In this series, I am looking to highlight the play of under-the-radar players who will be free agents in the 2021 offseason. These are players that could turn their current play this season into big paydays in the offseason. The first player of the series is Sacramento Kings starting center Richaun Holmes.
The Sacramento Kings have hit a bit of a rough patch to start off this year, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They are last in the league in defensive rating by a mile, currently posting a 118.7. The next closest is the porous Wizards, with a defensive rating of 114.4. That 4.3 difference between them is roughly the same difference between the Wizards and the 18th ranked Magic! The offense has been roughly league average, posting an offensive rating of 110.2 through 16 games, good for 14th in the league.
One of the bright spots for the Kings this season has been the stellar play of starting center Richaun Holmes. This year, Holmes is averaging 13.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and two assists per game. He's been incredibly efficient too, shooting 68% from the field and 85% (!) from the free throw line, posting the 9th best TS% in the league of players playing at least 15 minutes per game at 70.9%. Out of all the players regularly getting rotation minutes on the Kings roster, Holmes is the only player to post a positive net rating. The team has an offensive rating of 116 when hes on the floor, 5.8 points better than the overall team number, and a defensive rating of 115.7, 3 points better than the overall team number, giving the team a net rating of 0.3 when he is on the floor. The next closest on the roster is Harrison Barnes at -5.5. He has consistently outplayed the Kings second overall pick in the 2018 draft, Marvin Bagley at every turn.
His Offensive Game
Holmes has a fairly standard offensive game for a rim-running, pick-and-roll big in the modern NBA, but there are pockets of uniqueness that help his game stand out. He is a good screen setter and finisher around the rim, whether on tip-ins or in the pick-and-roll. As stated before, he has been extremely efficient shooting the ball this year. Per Cleaning The Glass, Holmes ranks in these percentiles among bigs in the following shooting accuracy categories: 84th percentile at the rim, 95th percentile on all midrange, and 92nd percentile in eFG%.
The first thing that stands out about his offensive game is how ridiculously good he is with his floaters, which ties into his elite midrange percentile ranking per CTG. Per NBA.com Stats, he's shooting 82% on shots between 10-14 feet away from the basket on 27 attempts. He thrives in that awkward, in-between area of the paint between the free throw line and the restricted area.
It's become a lethal weapon in the pick-and-roll game with De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton and a drop-coverage killer. Holmes can stop short on the roll and put up a floater off the dump down pass from the guard. It puts the defending big man in a difficult spot. Drop down to protect the rim and you give Holmes the open floater. Try to stick with Holmes on the short roll, and you leave the rim unguarded for the ballhandler, as you can see in the video below.
In this clip, you'll see Deandre Ayton not fully commit to stop the drive by Fox until its too late, as he is worried about the dump off to Holmes on the short roll. Holmes' floater game gives him a type of gravity that could open up the rim for his teammates out of the pick-and-roll. Its a unique skillset that you don't often see in a big man, but it has been paying dividends for both Holmes and the Kings this season.
Holmes also doesn't need the ball to be successful on the offensive side of the floor. He is a determined offensive rebounder with a nose for the ball. He sets good screens and is always around the rim for tip-ins/follow-ups.
His Defensive Game
Richaun Holmes is by no means an elite rim protector, but he serves as a decent defensive big. While he won't be the anchor of a top tier defense, he is a solid defender that wouldn't be exploited in a playoff series. He's currently 15th in the league in blocks per game and is one of five players to average at least 0.9 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. He has the ability to hang with guards on the pick and roll, and excels in a switch or drop coverage. Holmes has quick hands that leads to him ripping the ball from opponents and getting deflections leading to steals, and he has great timing on his block attempts, especially in transition.
I see a number of teams with cap space this upcoming offseason that should be expressing interest in a possible deal with Richaun Holmes, as well as his current team, the Sacramento Kings. Let's take a look at what teams should be taking a long look at Holmes.
- Sacramento Kings: The Kings cannot afford to let Holmes walk this offseason. He's one of the few players playing well for them this year and the team has 0 centers under contract for next year, unless you count Bagley. The center market is fairly dry, with Holmes arguably the second or third best player on the market. The most logical landing place for him is back in Sacramento.
- Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets current center situation is dire. Zeller is out with an injury, so the team has to start and play heavy minutes to Bismack Biyombo. Holmes would be an immediate upgrade in Charlotte and would give LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward a good pick-and-roll partner to work with. I envision LaMelo hitting Holmes on the short roll for a million floaters. Charlotte has more than enough cap space available to them to make the deal happen and I think should be a priority for them this offseason.
- Dallas Mavericks: If the Mavs are intent on playing Porzingis at the 4, they should take a good look at Holmes to start at the 5. He would be a great pick-and-roll partner for Luka and would not only finish the lobs that Cauley-Stein and Powell get, but would bring another element to that offense with the short-roll floater. With Powell under contract for two more years and Cauley-Stein under a team-friendly team option, this deal probably isn't likely, but should be something Dallas considers nonetheless.
- San Antonio Spurs: With LaMarcus Aldridge expiring, the Spurs should think about a deal with Holmes. The team only has Jakob Poeltl and Drew Eubanks under contract at center heading into next season. Holmes could bring a steady presence in the middle to a roster that could end up being very young next year. Giving guards like Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, and Derrick White more of a real roller/rim-runner type could help them in the pick-and-roll.
This upcoming offseason, NBA teams will be flush with cash and not a whole lot of talent to throw it at. Combining this with a particularly down center market, and this could lead to a big payday for Richaun Holmes. His representation should leverage this with the fact that the Kings could ill-afford to lose him into a potentially $13-$17 million deal annually. I wouldn't be surprised if Holmes ends up getting a deal around 4/60 or 4/70, with Sacramento and Charlotte being the most aggressive suitors. Think deals in the similar vein of Christian Wood to the Rockets or Steven Adams extension with New Orleans.
Nick Thoreson is a young professional working in finance who is passionate about the NBA and especially all things salary cap related.