Chet Holmgren plays hard in defense until he fails

Chet Holmgren plays hard in defense until he fails

Chet Holmgren is the most polarizing prospect in the 2022 NBA Draft. To some talent evaluators, he appears to be the best player available; For others, he doesn’t even belong in the top three unanimously.

As the center position continues to evolve and adapt to the modern NBA, Holmgren, a 7-footer with guarding skills, might just be the big man teams you’ve been looking for. And while he still has his skeptics, and will remain so until he proves himself in the NBA, all numbers and numbers point to one particular strength: Holmgren’s defense is so impressive that it can’t fail.

While the big winger dominated the 2000s in the NBA, a new generation of big guys is currently ruling the league. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic joined forces to win the top four awards, and this duo and Joel Embiid won 1-2-3 in this year’s vote. But none of them made it to the conference finals, raising questions, once again, about the role of the big men in the contenders. (Of course, all three were also afflicted with roster oddities out of their control, from the exorbitant injuries sustained by Chris Middleton, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., to the Ben Simmons-James Harden fiasco in Philadelphia.)

But even with this play-off setback, the post-season 2022 also reinforced one element of the big man’s necessity: All four finalists rated better defensively in attack in the regular season, and the two finalists also boasted their first two defenses in the tournament. league. And what is the most important doctrine of the NBA defense? Edge protection. Enter Holmgren, the next defender to stop the league.

In Gonzaga last season, Holmgren blocked 12.6 percent of two-point opposition attempts, according to KenPom, who ranked 10th in the country and first among top 30 prospects for Kevin O’Connor. And Holmgren wasn’t just bullying the weak at the West Coast Conference. His ban rate against teams ranked in the national top 100 on KenPom was 12.4 percent, essentially the same as his overall rate. On a per-game basis, Holmgren posted an average of 3.7 blocks across all of his games, and 3.7 blocks when he faced the top 100 opponents.

The other players at the top of this draft don’t come close to comparison. While both Jabari Smith Jr. And Paolo Banchero both record hits at 6-foot-10, allowing them to serve as two big guys in the NBA, whose college mass rates were just 3.8 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. Holmgren is the only member of the trio who can stabilize the defense.

Holmgren’s college performance also compares favorably with the top 24 men with college stats who have been drafted into the top five since 2002. (This is the first year with detailed data for KenPom players; this number does not include players without any Statistics from the NCAA or James Wiseman, who has played only three games for Memphis. We define “big men” here as players who have spent at least 25 percent of NBA minutes in the center, according to reference basketball assignments.)

Of that pool of 24 players, the only players who had a better BPA in their last college seasons than Holmgren were Garen Jackson Jr., Anthony Davis and Greg Odin. Near Holmgren are the towns of Hashem Thabet, Embiid and Karl Anthony.

Best college block rate in the top 5 picks (since 2002)

player general BLK%
player general BLK%
Garen Jackson Jr. 2018 14.3%
Anthony Davis 2012 13.8%
Greg Odin 2007 12.7%
Chet Holmgren 2022 12.6%
Hashem Thabet 2009 11.9%
Joel Embiid 2014 11.7%
Cities of Karl Anthony 2015 11.5%

This is an important predictor of Holmgren’s NBA future: As ESPN’s Kevin Pelton writes, the block rate translates from college to pro better than any other statistic. And in this sample, this relationship also remains constant. For example, at the other end of the list, only five seniors in this sample had a college block rate of less than 5 percent: Marvin Bagley III, Thomas Robinson, Drew Gooden, Cody Zeller and Jahlil Okafor. Seniors who can’t protect the edge in college don’t succeed in the NBA.

Each point represents a big man who has been selected in the top five in the draft since 2002

To be fair, the big college roster of colleges doesn’t provide a perfect NBA success rate: constant injuries have spoiled Odin’s career, and Steady is one of the greatest whiffs of the century. But there’s also a massive gap between what’s left of Holmgren beyond blocking his shot, and the rest of Thabeet’s games. Holmgren has a mobility that the heavy-legged constant has never had, and his offensive potential is much higher.

chit holmgren vs. Hashem Thabet in the final season of the college

statistics Chet Holmgren Hashem Thabet
statistics Chet Holmgren Hashem Thabet
USG% 22% 19%
Help rate 12% 3%
FT% 72% 63%
3 p 41 0
3PA 105 0
3P% 39% Unavailable

Expand the comps of all the top lottery comps since 2002, and more are missing among the recruits at the top of the college rankings. Mo Bamba is a recent example of a big guy who didn’t turn out as hoped when he went with a refusal. 6 in the 2018 draft, and others like Cole Aldrich, Ekpe Udoh, and Hilton Armstrong failed to turn a college production into a success in the NBA.

But that’s where Holmgren’s offensive abilities come into play, as with the Thabeet comparison: Unlike those lottery failed shots, Holmgren turns his amazing edge-to-edge hits into a two-way production. There’s a reason Aldrich, with a dominant mass rate of 13.0 percent in his last college season but little offensive game, fell to no. 11 Pick instead of going into the top three, as Holmgren will surely do this week.

For a modern senior, Holmgren boasts a perfect offensive skill set. He’s dexterous in the end—his 73.7 percent accuracy of two points has resulted in Division I players with no fewer than 100 attempts—and he’s already a capable and willing shooter as well, with 39 percent of his 3-point college marks on three attempts per game. Free-throw accuracy of 72 percent also predicts greater range, with the free-throw percentage being a better indicator of NBA shooting potential.

Very few big guys in the past two decades have offered anything approaching Holmgren’s proprietary blend of edge protection and shooting skills. This graph includes every big man in the lottery in the last 20 years with at least 11 percent and 70 percent accuracy in a free throw in his most recent college season. It’s not a long list. (This also illustrates the allure of Duke’s Mark Williams, who may be picked in the lottery with Holmgren on Thursday.)

High block lottery picks and free throws (since 2002)

player Choose the year BLK% FT%
player Choose the year BLK% FT%
Garen Jackson Jr. 4, 2018 14.3% 80%
Anthony Davis 1, 2012 13.8% 71%
Chet Holmgren ??? , 2022 12.6% 72%
Miles Turner 11, 2015 12.3% 84%
Cities of Karl Anthony 1, 2015 11.5% 81%
Mark Williams ??? , 2022 11.5% 73%

It’s also an incredibly encouraging group of comparisons. Davis and Towns are multi-time NBA honorees who have signed maximum contracts. Jackson is still developing, but he deserved a nine-figure extension even before he finished fifth in the Player of the Year vote last season.

Turner deserves a closer look given the few warning signs in Holmgren’s profile. In defense, Turner is an inside force who, as a two-time Block Champion, can be played off the ground in some matches. On offense, Spacing provides as a 3-point absolute leader, but has only averaged 10-15 points per game in each season of his career because he’s never really controlled the ball as a high-use innovator.

This is a conceivable consequence for Holmgren – but except for the Odinisk injuries, it appears that worst case The result, because she expects Holmgren will never develop it beyond his current skill set. Because of his unique physique, Holmgren is seen as more of a “high/low floor player” than his counterparts at the top of the draft boards, but his pitch looks like Turner, who remains one of the best players of the 2015 draft class by any measure. (I admitted I might be biased here, as an old believer of Turner.)

Concerns about Holmgren’s stature and frame still prevail, but his size hasn’t slowed him down during incredibly successful periods in high school or college, and he will have plenty of time to top out at 200lbs. Embiid may never match pound for pound, but as J. Kyle Mann has written ringer In Holmgren’s comprehensive survey report, other high picks, from Davis to Kevin Durant, added meaningful muscle once they made it to the NBA.

In the end, Holmgren sums up all the skills most important to a modern senior: edge protection, navigating to contain guards, finishing at the edge, and space between the floor. Combine all of those disparate pieces into one 7-foot-tall body, and the results will be statistically stunning.

Holmgren’s plus-minus square – an all-in-one statistic that estimates a player’s total value – is the third-best freshman player in the Sports Reference database (spanning back to 2011-12). Every other player in the top five is a big guy who’s already an NBA star or – in the case of Evan Mobley – well on his way. Davis, Towns and Jackson all appear high on this list as well.

Best plus-minus square among freshmen (since 2011-12)

player BPM
player BPM
Zion Williamson 20.1
Anthony Davis 17.2
Chet Holmgren 15.0
Cities of Karl Anthony 14.3
Evan Mobley 13.7
Lonzo Pool 12.0
Joel Embiid 11.9
D’Angelo Russell 11.9
Garen Jackson Jr. 11.7
Cody Zeller 11.7

Holmgren isn’t actually a high/low cap player. Has the highest cap in the 2022 draft And the Very high floor. Come Thursday night, a lucky fan base will be able to start cheering for his massive potential.

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