Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic knows what it takes to succeed in the NBA with a unique frame and skillset, and on Sunday he shared his wisdom with rookie big man Chet Holmgren after the Denver Nuggets crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder, 128-95.
In short, Holmgren needs to look more like Jokić.
“He’s a really talented guy, but this is his first year,” Jokić said. “He’s still learning everything: the game, how quick it is, where is (he at) an advantage, where is [he at] a disadvantage. I think he needs experience. I think he needs to be a little bit fatter, to be honest. But yes, he has a talent that is unique.”
Seems pretty simple: Just follow Jokić’s three-liters-of-soda-per-day diet from early in his career and he should get there in no time.
In all seriousness though, bulking up has been an obvious area of improvement for Holmgren ever since he was playing for Gonzaga. The 7-foot-1 Holmgren weighed just 195 pounds when he was drafted, and though he’s gained 13 pounds over the past year, he’s still one of the skinnest big men in the league. There’s a balance there, of course, and Holmgren’s current frame allows him more flexibility than most, but at the moment he doesn’t have the heft to deal with true centers like Jokić.
That became obvious immediately, as Jokić bullied his way past Holmgren for two easy layups within the first minute. By the time the final buzzer sounded on the Nuggets’ blowout win, Jokić had racked up 28 points, 14 rebounds and five assists on 12-of-16 shooting from the field, including 8 of 11 in the restricted area.
Holmgren had some success of his own, scoring 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, and has already shown defensive prowess with seven blocks in the Thunder’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this week. It’s clear, though, that some matchups are going to give him a problem until he gets stronger.