player analysts leveled concerns at before his entrance into the NBA.

Reactions to Chet Holmgren's debut

The NBA world, which isn't prone to overreaction at all, dropped all of its scruples in response to Holmgren's first glimpse of the NBA.

To be clear, because it bears pointing out, that was a Dirk Nowitzski AND Kevin Durant comparison after one Summer League game. The Magic also made a rather unfortunate guest appearance, having taken Paolo Banchero first overall and leaving Holmgren on the board.

What skills did Chet Holmgren show?

In Summer League, it's not about the "what." It's all about the "how." Not all performances are created equal, and despite the level of competition, Holmgren did show some truly promising things for a player playing at this level for the first time.

Confidence

In the NBA, shooting the three is more important for bigs than it ever has been. But there are a very select handful of big men in the NBA who are willing to walk up, cross over at the three-point line, and pull up for a three over a defender sagging on them.

That's a hard shot, and he even gives a halfhearted "ice in my veins" celebration after.

Handles

Holmgren didn't show a lot with his dribbling in college. As The Athletic's Sam Vecenie noted, part of that is due to the spacing at that level, which doesn't necessarily allow big men to move the ball well on the perimeter.

Not so in the NBA. At the top level, every player who can handle the ball has an opportunity to showcase that skill, and Holmgren did so. While with some film on him defenders will be able to hone in on his behind-the-back into three-point shot, the fact he even has that move at his disposal is a promising start.

Skill in transition

It's a difficult thing in live game action to block a shot and immediately switch in an offensive mindset. Holmgren has been doing that since college.

He continued to do so Tuesday by blocking a shot, getting his own ball with a quick behind the back move, getting in transition and finding a teammate.

Paint presence

Perhaps more impressive than anything else he did, Holmgren made his presence known in the paint. He had his six blocks, and his ability to make himself felt every time someone from the Stars got to the rim was perhaps the most promising thing he showed on Tuesday, particularly with questions about his frame and size coming into the hyper-physical NBA.

MORE: NBA Summer League results: Scores, stats from Utah

The Stars, for their part, don't really have anyone who is going to be pushing for a Jazz roster spot. But as Holmgren marches toward the NBA, it's exactly the start the Thunder wanted to see.

When does Chet Holmgren play next?

There will be plenty of opportunities to see more of Holmgren, with the Thunder playing in both the Salt Lake and Las Vegas summer leagues. They'll be on again Wednesday night against the Grizzlies on ESPN2.

Remaining Thunder schedule at Salt Lake City Summer League

Date Opponent Time (ET) TV
Wednesday, July 6 Grizzlies 7:00 p.m. ESPN2
Thursday, July 7 76ers 6:00 p.m. NBA TV

 Thunder schedule at Las Vegas Summer League

Date Opponent Time (ET) TV
Saturday, July 9 Rockets 8:00 p.m. ESPN2
Monday, July 11 Magic 9:00 p.m. ESPN
Wednesday, July 13 Kings 8:00 p.m. NBA TV
Friday, July 15 Warriors 7:00 p.m. ESPN
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