Chet Holmgren’s NBA 2K24 Summer League lasted only two games, but the Oklahoma City Thunder would prefer that stint, and not his 2023-2024 season, be brief.

The Thunder had seen enough of Holmgren, who averaged 20.5 points (on 56.0 percent shooting from the field), 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 3.5 blocks, and a steal in summer league, to shut him down and avoid any risk of further injury. Holmgren missed the entire 2022-2023 season following surgery to address a Lisfranc injury in his right foot and OKC is taking a cautious approach and rightly so, given how big men and foot injuries tend to be a tricky and oftentimes disastrous combo.

Holmgren’s injury never changed his status as a unicorn thanks to his unique combination of size and skills. In a time where players like Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Anthony Davis have been crucial in recent NBA title runs, Holmgren’s ability to score from anywhere within half court while proving to a deterrent at the rim was one of the reasons why the Thunder drafted him with the second overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

For all intents and purposes, he remains a foundational piece for OKC, who may never trade him barring any unforeseen development or godfather offers. Building around him and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be the Thunder’s priority in the coming years and the treasure trove of picks OKC accumulated in recent years could expedite that.

All things considered, resting Holmgren before what will be his first Thunder training camp as a full participant is the right decision. Being an active participant in training camp itself is still different from simply being present in training camp as literally going through the motions makes for a better immersion than simply sitting on the sidelines and watching things from there. It’s here he’ll get to understand the tendencies of his teammates and in the end, he can stand to benefit from it all.

The expectation is that Holmgren will be OKC’s starting center entering training camp although he could slot in as a forward depending on how things unfold. The Thunder may also look for a big man in the market to lessen the chances of Holmgren taking a heavier workload that could eventually prove detrimental to his development and health. But Holgrem himself may be eager to learn given where his peers are.

Much of the 2022 NBA Draft class got a head start, with Paolo Banchero, Keegan Murray, and Walker Kessler among those who have cemented their places with the Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, and the Utah Jazz, respectively. All three played more than 70 games last season, meaning they were able to get valuable experience and the reps to make mistakes and stamp their class.

Holmgren has only been able to sit in meetings, practices, and on the bench, where all he can do is observe and bounce off ideas with his teammates and the coaching staff. It has, however, proven to be useful as referenced by his solid summer league showing. Perhaps the gap is much less, but work needs to be done.

Given that Holmgren missed the entirety of last season, the 21-year old also remains eligible to become the Rookie of the Year. Of course, that may not be his primary goal, but it’s a milestone that could nonetheless be on his mind. As he is coming off a major injury, OKC may give him some rest days as a precaution and make him ineligible for some awards, but it’s fine; Holmgren and the Thunder have bigger aspirations.

We may have only gotten a glimpse of Chet Holmgren in the NBA 2K24 Summer League, but that brief stint was all we and the Oklahoma City Thunder needed to know that nothing has changed with Holmgren save for the muscle and wisdom gained from being with an NBA organization. It’ll now be interesting to see how he fares in the regular season, where he can finally hit the ground running.