One of college basketball’s most dominant two-way stars during his lone season at Gonzaga, Holmgren joins budding superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and 2021 No. 6 overall pick Josh Giddey as the core of a Thunder franchise that remains stocked with future draft capital just waiting to be cashed in.
CBS Sports Gary Parrish gives the Thunder’s pick an A+.
The concerns about Holmgren’s slight frame are legitimate — but he’s such a unique prospect with incredible potential that he’s the right pick here. This 7-foot rim-protector who can also bounce it like a guard and reliably make 3-pointers. He has the highest ceiling in this draft and, for that reason, should go no lower than here.
Holmgren profiles as an elite rim protector and shot-changer in the paint; many really smart analysts talk about Holmgren’s instincts on the defensive end as “off the charts.” Holmgren has been compared to Pau Gasol, or even Rudy Gobert with perimeter skills, by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. That’s pretty high praise.
Offensively, Holmgren’s ability to stretch the floor as a shooter is a perfect complement for Gilgeous-Alexander, who is one of the most aggressive drivers in the league and becomes almost impossible to keep out of the paint on a spaced floor.
Meanwhile, Giddey, who isn’t a great shooter but is a special passer, now has a 7-foot shooting target for his sixth-sense reads and more space to operate as a playmaker.
There is, of course, some doubt as to whether Holmgren will live up to the hype. His slender frame is where most of the doubt begins and ends. Can he hold up to the physical toll of the NBA? Everyone will cite the fact that scouts voiced similar concerns about Kevin Durant when he was coming out of college, and indeed the NBA has become much more about skill than physicality. But that doesn’t mean Holmgren’s career will play out the same way. For one, he’s not nearly as skilled as Durant. Not even close. Nobody is at that size.
Here’s what CBS Sports senior writer Matt Norlander had to say about Holmgren, whom he ultimately projects as a good-but-not-great player:
I think it’s more than reasonable to project at least one of the big three (Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero and Holmgren) to not be a top-five player in this class by the time we look up in 2030 and take stock of all that’s happened. Since Holmgren’s still dogged by questions about his frame and shelf life as a durable presence, I’ll pick him to be the worst of the three. I don’t question his work ethic or love for the game at all. I can’t wait to see him in the NBA, but I think he winds up as a good, but a bit inconsistent, modern stretch-center.
As Norlander says, Holmgren’s floor still appears to be pretty high. He’s going to be a good player. Seven-footers who can shoot and protect the rim are always going to be highly valuable. The question is whether Holmgren tops out as a valuable rotation player or a legit franchise cornerstone. OKC is betting on the latter.