The news out of Oklahoma City isn’t ideal. After injuring his foot while playing in a Pro-Am exhibition over the weekend, No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren will be sidelined for the entirety of the 2022-23 NBA season — or what should have been his rookie campaign.
Obviously, this isn’t the way that the Thunder or Holmgren hoped that his career would begin. But, while things are all doom and gloom in Oklahoma City right now, the injury doesn’t necessarily have to be looked at as a bad omen or a harbinger when it comes to the rest of his career. In fact, if history is an indicator, Holmgren could potentially bounce back and regain an All-Star trajectory in short order.
Since 2006, four top-three picks — Greg Oden, Blake Griffin, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — have been forced to miss the entirety of what would have been their rookie season due to injury issues, and three of those four players have gone on to have productive careers.
Out of those four players, only Oden failed to make the All-Rookie team in his first season playing. He’s also the only one of the four players who failed to go on to make multiple All-Star teams and at least one All-NBA team. Griffin and Simmons also both won the Rookie of the Year Award when they returned from injury, while Embiid has finished second in MVP voting in each of the past two seasons after missing the first two seasons of his career in their entirety. Griffin, Embiid and Simmons have 14 All-Star selections between them.
Every player is different, so the fact that guys like Griffin, Embiid and Simmons ultimately found success post-injury doesn’t necessarily mean that Holmgren will follow a similar path, but it certainly shows that it’s possible.
The important thing is that the 7-foot Holmgren maintains a positive mindset throughout his season on the sideline. If he’s able to do that, the time could actually prove beneficial, as it will afford him ample opportunity to learn about the game on the NBA level from a perspective he wouldn’t necessarily get if he were thrown into the fire immediately as a player.
For example, Embiid has previously stated that his time on the sideline early in his career was helpful for him, even though he was chomping at the bit to get out on the floor. Embiid was able to work on, and improve, his shooting during that time, and he was also able to add some serious strength to his frame. Both of those improvements have proved integral to his on-court success since.
“I haven’t played in two years, but my game has gotten so much better,” Embiid said back in 2016, prior to playing in his first NBA game. “If you watch the game tape, I’m not the same guy.”
If Holmgren is able to approach his situation in a similar manner, then the fact that he was forced to miss his rookie season could become just a footnote to his career, like it has with Embiid and others.