By CLIFF BRUNT
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder chose Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren with the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night and hit the accelerator on their rebuild by adding three of the top 12 selections.
In Holmgren, the Thunder got a versatile 7-footer who was a second-team Associated Press All-American in his only college season. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds and ranked fourth nationally with 3.7 blocks per game for the Zags.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti believes Holmgren will be a good fit.
“We’re pretty comfortable with the idea of him blending in with the group that we have,” Presti said. “He was the person for Oklahoma City. He was the person for the Thunder.”
He will join a young team led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who averaged 24.5 points last season, and Josh Giddey, last year’s No. 6 overall pick who made the All-Rookie second team.
“I think it’s a great situation, great dynamic playing with guys like Josh and Shai as well as everybody down the roster,” Holmgren said. “It’s a lot of great players there with unique skill sets. I feel like I can kind of pair up with them and help enhance theirs as well as have their skill sets enhance mine.”
The New York Knicks traded the No. 11 pick — 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 and averaged 8.9 points and 3.2 rebounds.
He had more immediate 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 that,” he said.
The Thunder then took Santa Clara guard Jalen Williams at No. 12. The 6-foot-6 guard averaged 18 points and 4.2 assists last season as a junior. He’s the first Santa Clara player picked since Steve Nash was selected 15th overall in 1996.
Williams played against Holmgren twice last season in the West Coast Conference.
“He’s super talented,” Williams said. “It’s kind of cool that we get to go through this experience together now instead of being enemies on the court.”
Holmgren shot 61% from 3-point range and 39% from 3-point range last season — the kind of efficiency that could help a Thunder team that ranked last in the league in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and scoring last season. His skill could help him be effective as he works to add to his slender 195-pound frame.
“He’s going to have to adjust and learn like any player,” Presti said. “I think he’s unique. I think sometimes, unique is beneficial, and I think some of the things that make him unique can be leveraged and utilized.”
The Thunder’s core includes Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey, Lu Dort, Darius Bazley and Tre Mann. Dort is one of the league’s best defensive players when healthy. Bazley is an athletic wing player and Mann was an explosive scorer off the bench. Gilgeous-Alexander, the oldest player in that group, is just short of his 24th birthday.
The Thunder hope Holmgren eventually can help them regain some of the glory from the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook era. The Thunder went to the Western Conference Finals four times with that duo and the NBA Finals once. The Thunder have not won a playoff series since Durant left and have missed the playoffs the past two seasons. They went 24-58 last season.
The franchise has had success early in drafts in the past, selecting Durant No. 2 overall in 2007, Westbrook No. 4 overall in 2008 and James Harden No. 3 in 2009.
The Thunder selected Arkansas’ Jaylin Williams with the 34th overall pick. The 6-10, 240-pound forward averaged 10.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last season. He shot 46% from the field and led the nation with 54 charges drawn.
The Thunder also picked UCLA’s Peyton Watson at No. 30 overall, though he is going to the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder acquired JaMychal Green and a 2027 protected first-round pick from the Nuggets for the rights to Watson and two future second-round picks.
Green has appeared in 487 career games and posted averages of 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds on 47% shooting.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.
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