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A new NBA version of Chet Holmgren is coming, and it started with his jaw-dropping Summer League performance

Someone needs to calm me down. I’m way too excited about Chet Holmgren.

Listen, I had the former Gonzaga star as the No. 1 player on my big board. I was pretty clear about thinking he should have gone with the first pick to the Orlando Magic. For someone his size, his skill set makes him one of the most unique prospects we have seen in quite some time.

Holmgren was absolutely dominant during his first game of Summer League in Salt Lake City with the Oklahoma City Thunder. His highlights will leave you cackling. He had 23 points and set a Summer League record for blocks and 3-pointers.

Some of you might say not to overreact to one game, and I promise that I’m trying to tame my expectations. But I do believe we’re going to see an even better version of Holmgren in the NBA than what we saw in college.

As re-circulated by Cerebro Sports’ Jake Rosen, Holmgren’s father David expected to see Holmgren take a remarkable step forward once he was in the NBA.

David told reporter Tim Keown that we will see something “a whole lot different” from Chet at the next level. But as Keown wrote, there was a lack of spacing at the college level that limited what he could do at Gonzaga (via ESPN):

“Talk to enough people who knew Chet Holmgren from the beginning, and they’ll each say the same thing: The college game restricted his movement and limited his repertoire, even at Gonzaga, which Holmgren chose in part to play in Mark Few’s high-octane offense. There’s allegedly a lethal George Gervin-style finger roll latent in the skill set, ready to awaken. There are more moves off the dribble, more face-up jumpers, more range that will benefit from the spacing of an NBA offense.”

If you read that quote before Holmgren’s professional debut in Salt Lake City, maybe you would be skeptical.

Holmgren finished with the second-best score in the catch-all metric box plus-minus among all players last season, per Bart Torvik. Since 2009, the only freshmen who ranked better were Zion Williamson and Anthony Davis.

How much better could Holmgren get playing within an NBA system? We saw a glimpse last night against the Jazz, and it was so beautiful.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie described what we saw very well. As he wrote, it’s incredibly challenging for college players as big as Holmgren to have the space to make much happen off the dribble in a set offense.

It’s one of the reasons why he was the leader in transition 3-pointers among drafted players, but never got as much going in a half-court environment.

For what it’s worth: Nearly two-thirds of Holmgren’s 3-pointers were made when playing in the open floor, per Hoop-Math. In fact, Holmgren was nearly 15 percentage points better from beyond the arc in transition relative to when he was in the half-court.

Last night, during his debut for the Thunder, Holmgren managed to connect on three of his dribble jumpers in a set offense, including the absurd jumper above against Tacko Fall.

All in all, those possessions accounted for 23 percent of his total finishes against the Jazz.

During his time in college, according to Synergy, Holmgren made just four jump shots off the dribble in a half-court setting. Those attempts accounted for approximately 3 percent of his total offensive output.

One of the most exciting shot attempts of the game wasn’t a 3-pointer from Holmgren, but rather this facsimile of Dirk Nowitzki from the midrange.

It’s safe to say we never saw Holmgren burst out his Nowitzki impression while at Gonzaga, and it’s probably because he didn’t have enough space to do as much.

Maybe it’s too early to say that Orlando made a mistake passing on Holmgren at No. 1 overall, but I’m fairly confident Oklahoma City hit a home run in the 2022 NBA Draft.

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