Chet Holmgren followed in Jalen Suggs’ footsteps in April 2021, committing to Gonzaga weeks after his former high school teammate sent the Bulldogs to the national championship game with one of the most iconic shots in college basketball history.
The chances of an NBA reunion between the longtime friends and teammates improved dramatically Tuesday night during the NBA draft lottery in Chicago.
Orlando will get the first crack at selecting Holmgren and reuniting the former Gonzaga players and Minnehaha High teammates, earning the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft.
The Magic can make Holmgren the highest drafted Gonzaga player in program history, taking the 7-foot center at No. 1 on June 23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Orlando selected Suggs with the fifth pick of the 2021 NBA draft, making him the second-highest Gonzaga draft pick after Adam Morrison, who was taken No. 3 by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006.
Gonzaga’s Holmgren, Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Auburn’s Jabari Smith are widely thought to be the three players with the best chance at going No. 1 in next month’s draft.
If Holmgren isn’t selected first overall, there’s a strong chance he’ll be taken No. 2 by the Oklahoma City Thunder or No. 3 by the Houston Rockets.
The remaining lottery picks are: Sacramento Kings, No. 4; Detroit Pistons, No. 5; Indiana Pacers, No. 6; Portland Trail Blazers, No. 7; New Orleans Pelicans, No. 8; San Antonio Spurs, No. 9; Washington Wizards, No. 10; New York Knicks, No. 11; Charlotte Hornets, No. 13; and Cleveland Cavaliers, No. 14.
On Tuesday morning, Holmgren spoke to ESPN NBA Today hosts Malika Andrews, Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins about the tools he’d bring to an NBA organization.
“A team, when they draft me, they’re getting a versatile player that’s affecting winning and that’s all I try to do when I come on the court, is I try to make winning plays,” he said. “I feel like that showed this year.”
Recent NBA mock drafts from CBS Sports, The Ringer and USA Today blog “For The Win” all project Holmgren as the No. 1 pick, followed by some mix of Banchero and Smith at Nos. 2 and 3.
Holmgren was a 39% 3-point shooter and matched Brandon Clarke’s single-season blocks record during his lone year at Gonzaga while leading the Bulldogs to West Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
Despite possessing a rare skill set for his size, some have posed concerns about how Holmgren’s slender frame will hold up in the NBA. Perkins raised that question to the 7-foot, 195-pound Holmgren during his on-set interview .
“It’s not necessarily a goal to put on weight but add strength, and with that, I think the right weight will come with that,” Holmgren said. “And just continue to get stronger and I think that’ll translate into a lot of things and how I play. And just getting stronger as any young player coming into the NBA needs to do. Just continue to get stronger and I think that’ll help me out.”
While discussing the Rockets’ NBA draft needs minutes before the lottery announcement, Perkins said on ESPN, “They need Chet Holmgren like I need Weight Watchers. That’s pretty damn bad.”
Holmgren’s exemplary perimeter shooting at his height has made him one of the most unique prospects in recent NBA draft memory, but the Minnesota native indicated on ESPN he’s yet to reach his ceiling as a shooter and hopes to enter the NBA’s 50-40-90 club in his professional career, making 50% of his field goals, 40% of his 3-point field goals and 90% of his free throws in a single season.
“I feel like my ability to create my own shot and score on my own will definitely be on display, for sure,” Holmgren said. “I feel like I’m already a high-level shooter from all parts of the floor, but at the end of the day I feel like I have to take it up a whole other notch and take it to another level. I think I can be a 50-40-90 player for sure.”
The pairing of Holmgren and Suggs proved successful at the high school level and on the AAU circuit, where the duo teamed up to play for the Grassroots Sizzle organization. Holmgren and Suggs won three consecutive Minnesota state championships with Minnehaha and Holmgren won his fourth in 2021 after Suggs left for Gonzaga.
Orlando’s roster is stashed with 7-foot centers, including 7-2 Bol Bol, 7-0 Mo Bamba and 7-0 Robin Lopez. The Magic also have 6-11 Moritz Wagner and 6-10 Wendell Carter Jr. Despite his size, Holmgren was listed as a forward on Gonzaga’s late-season roster and often played that role, especially when sharing the floor with junior big man Drew Timme.
Regardless of his landing spot, Holmgren is likely to join an organization that will be looking to flip its fortunes. Orlando finished the 2021-22 season with 22-60 record – the second-worst mark in the NBA – while Sacramento, Oklahoma City and Houston each finished with 30 wins or fewer.
“I’m not going to shoot for anything less than the highest and at the end of the day, I’ve been a winner throughout my career and I want to say that I won at every single level,” Holmgren said.
“So winning an NBA championship is definitely my No. 1 goal above anything else, above any personal accolades or anything like that.”