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Chasing the Unicorn: Chet Holmgren Adds Unique Piece to Thunder Core

The Oklahoma City Thunder spent their top pick in franchise history on the 7-footer.
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Unique -- that is the one word to describe the Oklahoma City Thunder's rebuild.

With a complete roster teardown two seasons ago, Thunder GM Sam Presti managed to turn a franchise entering a fire sale into a team staring into their sea of potential assets. Across this bunch, they have a bevy of first-round selections, some marquee pieces, and a young rotation -- there's no rebuild quite like the Oklahoma City Thunder's.

Strolling into Thursday's NBA Draft, the Thunder lived up to their "unique" status as a franchise, selecting undoubtedly the biggest potential payoff in this years draft class, Chet Holmgren.

Here's an evaluation on the Thunder's newest piece:

The Breakdown:

Chet Holmgren is a unique talent that you won’t find in any given draft cycle. His excellence around the basket, the perimeter, and even creating for himself is uncanny for a seven-footer – and with a bulk in the cards, he’ll be a handful for other teams for years to come.

He is a cream-of-the-crop prospect under his pegged archetype. Standing at 7-feet tall with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, Holmgren’s will be placed at the center spot in OKC. However, at 195 pounds, his frame made him one of the more unique players to hit the draft process in recent memory.

With his agility, Holmgren is an elite pick-and-roll player. He’ll be insanely difficult to cover as his frame makes him a deadly roll man while his ability to pop also can torch defenses. Around the basket, his footwork and overall grittiness to take contact also make him a threat.

Holmgren is a name to watch in the shot-blocking category for years to come as well. Collegiately, he stayed disciplined in the foul department while providing rim protection both standing and on the move.

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If he manages to check the boxes as a shooter and as a ball-handler, the sky becomes the limit for Holmgren. He is a bit clunky taking up the basketball now, but once in space, he’s a player who can erupt both pulling up at the three or slashing to the basket for penetrations.

In terms of versatility, it’s hard to find a player more fitting than Holmgren. Barring injury, he’s a high-floor, high-ceiling prospect who can yield you stats any day of the week. And his hybrid of speed and self-creation puts him on the map for sliding down to the power forward spot as well if need be.

Holmgren still needs to hone in on mastering both his on-ball creation and handle to limit potential inconsistencies in his play. But, even with his current archetype, he’s a contributor who should be able to make an impact right away on both ends of the ball as he slips right into most systems as a screen setter who can both stay outside and defend on the other end.

The Fit:

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Chet Holmgren had virtually been engaged for the last month, they were just waiting on their marriage. 

Holmgren was by far the best option in this year's draft class for the Thunder. Oklahoma City, who notably has sifted between one-year rentals at the five, now has a 7-footer capable of operating anywhere on the offensive side of play.

With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey at the helm, floor spacing is a requirement for their offense. While options such as Isaiah Roby and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl may have served solid reps spacing the five position, it was clear from the get-go their role has a short-term bandage. With Holmgren on board, the center woes have been wiped, both in terms of frame and spacing concerns. He's the type of player who can play off SGA or Giddey with screens, both off a pop or slip, and convert at a high rate. Off-the-ball, he can generate points off the catch, and he can even sprinkle in his own ball-handling improv.

Defensively, a lot of the key concerns have been addressed as well. The Thunder's mid-2010s teams were plagued with inefficiency to cover screens, Chet shores them up in this area. The days of rotational back-to-basket bigs playing like All Stars should also be axed upon the Chet era, as his blocking ability would hinder most teams from looking to force-feed the interior. 

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