The Case for Chet Holmgren as the #1 Pick

Gonzaga's "unicorn" is the most unique player in the draft. Here's what makes him special

Chet Holmgren arrived on Gonzaga’s campus as the highest-ranked recruit in school history and the No. 1 prospect in the nation according to many. Holmgren was also the projected No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on a lot of preseason draft boards after winning Most Valuable Player at the 2021 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Latvia last summer.

The hype made it nearly impossible for him to live up to expectations, especially when you consider he was to play a supporting role behind preseason national player of the year candidate Drew Timme. 

The competition Holmgren would face right out of the gate would be fierce. Gonzaga had a loaded non-conference schedule in November and December, featuring games against Texas, Alabama and UCLA and a highly anticipated matchup against Duke and Paolo Banchero, also a projected top-3 pick coming into the season. 

In the early part of the season, Holmgren showed glimpses of why he’s been labeled a unicorn, but he was not always aggressive and seemed content playing a complementary role. 

Since the start of the calendar year, Holmgren has been a different player during the Zags’ West Coast Conference schedule, and has made a strong case as the top prospect in this draft class.

The Minneapolis native is listed at 7’0” and only 195 lbs. He makes up for his lack of bulk and strength with his heart and competitive fire. Physique aside, what makes him unique is that he can block a shot on one end, push the ball up the floor and drain a pull-up 3.

His rare blend of body type and skills makes it nearly impossible to find a player comparison. I’ve seen comparisons to Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant and Kristaps Porziņģis. None of them feel quite right.

Holmgren is currently averaging 14.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and a shade under 2 assists per game on 61% shooting. After a slow start, he’s now shooting a sizzling 44.4% from 3.

Here’s more of what makes him special, why he’s No. 2 on my board after Paolo Banchero and why he might be the top pick:

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Rafael Barlowe