Chet Holmgren has been a case study for basketball prospects since he first burst on the scene at Steph Curry’s basketball camp. He crossed over Steph and finished with a dunk. Usually, it’s not that impressive for a guard to do this. Chet Holmgren is a seven-foot-tall center with a body that resembles what twelve-year-olds would look like, weighing in at 195 pounds. This is not a knock on Chet, given he can’t help his genetics, but rather something that every scout points out in his game. NBA scouts are afraid that Holmgren lacks the strength to play at the next level. Let me show you that there is more to talk about than his strength and size.
Holmgren finished his first year at Gonzaga by posting impressive statistics on both sides of the court. Offensively, Holmgren finished the year shooting 60.7% from the field, with an impressive 73.7% from the two-point range. Chet shot 39.0% from three-point land, tossing in two assists. Defensively is where Chet shines. Not only did he win WCC Rookie of the Year, but he also gathered the WCC Defensive Player of the Year. The Consensus All American averaged 3.7 blocks per game, putting him eighth in the country at 12.6% block percentage. On top of that, Holmgren was second in the NCAA in Defensive Win Shares (3.1) and first in Defensive Rating (78.7). He finished with a 31.3 Player Efficiency Rating, which would have put him third in the NBA this past year.
By now, you know I love to compare these prospects to current and former NBA players. Given Holmgren’s unique build, it narrowed down how many players that fit into his category. Two immediately came to mind but did not quite fit.
Former Toronto Raptors’ number one overall pick in 2006, Andrea Bargnani, was my first thought. Bargnani was a slender forward /center with a knack for shooting the ball and his quickness for his size. However, Bargnani lacked his defensive ability compared to Holmgren, so that comparison did not match up.
How about current Milwaukee Bucks soon-to-be-legend Giannis Antetokounmpo (yes, I didn’t spell it right the first time)? Giannis was an incredibly raw prospect that was more of folklore at the time. His workout tapes were from a tiny gym in Greece but garnered him enough press to get selected 15th overall. He then put on about 40 pounds of muscle and became the two-time MVP of the league thanks to his battering ram of a body and defensive excellence. Unfortunately, I think this ceiling is too high for Holmgren, so this wasn’t the fit.
I landed on former New York Knicks legend Kristaps Porzingus as my comparison. Both Kristaps and Chet have a similar build, play style, and defensive ability. The unfortunate aspect of Porzingus’ career is his injury problems. However, last year he could have put his best season together, averaging 20.2 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game, and 1.6 blocks per game on 45.9% shooting from the field.
First Pick Overall?
Currently, Chet slots somewhere between the first pick to the fourth pick in the draft. Nestled in those picks are three players that seem to be the consensus first four players taken. Point guard Jaden Ivey is among those players, but I cannot compare a guard to a big man like Holmgren, so I’ll remove him from this. That leaves two players; Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero. Let’s compare Chet’s upper hand and where the other two players have an advantage:
Jabari Smith vs Chet Holmgren
Chet Wins: Rebounding and Post Scoring
- Chet Holmgren is a better rebounder than Jabari Smith. Thanks to Holmgren’s length, he can grab the boards over the taller defenders, whereas Smith may miss out on board Opportunities primarily because of his jump shooting ability.
- Holmgren also has a more polished post-play than Smith. Smith’s liable to bail out of a post-up opportunity to take the mid-range jumper as that is a decent shot for him.
Jabari Wins: Shooting and Quickness
- Holmgren does have an excellent shot, but Smith is just at another level. Jabari shot 44% last year from three-point range, garnering comparisons to Rashard Lewis because of that.
- Jabari is more athletic than Chet, allowing Smith to switch to smaller defenders in the pick and roll and cover that guard for the time being. Thanks to his explosive vertical, Smith is also liable to create poster dunks in the NBA.
Paolo Banchero vs Chet Holmgren
Chet Wins: Defense and Shooting IQ
- Thanks to Chet’s length (7’1’ with a 7’6” wingspan), he’s able to affect more shots in the paint. Paolo is more of an offensive player, so his defense has been labeled as passable. However, he does not possess the rim protection that Chet has.
- While Banchero is noted for his shot creation, Holmgren has the upper hand on knowing when to take the shots.
Paolo Wins: Strength and Post Skills
- Paolo has a solid frame. At 6’10”, weighing 250lbs, Banchero utilizes this strength to create opportunities on the offensive end. He doesn’t have the type of athleticism that will make poster dunks, but he does have the kind of strength that would prevent them.
- While Holmgren does shoot impressively well in the post, there isn’t a player in this draft that scores better from the post than Banchero. With the strength mentioned above, he uses that to post up defenders of all sizes. He uses his body to create opportunities to make any move imaginable. His fadeaway is Dirk-esque in that it’s practically unstoppable.
What is Chet Holmgren’s potential in the NBA? I could see Chet turning into another Kristaps Porzingus. I know the gut reaction to most fans is that Kristaps was a bust, but that’s far from the case. If a player finishes their career averaging 19 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks per game, I would have them on my team in a heartbeat, especially if I can draft that player. You can thank New York Knicks fans for that negative reputation towards The Zinger. Now the bigger question becomes whether or not he deserves to be the first pick in the draft. In looking at Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith, I could make a case for Chet to be better than Paolo. It seems Banchero has that ability to become the “jack of all trades, master of none,” which makes him seem like an Al Horford-type player. As for Jabari Smith, I can’t put Chet above him. Combine Smith’s size, shooting, and athleticism; you may already have an All-Star level player next year.