Chet Holmgren is slowly finding his role on the young Thunder team

LAS VEGAS – Oklahoma City Thunder center and No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren played his third NBA Summer League game on Saturday night and was relatively quiet compared to his debut in Salt Lake City, where he posted a 23-point, seven-rebound stat line. , six blocks and four assists.

Facing the Houston Rockets, who also have a lot of youth, and the No. 3, Jabari Smith Jr., the game went back and forth during the second half. The two top five picks both got off to slow starts, but got a glimpse of why they were both top picks in the draft. Smith Jr. finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and four steals, while Holmgren had 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks as the Rockets defeated the Thunder, 90-88.

“Jabari is a great player and we weren’t able to come out on top tonight, so we have to go back to the lab tomorrow in practice and watch film and figure it out and get better for the next game,” Holmgren said after the match. game. “I’m just trying to go out and compete every single game, no matter who we’re up against.”

Unlike his first game in Utah, Holmgren struggled a bit on offense, especially when trying to take players off the dribble, committing four turnovers. Houston was switching everything up and the matchup between Holmgren and Josh Giddey wasn’t there, forcing the duo to find other ways to score and be productive.

“Every game is different and tonight they were switching almost everything, so I was trying to slide in and make a lot of plays, but we’re working on our chemistry everywhere,” Holmgren told Yahoo Sports. “It helps a lot to play alongside a guy like Josh who sees the floor really well and gets his teammates involved. It makes life easier for everybody.”

Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren is guarded by Houston Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr. during the 2022 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on July 9, 2022. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

During Holmgren’s one season at Gonzaga, adjustments were made every night, trying to figure out how best to use the 7-foot-1 player in Mark Few’s established offense. Holmgren would have nights where he came close to a triple-double and would only score six points in the next game. His role each night will be different, and the Thunder have enough talent on the floor to give him the freedom to impact the game in other ways, especially defensively.

“With a guy like him, it’s easy to be silent on a specific aspect of the game, good or bad for him, but he’s so unique and affects the game in so many ways,” Summer League coach Kameron Woods said afterward. The game. “His rim protection was great tonight and he opened up a lot of things for guys on the perimeter.”

Early in the second half, Holmgren had back-to-back defensive possessions that were incredible and brought loud cheers from the packed arena. He blocked Josh Christopher and Tari Eason who were trying to get to the rim and turned it into a light transition attack that ended with two dunks by rookie Jalen Williams. Holmgren’s presence in the lane is essential for this young Thunder team and he is the best rim protector in this rookie class.

“He protects the rim like nobody I’ve seen before,” Giddey said. “I know he’s got my back going into it and we all know if we get beat, Chet is sliding in to help. We’ve only played three or four games together as a team and the more we play together , the more fluent his game, my game, everyone’s game will be.”

There is always a learning curve for rookies when they first enter the league. The distance is different, the pace is faster and there is more freedom in attack for iso situations. This young Thunder team has a lot of length and talent and will be a fun group to watch this season. Holmgren’s role will be different every night. Anyone who still doubts he can be impactful at the NBA level will let his play speak for itself.

“I’m just trying to learn from every single experience and every time we go out there, whether it’s good or bad, I’m trying to take something from it and grow as a player,” Holmgren told Yahoo Sports. “Anyone who doubts that I can play this game, I don’t want to say anything. I’d rather tie them up and prove them wrong.”

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