One of the favorite pastimes of sports enthusiasts has always been player comparisons. That’s especially true with college players heading into any professional sport. With basketball prospects, these comparisons begin in high school and follow them through college and into the NBA for those that make it.
Gonzaga Bulldogs star freshman Chet Holmgren is not different. But the latest comparison thrown his way will put tons of pressure on the freshman phenom. Yahoo Sports spokes with several scouts around the NBA and asked about Holmgren’s upside heading into the draft in a couple of months. One scout even dropped Kevin Durant’s name when speaking about Holmgren.
“His intangibles are off the chart,” one NBA scout said. “He’s so unique physically with all the other skills and abilities, and if you’re willing to take that home run swing, he’s totally worth it.”
Another scout said:
“It’s the same thing we heard about Kevin Durant when he was entering the NBA. He can’t lift 135 pounds, but he can shoot the hell out of the ball and impact the game. Chet can have the same impact in a game on a different level than Durant.”
Talk about high praise. That’s some of the highest praise a college hooper can receive. I’m not entirely on board with it, but there are some similarities. Holmgren, like Durant, can shoot the three (which was rare back in 2007), both can handle the ball better than most 7-footers, and they can both take their man off the dribble. Both are tall, thin, and couldn’t bench press their own weight as college freshmen.
Holmgren’s lack of upper body strength wouldn’t worry me much right now. What I would worry about is the weight this type of comparison puts on Holmgren’s shoulders. I’m not saying he can’t be a good NBA player, but another scouting report on Holmgren compares him offensively to Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki. So, already Holmgren is being mentioned in the same sentences as Durant and Nowitzki. These are the best two shooting big men the NBA has ever seen. If he can be even half of what either of those players have been, then he should have a pretty solid professional career ahead.
And is Holmgren even the best player on his current team? I recall Drew Timme leading the comeback against Memphis last Saturday in the NCAA Tournament. Holmgren scored just nine points and grabbed nine rebounds in 29 minutes with the season on the line. Timme went for 25 points 14 rebounds and put the team on his back like he’s done all year. I’m not looking to disparage Chet, but that was the outcome. Maybe he’s closer to Kristaps Porziņģis than KD or Dirk. All I’m saying is sometimes these comparisons feel more like wishful thinking.
Holmgren will be a top pick in the draft should he decide to leave Gonzaga after the season. Many mock drafts have Holmgren as the No. 1 overall pick by whoever owns it come June. I’m sure Holmgren will have a long career based on his skill set, but sometimes this premature anointing of the “next big thing” can get crazy.