Oklahoma City – The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Chet Holmgren Gonzaga with the 2nd overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night and hastened the rebuild by adding three of the top 12 picks.
At Holmgren, the Thunder received an all-around 7-footer who was a second-team Associated Press All-American in his only college season. The Minnehaha Academy graduate in Minneapolis averaged 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds and ranked fourth nationally with 3.7 blocks per game for the Zags.
He will join a young team led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who averaged 24.5 points last season, and Josh Giddy, last year’s No. 6 overall, who made the All-Rookie Second Team.
“I think it’s a great situation, a great dynamic game with guys like Josh and Shai and everyone on the roster,” Holmgren said. “There are a lot of great players out there with a unique set of skills. I feel like I can team up with them and help improve their skills and their skill sets improve mine.”
The New York Knicks traded No. 11, 19-year-old French forward Ousmane Dieng, to the Thunder for three future conditional first-round picks. Dieng played for the New Zealand Breakers last season, averaging 8.9 points and 3.2 rebounds.
He had more pressing concerns than playing for the Thunder.
“I think I need to buy a new phone because I need an American number, so I will need to buy one,” he said.
The Thunder then took Santa Clara defenseman Jalen Williams in 12th. The 6-foot-6 guard averaged 18 points and 4.2 assists last season as a junior. He is the first Santa Clara player to be drafted since Steve Nash was drafted 15th overall in 1996.
Williams played against Holmgren twice last season in the West Coast Conference.
“He’s super talented,” Williams said. “It’s cool that now we can go through this experience together, instead of being enemies on the court.”
Last season, Holmgren shot 61% from 3-pointers and 39% from 3-pointers, an efficiency that could help the Thunder team, which ranked last in the league in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and scoring last season. His prowess can help him be efficient as he works to add to his lean 195-pound body.
NBA draft: There has never been a player quite like Minnesota native Chet Holmgren
He will join a young core that includes Gilgeus-Alexander, Gidday, Lou Dort, Darius Basley and Tre Mann. Dort is one of the best defenders in the league when he’s healthy. Basley is an athletic winger, and Mann was an explosive scorer off the bench. Gilgeous-Alexander, the oldest player in this group, was barely 24 years old.
Thunder is hoping Holmgren will eventually help them reclaim some of the glory of the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook era. The Thunder have reached the Western Conference Finals four times with the duo and the NBA Finals once. The Thunder have not won a playoff series since Durant left and have missed the playoffs for the past two seasons. They went 24-58 last season.
The franchise has had success in the early drafts in the past, picking Durant No. 2 in 2007, Westbrook No. 4 in 2008, and James Harden No. 3 in 2009.
The Thunder selected Jalyn Williams of Arkansas with the 34th pick. The 240-pound (6-10) forward averaged 10.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last season. He threw 46% from the field and led the nation with 54 draws.
The Thunder also selected UCLA’s Peyton Watson 30th overall, although he is moving to the Denver Nuggets.
Associated Press Basketball correspondent Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.