The much-heralded prospect out of Gonzaga may not have a perfect NBA player comp, but the team that drafts Chet Holmgren will have a player ready to make noise on and off the court.
He has No. 1 pick potential, no question. At a full 7 feet tall, he was a walking double-double for Mark Few’s Gonzaga and averaged nearly four blocks per game on the other end. He shot 40% from three, but was also second in the country in two-point field goal percentage (73.7%). It all combines to make Holmgren a matchup nightmare, and his slight frame indicates that there’s plenty of room to build himself up even more physically.
But that frame is exactly why some analysts won’t cast him as the best prospect in the draft. He could get injured, they say (despite the fact that he has no notable injury history). Perhaps he won’t be able to out-muscle the strongest guys in the NBA; at the same time, he’s already demonstrated elite rim protector ability.
That’s all to say that Holmgren will hear his name called early on Thursday night, and all indications are he is headed to Oklahoma City at No. 2 overall.
The Rookie Whirlwind
Holmgren’s life will change the moment it’s official. On Friday morning, he will fly out to his new city to do the full-on media car wash and get right to work on integrating himself into the system of an entirely new franchise. If it is truly OKC, he’ll head to a team that finished the 2021-22 season 24-58 with the second-worst winning percentage in the NBA.
“I’m doing some media stuff then it’s right to work,” he told Boardroom this week, “lacing up my shoes and getting on the court.”
As a now-former Gonzaga Bulldog, Holmgren has had the benefit of tapping into a rich Gonzaga alumni base in the pros. He’s talked a lot with Jalen Suggs, who not only went to Gonzaga but also Minnehaha Academy in Minnesota with Holmgren. Over the past few months, he’s had the chance to pick the brains of NBA-ers Domantas Sabonis, Killian Tillie, and Brandon Clarke as well.
Holmgren says he anticipates going back to them as his rookie year gets going and he adjusts to life in the league.
The biggest lesson he’s learned so far? That it’s a long, long season.
“[They’re] just giving me advice on what the NBA is like, never getting too high, never getting too low,” he said. “You might have a great game, but you have a game the next night so you can’t sit there and be too happy about it. And same thing with a bad game. You have a bad game, you have another one the next night.”
Returning the Favor
Whoever ends up with Holmgren will get a guy who is reserved off the court, but whose ambitions — in basketball and business — are apparent.
“There’s been a lot of NBA players and athletes that are more than just athletes who do great things off the court for themselves as well as their communities,” he said. “LeBron James is one of them. He’s started a whole school in his hometown and now he’s starting a hospital. Guys like Kevin Durant have made really wise off-court investments.”
Holmgren already has experience combining business and giving back. Earlier this year, he partnered with Topps and Minnesota charity Can Do Canines, which provides service dogs to those with disabilities, on a special edition trading card to benefit the organization.
“Basketball’s taken me many different places and a lot of different communities have embraced me, so I want to return the favor and embrace them as well,” Holmgren said.
In the future, Holmgren hopes to build basketball courts in underserved communities, perhaps in or around his new city. It’s a matter of giving other kids the same opportunities that he had growing up.
“Something that’s super important to me is sharing the gift of basketball to other kids,” he said. “And building basketball courts where there might not be, I see first-hand how well that can help people, so I kinda want to pay that forward.”
This past season, WME represented Holmgren for name, image, and likeness deals, and the two sides will continue that partnership moving forward. Holmgren says he appreciates WME’s ability to facilitate partnerships that are true to him, and that everything from brand partnerships to his game-day style will be authentic to who he is in the NBA.
For that reason, it’s no surprise that when Boardroom spoke with him prior to the Draft, he was at a barbershop in Brooklyn, appearing as part of his partnership with men’s grooming brand Philips Norelco.
“Fans are gonna see me wearing what expresses me, what I feel comfortable and confident in,” he said. “Different brands, whatever it might be, but at the same time I’m also going to keep a clean look.”
As for draft night, Chet Holmgren would not reveal what exactly he’d be wearing, but on a night known for prospects’ outrageous style, don’t be surprised if he pulls out a true one-of-one look.
Just like his game.