Chet Holmgren, who spent a college season at Gonzaga after a stellar high school career at Minnehaha Academy, was the No. 2 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night in Brooklyn, NY.
The 7-foot center, whose full game includes a deadly three-point shot and ball handling at point guard, was picked by the Oklahoma City Thunder after the Orlando Magic made the forward a freshman year of Duke Paolo Banchero the No. 1 pick.
He is the highest drafted Minnesotan in NBA history; Hibbing’s Kevin McHale, a Gophers forward, was No. 3 overall in 1980.
There had been the possibility of Holmgren reuniting with high school teammate and good friend Jalen Suggs, who was the fifth overall pick last season and had a strong rookie year with the Magic.
Instead, Orlando went with the 6-10 Banchero, the ACC Rookie of the Year. Holmgren was next, Oklahoma City banking on his unique “unicorn” status as a player whose position isn’t easily defined. At 195 pounds, he will have to get stronger, but his defense and shot blocking are assets.
Holmgren is the highest-drafted Gonzaga player in program history. A second-team AP All-America, he averaged 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds and ranked fourth nationally with 3.7 blocks per game for the Zags. He shot 61% from 3-point range and 39% from 3-point range last season – the kind of efficiency that could help a Thunder team that ranked last in the league in field goal percentage, in 3-point percentage and scoring last season.
He will join a young core that includes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Darius Bazley and Tre Mann. Alexander averaged 24.5 points last season.
The Thunder hope Holmgren can eventually help them reclaim some of the glory of the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook era. The Thunder went to the Western Conference Finals four times with this duo and once to the NBA Finals. The Thunder haven’t won a playoff since Durant left and have missed the playoffs the past two seasons. They went 24-58 last season.
The rebuilding Houston Rockets snagged sharpshooter Auburn forward Jabari Smith 6-10 with the third pick. The Sacramento Kings followed by taking 6-8 Iowa winger Keegan Murray.
Another Big Ten player, Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, rounded out the top five at Barclay’s Center. The son of Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Niele Ivey was taken away by the Detroit Pistons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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