The Thunder’s summer league debut in Utah capped off a successful stint, finishing 2-1 and receiving nice flashes from young players such as Jalen Williams and Tre Mann. This propelled the Thunder into Saturdays matchup with the Mavs, which would mark their first game of the Vegas portion.
As the Thunder wisely shut down J-dub for the rest of summer league, the question in the room was obvious, which of the young guns would step up and cement themselves on the roster? After making a draft day trade with Dallas and selecting Kentucky guard Cason Wallace with the 10th pick, Sam Presti had added yet another young and talented prospect to a team loaded with young potential.
Due to a contract problem, Wallace was not able to play in the Utah portion of summer league, but was indeed available for the Thunder’s opener in the Sin City.
It did not take long for the newest member of the Thunder to assert himself into the game. In fact, his very first shot for OKC was a right wing three that splashed home. His first shot was an accurate depiction of the type of game he had in store. Wallace finished with five first half triples, all of the catch and shoot variety.
Wallace showed a very nice ability to find the right spot off-the-ball. You can point to numerous different moments against Dallas where Wallace was able to operate with correct spacing, which often times led to him getting terrific looks from behind the arc.
Here we see a few of Wallace’s three point makes from the first half. The ability to find the open space on the court (whether you have the ball or not) is a skill all NBA players must acquire. When you combine that skill with a quick and lethal shot, you become exponentially harder to defend.
Taking a quick glance at OKC’s roster next year, there are a lot of great players that will need the ball in their hands (SGA, J-dub, Giddey, Chet.) The more glaring issue with this team is lack of floor spacers, players that do not need the ball in their hands every possession, but are still ready to shoot when called upon and play solid defense.
Though this is a small sample size for Wallace and he still has many ups and downs left in his career, it’s hard not to recognize Sam Presti’s vision of this pick through this first game.
While all of Thunder nation had their eyes on Wallace, the player everyone couldn’t wait to see play again was none other than last years #2 pick Chet Holmgren. The Thunder and the rest of the NBA had high expectations for Holmgren’s rookie campaign… until it never even left the tarmac after he suffered a fracture in his foot. This would keep him out for the entirety of last season, and while there were whispers the Thunder would consider bringing him back for the end of the year, those never came to fruition.
After a successful rehab and a healthy start in the Utah summer league, Chet was ready to take on the challenge of Vegas.
Chet capped off another impressive game, finishing with 15 points and 9 rebounds on 6/14 shooting. Chet went up against recent first round pick Dereck Lively, who was selected for his shot blocking and finishing around the rim. Chet easily held his own and even gave us a few highlights in the process.
Before getting into his offense, I can’t stress enough how impactful of a defender he has a chance to be. While Chet’s 7″6 wingspan gives him a chance to block everything, he is deceptively quick on his feet and has shown good signs in his pick-and-roll coverage. His chase down block in the first half had the Vegas crowd going nuts, along with every Thunder fan watching at home.
Judging Chet’s offensive skills the past two summers, there is no reason to believe he can’t walk into the NBA this year and immediately average 15 points a game. A growing theme with the new age of player in the NBA is a long, lanky and athletic freak who can do everything a small guard can do. Chet is very advanced in this style of offense, as he is just as comfortable handling the ball as he is getting it in the low post.
Here we see Chet receive the ball for a paint touch against Lively. While Lively initially bumps him hard and looks to knock Chet off his intended path, he shows savvy patience as he uses the pump-fake to go around Lively and score the basket.
This next play is a completely different scenario for Chet, as he’s catching the ball on the wing and working in a dribble hand-off sequence with Jared Butler. Chet chooses to fake the hand-off, drive around the defense and somehow finish over the top with his left hand.
Two vastly different plays, but two effective ones no doubt.
The Thunder will look for more stellar play when they face off against Houston on Tuesday.