Last week, the Oklahoma City Thunder received terrible news regarding rookie Chet Holmgren. The No.2 overall pick was ruled out for the 2022-23 season due to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot.
Before the announcement, everybody was looking forward to seeing the team’s new Big Three play together. The trio would have featured Holmgren along with young stars in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey.
Obviously, the injury to Holmgren is disappointing but the silver lining is that his absence creates new opportunities for those on the Thunder's roster. Now more than ever, Oklahoma City need a few of their young players to take that next step in their development.
Here are the parts of the organization that need to step up following Holmgren’s season- ending injury.
Besides being arguably the most talented player in the draft, Holmgren was drafted to elevate the Thunder’s front court. In terms of talent, Oklahoma City’s bigs and forwards are the team’s weakness.
With Holmgren going down, the Thunder have lost their defensive anchor and rim protector. Derrick Favors, the backup center, cannot fill either role.
However, the Thunder do not have to lose the offensive production the rookie would have brought. Holmgren would have been the second or third scoring option for the Thunder next season and there are players who can fulfill that role.
In particular, Darius Bazley should be the Thunder's primary wing scorer this season. After a jump in scoring during his sophomore season, it was a surprise to see Bazley regress offensively last season.
The Thunder will have rely on Bazley to turn things around this season. If he can improve his scoring average to 15 points per game, that would significantly help their offense. This average is very obtainable, it would just require some consistency from Bazley.
I am sure both he and the team will want to see regular, strong scoring nights in what is a contract year for the young forward. Darius will want to hit free agency on the back of a good season, not a poor one.
Aside from Bazley, other members of the Thunder’s front court will have to step up. Mike Muscala and Jaylin Williams will have to provide the floor-spacing spread that Chet would have likely contributed.
As the only other seven footer, Alexsej Pokusevski might have to spot minutes at center despite his slight frame. Pokusevski is smaller than Holmgren but his length will be valuable in providing the Thunder with versatility on defense.
Holmgren’s versatility was what made him so valuable and the Thunder will need multiple players to combine to match the same level of contribution.
The Front Office
Thunder fans should have confidence in Sam Presti but he is also under pressure following Holmgren’s injury.
If Presti could acquire a rim protector early in the season that would greatly aid the Thunder. Because as mentioned before, that is the only thing about Holmgren’s game they cannot replicate with others on the roster.
It is on Presti to keep Holmgren as a centerpiece of Oklahoma City’s future. A foot injury to a seven footer early in their career is very concerning. Presti must have faith that Holmgren will return to full strength and this will not be a recurring theme during Chet’s career.
Protecting Holmgren now will give the Thunder a chance to build a contender for years to come. The Philadelphia 76ers have been rewarded since weathering Joel Embiid’s early career injuries, you have to hope the same happens in OKC.