If the Orlando Magic selects Auburn forward Jabari Smith with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, which rival teams see as a “formality,” according to ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony, the overwhelming expectation, Givony added, is that the Oklahoma City Thunder will select Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren with the No. 2 pick.
There are Holmgren loyalists and Holmgren haters, and not much in between.
No one denies Holmgren’s jaw-dropping upside. He’s a 7-footer who can playmake and shoot threes, and on defense he’s an elite rim protector. He’s also shy of 200 pounds, and there are concerns that his body won’t hold up against the Oklahoma wind, much less against Nikola Jokic.
Some Thunder fans seem smitten with Holmgren while others are afraid he’s Aleksej Pokusevski 2.0. Pokusevski, who’s just six months older than Holmgren, isn’t and never was the same caliber of prospect as Holmgren, but it’s easy to see the similarities.
Just based on physical appearance, Pokusevski is probably the best NBA comparison for Holmgren. But while their size and stature are the same, their games hardly mirror each other.
We caught up with three NBA Draft experts and asked them to compare Holmgren to Pokusevski. We also got their expert takes on whom the Thunder should select at No. 2.
You’ll hear from Rafael Barlowe, the director of scouting at NBA Big Board, Matt Babcock, the owner and founder of Babcock Hoops, and Derek Murray, who works with Babcock and writes for BasketballNews.com.
Murray worked for the Thunder on the business side, and he was mentored by general manager Sam Presti and others on the basketball operations side. Murray has since made a career for himself in the scouting world.
Let’s get to it.
What would you tell a Thunder fan who’s concerned that Chet Holmgren is too similar, and carries similar risks, to Aleksej Pokusevski?
Barlowe: “I get the concern. I really do. You’ve got two guys who are really, really thin, but skilled.”
Babcock: “The main concern with Chet Holmgren is his lack of physical strength, which is similar to Pokusevski, and is a valid concern, in my opinion. However, Holmgren is a far superior prospect overall, and also their styles of play are pretty different. Pokusevski does a lot off the dribble as a perimeter player, although he’s nearly 7-feet tall. Holmgren is versatile, but I think he falls more into a stretch big with outside shooting and rim protection as his key attributes.”
Murray: “I think it’s unfair to assume they’re the same player. They are polar…