The Spurs’ Wembanyama told reporters that he was excited to make his first appearance in an NBA uniform, so much so that he “couldn’t sleep.”
He wasn’t the only rookie in the spotlight, as Thunder’s Holmgren is also playing his first season after missing all of last year because of a right foot Lisfranc injury.
As the two big men matched up in their preseason debuts, both showcased their talent and gave a sneak preview of what is to come ahead of their young careers. That is to say, the 7-foot-4 Wembanyama recorded 20 points, five rebounds, two steals, and one block in 19 minutes of playing time. Meanwhile, the 7-foot-1 Holmgren recorded 21 points, nine rebounds, and a block in 16 minutes.
In addition to stuffing the stat sheet, both players gave highlight-reel plays in limited minutes. As was seen in the second quarter when Wembanyama pump-faked the defender at the 3-point line, took a couple dribbles, did a spin move, then jumped and finished with an underhanded finger-roll-scoop layup with his left hand against Holmgren in the paint.
Then later in the quarter, Holmgren had the play of the night, as he came off a pick-and-roll and completed a one-handed alley-oop finish via a lob pass from teammate Jalen Williams.
Wembanyama and Holmgren are seen as anomalies with the combination of their God-given size, skill, and coordination. To note, Wembanyama and Holmgren are not normal 7-foot centers who are stiff and slow, for they are dynamic overall scoring threats at that size, and this is what makes both players matchup nightmares for opposing teams.
As they showed in the small sample size of time shared on the court, both can dominate in the paint by putting back missed shots around the rim, catching alley-oops, and blocking shots. Or as an alternative, they can operate as stretch bigs that can play on the perimeter and even handle the ball, drive, or pull up from deep.
In this new era of basketball, you have to admire the uniqueness of 7-footers with the capability of a guard, as they exhibit their mobility and impressive shooting ability. In Monday’s matchup, both were efficient, as Wembanyama shot 8-of-13 from the field (2-of-5 from 3-point range), and Holmgren shot 7-of-10 from the field (2-of-2 from 3-point range).
This wasn’t the first time Wembanyama and Holmgren went up against each other, as they previously matched up in the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup finals when the USA defeated France 83-81. France’s Wembanyama was just 17 years old at the time, as he scored 22 points, to go with eight rebounds and eight blocks, while Holmgren recorded 10 points and won MVP of the tournament.
The two young phenoms will have many more opportunities to go up against each other in the future — as Wembanyama said after the game, “I know it’s just preseason, but for sure the games against OKC are going to be interesting.”
Wembanyama, 19, and Holmgren, 21, will battle each other again in the regular season on the following dates: November 14 (TNT), January 24 (ABC), February 29, and April 10.
San Antonio and Oklahoma City fans are excited to see what the future has in store for the young 7-footers. Both players are top-three favorites to win Rookie of the Year, as Wembanyama is at -190 odds, with Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson at +225, while Holmgren has the third-greatest odds at +275.