clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What does Chet Holmgren’s injury mean for the Thunder?

Holmgren was ruled out for the whole of the 2022-23 season with a Lisfranc fracture

NBA: Summer League-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

It was reported earlier today that Chet Holmgren has sustained a Lisfranc fracture and will miss the entire 2022-23 season. Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman broke the news.

There has been a lot of speculation about where this injury was sustained but the Thunder were pretty clear that this was a freak injury. Chet’s foot injury is nothing to do with the slippery floors at the Crawsover exhibition game nor it is a result of Chet landing awkwardly after taking contact while guarding LeBron.

For Holmgren, it is tough news to hear. He has been remarkably durable in grassroots and collegiate basketball. This is the first time that he will spend months away from the basketball court.

For any player, long-term injuries can be difficult to deal with. There is anxiety about their own future in the sport and whether they can perform at the same level again. The daily grind of rehabilitation can be emotionally draining.

The Thunder have put a structure in place to support Holmgren during this time, Nick Collison, Thunder legend and assistant to Sam Presti, missed his first season in Seattle with shoulder injuries. He understands the issues facing Chet acutely and should be valuable moral support.

Oklahoma City have history with star players and foot injuries. Kevin Durant suffered a Jones’ fracture in 2014 and only ended up playing 27 games. Durant’s initial surgery did not completely address the issue and he was operated on three times in six months. Eventually, Kevin made a full recovery but it was a fraught process.

It is commonly believed that a Lisfranc fracture can be rehabilitated within 4-6 months but I am unsurprised to see the Thunder act so cautiously with Holmgren’s timeline. There is really no reason to risk the health of a young franchise cornerstone; it is not as if Oklahoma City are pushing for a championship next season.

The time off should allow Holmgren to recover to full health and get comfortable playing basketball again. Long layoffs can lead to rustiness and a lack of trust in the lower body. The only way to build confidence again is by gradually increasing load until Chet is able to play a full game.

In the short-term, Holmgren’s injury will mean that the Thunder will not be as competitive next season as first thought. With Chet, it did not seem unrealistic that Oklahoma City could be battling for a play-in spot.

Losing Holmgren will make a tough start to the season even harder and may increase the incentive to tank for a high pick in the 2023 Draft. Victor Wembanyama is the obvious prize but players like Dariq Whitehead, Scoot Henderson and Nick Smith are all interesting, blue-chip prospects.

It should also mean that Jeremiah Robinson-Earl keeps his place as the Thunder’s starting center instead of moving over to Power Forward. In all fairness, I do not think Coach Daigneault will tinker with the starting lineup all that much now. He found some success with the Shai/Dort/Giddey/Bazley/JRE lineup and it makes sense to develop that group a little more. It was a good unit on defense last year and another year of basketball should improve the team's cohesiveness on offense.

Jaylin Williams should also get more playing time as a small-ball center. We saw Coach Daigneault use Isaiah Roby to good effect in a similar role and Williams’ should benefit. He will get ample opportunities to slice defenses apart with his slick, measured passing.

The long-term is harder to predict but this injury may be oddly beneficial for the Thunder. Holmgren will effectively get a year away from games to build his body to deal with the rigours of professional basketball. He will have the time to refine his biomechanics so that his durability improves even further.

Lisfranc fractures are no joke but it could very well be a case of short-term pain for long-term gain. Chet’s previous injury history does not suggest that foot injuries will be a regular occurrence and that this was a complete freak accident.

As a fan, it is a bit deflating. I had looked forward to watching Chet play for the Thunder but that is sport sometimes. It can be brilliant and it can be agony. All we can do is hope Chet makes a full recovery and comes back even stronger.