Start time - 8:00 p.m. (CT)
Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma
The Thunder’s debut in Las Vegas did not go as planned. Oklahoma City dropped their first game against the Houston Rockets after Josh Giddey could not convert a game-tying layup to take the game to OT.
The Thunder were undone by poor outside shooting on Saturday night. As team, Oklahoma City only made 4 3-point attempts and Tre Mann looked particularly off-colour. Mann is still working his way from a stint in the COVID protocols and he looked a little rusty on the court.
Chet Holmgren did not shoot particularly well but he played the game smartly. Chet worked his way to the foul line and knocked down six free throws. Those free throws turned a bad night into an average scoring night from Holmgren.
His defense was again hugely impressive. Holmgren’s positioning and length just allows him to lock down the interior. His assignment is reticent to shoot against Chet as they are aware that the shot will likely be rejected. It is hard for the opposing team to move the ball inside when there is an active, engaged defender racking up deflections. His four blocks do not tell the story of his effectiveness.
Jalen Williams led the Thunder in scoring the other night and continues to impress. His patience and discipline has led to solid, efficient nights from the field. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that Williams’ play is earning him into the rotation. It is easy to envision J-Dub coming off the bench and replacing Ty Jerome’s production.
Orlando are another team that have impressed during Summer League basketball. Paolo Banchero, #1 in 2022 NBA Draft, has flourished as the team’s offensive hub. Banchero is being asked to facilitate the offense and so far he has delivered.
Banchero will likely match up against Holmgren tonight and the contrast between the two players could not be greater. Banchero is 6’10, strong and has a thick frame. His combination of strength and skill is reminiscent of Chris Webber. Banchero can use brute force to beat defenders or he can dance around the defense for easy finishes inside.
Holmgren is 7’0, rail-thin and does not have the frame of a typical basketball player. His midsection is not strong yet and he can be attacked by bigs carrying a head of steam. However, Holmgren is an incredibly fluid athlete with great instincts on the defensive end of the floor and a sweet outside jumper.
I am curious to see how each player plays the chess match. Banchero can exploit Chet down low on the block but he will eventually run into Chet’s long limbs. It may be wiser for him to draw Holmgren into space and use his mid-range ability to punish the Thunder’s defense.
For Holmgren, he must exploit Banchero’s lack of lateral quickness on the defensive end of the floor. Spacing out to the break and knocking down jumpers will be a good way to do so. Banchero simply does not have the foot speed to close the distance and contest the shot in an effective manner.
It is an exciting match-up and I cannot wait to see how it plays out. Two polished, unique bigs going at it is quite special.