After being selected as the second overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Chet Holmgren missed out on his rookie season with Oklahoma City due to a foot injury. As terrible as it was for the youngster, he had all last season to recover and mentally prepare for this 2023/24 campaign.
He already proved his might in July’s Summer League action, and has both Thunder fans and coaching staff excited for his return. However, as good as he is, the team doesn’t want to rush into things and predetermine his playing time just yet.
“I think the big thing with that is you don’t want to predetermine anything,” GM Sam Presti said this week in press conference. “We have to see how he responds, and then we can play it from there.”
“He’s definitely stronger. There’s in-season training and there’s offseason training, and he got a whole year or offseason training.”
We got to learn a lot about him as a worker. You learn a lot about somebody when they’re put into that situation.”
— Sam Presti on Chet Holmgren pic.twitter.com/wEhDeg5QTZ
— Cooper Jones (@CooperJNBA) September 27, 2023
During the offseason competition, the 21-year-old played in four Summer League matches and averaged 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. The former Gonzaga star proved he’s ready to contribute to this very young roster with even higher ambitions.
“He’s hit all the marks so far,” Presti kept at it. “But we’ll have to be very observant, and we’re going to have to improvise a little on that.”
Another recent acquisition to the Thunder roster is former EuroLeague star Vasilije Micic, who signed a three-year, $23.5 million deal back in July. The Philadelphia 76ers had drafted the Serbian guard back in 2014, until OKC negotiated his rights three years ago.
The 29-year-old has won the EuroLeague twice already, and once earned the tournament’s MVP award, holding career averages of 12.7 points and 4.8 assists.
“It just kind of lined up and made sense,” the general manager shared. “As far as his game goes, the NBA is very favorable to skilled players who know how to play. … He has a lot of that. There’s no fixed mindset of what he can or can’t do. We’ll see if he has some good combinations with us.”
As for Victor Olaidpo‘s situation, who is set to receive $9.45 million this season with one year remaining on his contract, Presti revealed that it makes no sense to retain him.
“We will have to make a decision on that contract,” he acknowledged. “He’ll be back this season at some point, and I’m sure he’ll be playing with a really good team. … The alignment for us just doesn’t make sense right now.”
Thunder’s GM doesn’t want the excitement to get the best of them, as they still want to continue a slow, gradual growth towards the top of the league
Oklahoma City now possess one of the most exciting young rosters in the NBA and have the potential to head to the top of the league starting this upcoming campaign. However, the team’s front office wants to remain as level-headed as possible and wishes to keep growing gradually, as Presti knows that high expectations can turn into a problem.
“You can’t buy the paint for your house that you haven’t bought yet. You don’t know wherethe house is. … You don’t know what style it is. You don’t know how much paint you’ll need. We don’t really know what we have right now,” the team’s GM said. “I think this is part of the headwinds that you face as a young team. I wouldn’t want to cash in to become average or above average.”
The Thunder doesn’t just boast one of the wealthiest, long-term rosters in the league, they also have 35 draft selections in the next seven years, which 15 of those are first-round picks.
“I don’t think you can make a rational case for it now,” Presti remains cautious. “Perhaps at some point when we have a little more information, the team has demonstrated its capability and played in high-performing games and we see what our limitations are, potentially.”