Chet Holmgren

Chatting About Chet – A Closer Look at Holmgren

Dan Savage
Director of Digital News

Breaking Down Orlando Magic Audio Network’s Jake Chapman’s Conversations with Three Different Analysts   

ORLANDO – It’s been just over a week since the Orlando Magic were awarded the No. 1 overall pick courtesy of the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery.  

Since then, draft analysts, media pundits, and fans on social media have all shared their opinions on what the Magic should do with the first overall selection. While the front office is doing their part by hosting players for workouts, breaking downing years of film, and having conversations with those closest to the prospects, we’re doing some of the same at 

As part of the pre-draft process, we were able to track down members of the media who’ve closely examined the careers of the prospects who are reported to be at the top of many teams’ draft boards, including the Magic. 

To start this series off, Orlando Magic Audio Network’s Jake Chapman, host of the “Mostly Magic Podcast,” spoke with three people who’ve closely dissected the college career of Chet Holmgren. 

I’ve pulled out a few of the notable quotes from their conversations below, but you can also listen to the podcast in its entirety right here

Theo Lawson, who covers Gonzaga men’s basketball for The Spokesman-Review 

Chapman: “What was it like covering (Chet), and what’s he like just as a guy?” 

Lawson: “He’s a really low-key guy. You’re right, he’s kind of the polar opposite of Drew Timme. He doesn’t talk a whole lot, he’s not going to be the loudest guy in the huddle, but he’s always pretty excited to be out there. Obviously, coming into college, he was projected as a top-five pick before he’d thrown on a Gonzaga uniform – potentially top-three pick – so people already kind of knew what Chet Holmgren was. He’s dealt with those expectations since high school and since he crossed up Steph Curry at a camp a couple of years back. So, people have known about him, but he’s handled everything really well. As far as I can tell, he’s a really mature kid for his age. He really embraced being at Gonzaga. You can tell when a one-and-done player really doesn’t want to be there and is just going through the motions, but Chet really wanted to be at Gonzaga. He obviously knew a lot about Gonzaga before he committed through Jalen Suggs. So, he really followed Gonzaga a lot and was kind of on the edge of his seat, jumping on his couch when Suggs hit that shot in the Final Four game against UCLA. So, he really kind of bought into the Zag way, the Zag culture what they call it. So, I think he knew he was going to be a one-and-done guy, but really wanted to soak in the experience. I think that says a lot about someone who can be a pretty good teammate at the next level. He’s not going to be the funny, outgoing, loud guy, but he’s a pretty good teammate. He was great in interview settings and really mature. So, I think that’s going to be someone that can blend into an NBA locker room right away. He really gets along with his teammates. His teammates like him and doesn’t have to be someone that he’s not. He’s kind of who he is. People know that and I think respect that.” 

Chapman: “There’s been a lot made of his relationship (with Jalen Suggs) – AAU, high school, Gonzaga – but it’s that strong, right? This isn’t sort of a coincidence that they just ended up on the same AAU team. They are really tight, right?” 

Lawson: “They’re really good friends. I don’t know if anyone would call them best, best, best friends. Like I don’t think they talk three times a day or anything like that. But they are really close friends and I’ve seen stuff about them having sleepovers when they were young and playing on the youth teams together, and then AAU, and obviously the Minnehaha team that won, I believe, four championships when Chet was there and three when Jalen was there. So, they won three championships together. They really do have a close bond. Jalen came back a few times this last season when he had some time off. You could obviously tell that they had a really strong relationship. So, they have a pretty tight bond. Jalen’s dad has come back to a few Gonzaga games and really kind of wanted to watch Chet and watch Gonzaga. So, there’s kind of a clique there between them and between a few of the other Gonzaga players, including Julian Strawther and Dominick Harris. Julian, Dominick, and Jalen Suggs were the ‘tricky trio’ is what they called themselves. They all came in together and then they all had a really close relationship with Chet. I believe Chet came on his first Gonzaga visit with those three. So, all four ended up committing. Obviously, four of the biggest recruits in school history. So, pretty big deal. So, I really think that relationship is pretty tight. Like I said, maybe they’re not best friends, but they are really close. I think they have a certain chemistry on the court that allowed Minnehaha to be successful and unfortunately Gonzaga fans didn’t get to see it in Spokane, but I think it could work out at the next level if that pans out.” 

Chapman: “Tell me a part of his game that is better than people are giving him credit for or something that you think is overlooked a little bit about his game?” 

Lawson: “Probably his mid-range game. I think he talked about it the other day in the (pre-NBA lottery) interview with ESPN. I think he talked a lot about his mid-range game. We really didn’t get to see a whole lot of that at Gonzaga, but before the season you heard all these Kevin Durant comparisons. So, I kind of pictured him as someone who was going to be able to spot up from any spot on the floor and just shoot over guys with a high percentage, but he really didn’t have to do that at Gonzaga. So, I’m really kind of curious to see if that really is a real aspect of his game that he can kind of use at the NBA level because there’s not a lot of guys scoring at the midrange level anymore. So, if he can do that and really become a scorer at three levels, the perimeter and he obviously has pretty good touch down low, and he can be a great lob threat. So, we’ll see if he can develop into that kind of Kevin Durant type. Not comparing him to Durant, but if he can have the ability to shoot over guys and get his shot up and score from the midrange at a pretty high clip, then I think he can really blossom. So, I would say the midrange, and also his ability to handle the ball and lead the fastbreak. He kind of handles the ball like a guard. They had two bigs at Gonzaga, him and Timme. So, having two guys who can pull down the rebound and lead the break and get the ball up the floor and feed it to their shooters was really valuable too.” 

Bryan Kalbrosky, who is an NBA staff writer at For The Win - USA TODAY Sports Media Group 

Chapman: What are your thoughts on Chet Holmgren? 

Kalbrosky: “He always felt like an Orlando Magic prospect to me, even before the lottery. It always felt like he was almost destined to end up in Orlando in some ways. Orlando has had some success with big men getting picked number one in the past and I actually think that Jabari (Smith Jr.) and Paolo (Banchero) will probably play closer to the wing in the NBA. Kind of in the same way that Carmelo Anthony did. The comparison for Jabari Smith is probably closer to like a six-foot-ten Ray Allen than it is a big man, even though he has big man size. So, Chet is somebody who fits a lot of the archetypes that Orlando’s front office tends to like dating back to (their) time in Milwaukee. Just in terms of that length and that willingness to shoot. For me, obviously, we’re going to get into his frame – it’s impossible to not talk about Chet without talking about his frame. The thing that really strikes me about Chet is I always ask scouts and people who are close to the (Nike Elite Youth Basketball League) circuit and the Adidas circuit and all of the Under Armour circuits, ‘who are the guys that stand out in terms of their character?’ Last year, you always heard Scottie Barnes. Everyone always celebrated Scottie Barnes. Everyone that ever met Scottie Barnes was like ‘we love Scottie, his work ethic is amazing, his willingness to get better is outstanding.’ … When it comes to this year, it’s a different sort of personality type, but everyone always says, ‘I’ve heard nothing but incredible things about Chet.’ He doesn’t lack competitiveness. He doesn’t lack a competitive desire to get better. He doesn’t lack that drive and that hunger. I’m not saying that I haven’t heard that about Jabari and Paolo by any stretch, but if the question for Chet is about his willingness to work to put on weight, I think he’s going to do that. He’s still a young man. His body is still changing. And I believe that he is somebody who can play in the NBA for a very long time and in a very unique role. I think that his defense is elite. I think that his shooting touch is outstanding. I think that he shot something like eighty-something percent at the rim this year, maybe even higher. He just has this unique blend – even some playmaking skills in transition that allow me to really just believe in his long-term potential. He’s somebody who played with a really low usage rate last year. He doesn’t need the ball to make an impact. Like I said, eighty-four percent at the rim in transition. Putting up more dunks and three-pointers than most freshman you’ll ever see. I definitely think that the idea of picking Jabari or Paolo does not make you foolish. Those are really good picks too. I just think that Chet has a chance to be really, really special. In a league that is becoming increasingly defined by defensive players, I think that Chet offers the most defensive upside.” 

Tom Hudson, who is the play-by-play voice for Gonzaga men’s basketball 

Chapman: “Tell us about Chet Holmgren the person.” 

Hudson: “Jalen (Suggs) came in, big personality, you really had this aura about him coming in. Some of it was probably the position, being a point guard and being in a leadership position. But also, just different personalities. Jalen had a couple of opportunities to come back to ‘The Kennel’ at the end of the year and it was great. He sat in the ‘Kennel Club’ with the students and took pictures. It was awesome. … You’ve seen him. He’s an electric type of a kid when it gets going. Chet is very different than that. He is. Some of it is he’s an eighteen or nineteen-year-old kid that has a lot of eyes on him and I just think it’s who he is. I had a couple of opportunities to speak to him and they were always great conversations. But it wasn’t a bunch of hype and there wasn’t a bunch of stuff. I think that is who he is as a person. Meanwhile, while that’s happening for those who think, ‘well, ok, he doesn’t have the passion or he doesn’t have the fire,’ you walk into the building and there’s Chet working out. He’s getting up shots. Game ends (and) he wants to get up some shots, he’s getting up some shots. People talk about his physique, and I can’t tell you the number of people that I’ve had tell me, ‘you guys should just put forty-pounds on him.’ You’re not putting forty or fifty pounds on that frame, especially in eight months. That’s not happening. … But the thing (having the opportunity to watch) Chet as he got on campus in the summer and then seeing where he was at the end of the season, he was stronger. He was in the weight room and he was working, and he was doing those things to improve his body. He’s an intelligent kid. He knows he needs to get stronger, and he was working at it. Like I said, you may not notice it from not seeing him every day, but watching him, you could see that he was working hard. I think that he’s a good kid. He immersed himself into our community. He bought into what coach (Mark) Few was trying to do and into the team. I talked to you about Jalen with this, one of the biggest things that’s turned Gonzaga into Gonzaga has been culture. For as cliché as that may be, when this started, we were winning with three-star, two-star recruits. That’s still kind of the formula is you’re going to come in and buy into what we’re doing. And it isn’t, ‘ok, well you’re uber-talented, you’re better than everybody else, so we’re just going to hand you the ball and let you go.’ There’s still, for as good as Chet is and for everybody talking about him potentially being the number one overall pick, it wasn’t like ‘ok, well Chet is coming in and he’s going to focus on Chet.’ It was like ‘ok, we’ve got guys who can play and we’re going to work on this team concept.’ And Chet bought into that. I think that speaks volumes to who he is, especially being recruited by everybody and anybody. He could have chosen to have gone to a place where they probably would have said, ‘hey, Chet, we’re going to let you shoot it thirty times a game. We’re going to let you do whatever you want to do.’ And he came in and bought into what coach Few and our culture has been. Nothing but positive things to say about his experience from my standpoint watching him. Seeing him in the community, he was really solid. And just being a part of our basketball community in Gonzaga, I thought he was really great.”