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Enjoy The Visual Tableau Of Chet Holmgren Unsuccessfully Posting Up Chris Paul

Chet Holmgren of the Thunder unsuccessfully posts up Chris Paul of the Warriors
Image via Bally Sports

It is a testament to the sport of basketball that a single NBA floor can contain both 21-year-old Chet Holmgren and 38-year-old Chris Paul, who have roughly the same body mass distributed in astonishingly different ways. (If we are to believe the league's official weights, Paul's 175 pounds are 90 percent of Holmgren's 195.) Several times during the Thunder's 128-109 win Thursday over the Warriors, Paul picked up Holmgren after a defensive switch, sharpening the anatomical contrast between the two.

It was a fair fight. Paul has always been a hardy post defender for a 6-foot point guard, perhaps even more so as he takes on increasingly Rubenesque (or at least Lowryesque) proportions with age. Add in his cussed disposition, plus a tenured professorship in basketball's dark arts, and Paul is still a pain in a mismatch, as liable to steal the ball cleanly as he is to sack-tap or jersey-snatch. Meanwhile, Holmgren has a 13-inch height advantage and the skillset of a forward-looking big. He isn't as enthusiastic about grinding post-ups as he is about catching lobs and drilling threes. His naïveté shone through here.

Right at the start of the game, Holmgren got the switch. Somehow, he brought the ball low enough for Paul's scuttling claws to swipe at it. Buddy, you are so tall. Don't bring the basketball down to the one place where the small man can touch it.

In the third quarter, another switch, this time with Holmgren getting the ball on the left block. Paul, through sheer force of will and/or ass, refused to be dislodged. Holmgren briefly considered shooting right over the Lilliputian waggling its arms near his face, but abandoned the notion. A bit of help from the Warriors' wandering Dario Saric baited Holmgren into a risky pass and turnover.

The last matchup between the two, in the fourth quarter, was the closest to a pure one-on-one. Four hard dribbles from Holmgren, but Paul laid his chest into him and didn't remotely budge—Holmgren might have even lost some ground in this exchange. It was like watching a teetering plank land on a sack of rock salt. Eventually Holmgren bailed out and passed up to the top of the key.

Holmgren, who sat out the entirety of the 2022-23 season with a Lisfranc injury in his right foot, is on a fun, functional team that allows him to slot into a well-defined role. For my money, he's the best rookie at this juncture of the season, shooting 44 percent from three on 3.6 looks a game, walling off the rim like the very best, and flashing a whole range of neat finesse skills. Chris Paul will not be a lasting concern for Holmgren in his career, but perhaps last night he inspired Holmgren to pick up an extra serving of bucatini at dinner.

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