Given his stature, his dad’s medical history, and the rate of Holmgren facsimiles having had their careers cut short, there is a legitimate reason for concern about the No. 2 overall pick missing his entire rookie season. Historically, Ralph Sampson and Kristaps Porziņģis possess the most similar physical dimensions to a long-limbed string bean prospect of Holmgren’s stature. Nearly 40 years ago, Ralph Sampson’s career was ended by knee injuries. Sampson was 7-foot-4, weighing in at 228 pounds during his rookie campaign with the Houston Rockets in 1983. Porzingis entered the league with the lower body strength of a flamingo. He’s beefed up significantly, but even he was already 223 pounds. Yet, orthopedic injuries of varying degrees have still been a recurring theme throughout this career.
At 7 feet tall and 190 pounds, Holmgren is a different breed of bony. Holmgren and teammate Aleksej Pokusevski are the only players in the league who stand 7-0 or taller and weigh under 200 pounds. The only other member of the 7-foot, sub-200 pound club is Boniface N’Dong who played 23 games with the Clippers in the 2005-06 season.
Without Holmgren, the Thunder have the most destitute roster in the National Basketball Association. The outlook on their upcoming season wasn’t all that rosy, to begin with. In a half-glass full alternate universe, Oklahoma City would develop Josh Giddy and Holmgren together, watch them form chemistry, and improve their dismal 2022 record by 8-10 games. Instead, the Thunder will begin the 2022-23 season with virtually the same roster they lost 58 games with.
The 0-60, cross-country rookie year tour introduction we expected from Holmgren in the fall is going to have to be scaled back even in 2023. Even then, Holmgren will likely return a year from now on a minutes restriction.
Next June, the Pegasus of unicorns, Victor Webanyama, is projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Without Holmgren, the Thunder might be on a familiar road to the NBA basement. But even Wembanyama isn’t without his risk. He missed eight weeks this past season with a non-contact stress fracture in his fibula, which isn’t ideal for an 18-year-old giant. If the Thunder go dumpster diving again this season and attain the No. 1 pick, Wembanyama and Holmgren could become the NBA’s most precarious high-risk, high-reward duo in decades.