Don’t forget about Chet Holmgren

Published November 6, 2023, 4:00 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez
Jon Carlos Rodriguez

Chet Holmgren should be up there on the list of must-watch rookies this season.

How about Chet Holmgren?

That was one of the top five questions that stumped me before the start of the 2023-2024 season. The other four: Will James Harden play drama-free ever again? Is Victor Wembanyama for real? How many shots will Jordan Poole not take for the Wizards? Is Giannis happy?

Among those five questions, the Chet one felt like the most interesting to unpack and probably the easiest mystery to solve. The preseason had big clues. 

Check out his preseason debut: 21 points, nine rebounds, and a block in just 16 minutes of action. He missed only three of his 10 shots and somewhere in there snuck in a flex directed at fellow beautiful oddity, Victor Wembanyama. 

Wembanyama’s preseason debut numbers were equally amazing: 20 points, five rebounds, a block, and a flex.

There will be a lot of these throughout the season. Wemby did this. But did you see what Chet did? Wemby made this inexplicable play. How about Chet? From now until decades to come, the actions of these two gifted 7-footers are intertwined, weaving a weird, vibrant pattern of what basketball has evolved into. 

Holmgren was born in 2002 and Wemby in 2004. They were born into an era of dominant big men like Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan; now playing in an era of a fast-paced, position-less game where everyone can knock down 3s. They’re both byproducts of a forgotten generation of bigs, mutated into something unprecedented and original. They’re time travelers from the near future, changing the game now.

In his official pro debut… actually, let’s just skip that part. In his second game, Holmgren instantly proved his readiness to take over basketball and reshape the game as we know it.

This is what he did: 16 points, 13 rebounds, seven blocks, and two 3s–one of them at a crucial part of the game to complete a roaring Thunder comeback from 10 points down.

This is how he swatted every shot near his airspace: 

This is what he said after the fact:

This is what makes Chet a fun player to root for (or a fun player to hate, if that’s your thing). As JJ Redick puts it, he’s got that “competitive edge” in him. As his teammate Jalen Williams more accurately puts it, he’s got that dog in him.

With his masterclass versus the Cavaliers, Chet Holmgren became just the second player in NBA history to do all the things he did in one game - in his second game in the league.

That will be a recurring update in the years to come. Chet Holmgren became just the *insert crazy stat here* in NBA history to do this. Chet Holmgren became just the *insert crazy stat here* in NBA history to do this. 

In a recent battle against the Golden State Warriors, Holmgren and OKC kept swinging and swinging, collectively punching their way through to make up for the loss of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s stats. 

The Thunder came up short, losing via a Steph Curry buzzer-beating scoop shot, which is possibly the best and only acceptable way to lose with dignity versus the Warriors. Steph and Chet exchanged jerseys after the game, a small token of appreciation for a huge game from Holmgren: 24 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.

More than the numbers, Holmgren did it with poise and control. He did it loudly and with the volume of someone who wanted to control the vibe of the party and for neighbors to complain. This is going to be the Chet Holmgren party - and while everyone is lining up to see Wemby, the other 7-foot wonder in OKC is a guaranteed can’t-miss.