Despite the Kings’ gloomy 31-41 record and 23rd ranked Net Rating, the 2020-21 NBA season birthed many positives for the Kings moving forward. Fox took another scoring leap, Haliburton turned out to be a massive hit and Richaun Holmes showed that he’s capable of being a franchise center. This article will be about that last part.
With Holmes hitting free agency it’s time a lot of NBA fans got to know the former Process Legend and now top 10 center. I’ll examine what Holmes does well on both ends of the floor, what his secret strengths are, what his weaknesses are and what he might net in free agency this off-season. Let’s begin.
On the season Holmes averaged a modest 14.2 PPG on 63.7/18.2/79.4 splits which equates to a 66.9 TS%. Just by those splits we can infer he’s not a shooter which the film backs up. But his lack of luster shooting pales in comparison to what he brings to the table around the rim.
Amongst players that ran 2 or more pick and roll possessions as the roll man, Richaun Holmes ranked 5th in PPP generated at 1.30 and ranked 83rd percentile overall. He shot 74% at the rim on 5.4 FGA, had 91 dunks and had a .296 FTr. All that means Richaun Holmes is an elite roll man that can finish at the rim and has no problem drawing fouls. 26 of his 366 field goals were and-1s and he shot a total of 170 free throws. These numbers may seem quite dim, but given that Richaun Holmes’ role does not consist of ball dominant shot creation like KAT for example, his lower scoring numbers make more sense.
Unlike a Jarrett Allen or Rudy Gobert, Holmes’ range extends beyond the paint despite not having a 3 point shot. His touch from midrange is impeccable, nearly perfecting the very unpopular “push shot.” He shot 55.2% from 3-10 feet, 62.2% from 10-16 feet and 57% from midrange. Almost all of those percentages stem from Holmes’ push shot instead of using a traditional jump shot to get the 2 points.
There are massive advantages that come with the push shot and Holmes having it in his arsenal. For one, it’s easier to get off and it’s faster since Holmes does not have to load the ball into his shooting pocket and release. He can push the ball up from anywhere on his body, whether it’s at his hip or head doesn’t matter. Since it’s got such a quick trigger Holmes does not have to worry about it getting blocked, hence only 6.1% of his 2 point field goals getting blocked on the season.
As a roll man, having a second way to score in case rolling to the rim is not an option is extremely important. If the big is already in position, Holmes can just pull back outside of the paint and put up one of his push shots uncontested instead of trying to baptize the big that is already in the paint, although it should be noted he is capable of doing that and finishing through contact.
The last thing Holmes does extremely well on the scoring end is hunting down put back opportunities. On the season he had 90 putback possessions in which he generated 105 points. In the Kings poorly spaced environment, many of Holmes’ put back opportunities took a few tries for him to get the ball up and into the basket hence his rather modest production given the amount of opportunities. But the fact remains that he is gifted at finding the ball once it hits the rim and creating second chance opportunities for his team.
Holmes is not the Nikola Jokic of passing but he’s also not Tristan Thompson either. Despite Walton not even attempting to take advantage of Holmes’ vision by designing routes around his rolls, Holmes still managed to put together a solid passing season.
He had just 101 assists, 256 assist points, 158 potential assists and 1821 passes made. His passing specialty consists of kick outs to 3 point shooters out of his rolls or offensive rebounds. He can hit guys at the rim off of dump offs but with the Kings extremely poor spacing it’s rare that Holmes has a guy to hit under the rim.
Even though Holmes’ is an extremely average passer, the fact that he can hit guys out of rolls means he’s providing more than just scoring value. Teams have to be cognisant of their men on the outside when Holmes is rolling. If he can go somewhere with a coach that will design cuts and curls off of his rolls, more light will shine on Holmes’ passing ability.
Next to scoring, rebounding is one of Richaun Holmes’ most attractive characteristics. He averages 8.3 total rebounds per game, 5.9 of which are defensive and 2.4 are offensive. As I explained in relation to his put back ability, Holmes is gifted at tracking down the ball when it comes off of the rim.
He has no problem with dealing with other guys trying to crash the glass, about 46% of his rebounds are contested. He also is not a stat padding rebounder like Drummond, he averages 2.6 box outs and his team rebounds the ball at a 95% rate when he does. He takes on the teams opposing offensive rebounder and completely neutralizes them.
This is not necessarily a unique skill set, but it is one that will get Holmes a couple million more dollars on his contract.
Like any rim rolling big, Holmes provides very good rim protection on the opposite end at 6’10. He ranks 96th percentile in BLK% and he’s very switchable. His shorter stature allows him to have a better center of gravity than other bigger rim protectors which means he has no problem switching out onto perimeter players. He ranks an impressive 73rd percentile against the pick and roll ball handler and 77th percentile in isolation defense.
He moves his feet very well and does a good job mirroring offensive players instead of just back peddling and praying they miss. His hands stay up and active to contest if a player decides to pull up instead of driving and his close outs are very good. Overall he contested 9.8 shots per game and 2.1 of those shots were 3s. The Kings defensive scheme was not clear, some possessions they dropped, some possessions they switched everything, sometimes they hedged, sometimes they just did not do anything at all. Their putrid defensive rating was not Holmes’ doing, rather it was Walton and a very weak defensive roster. Wherever he goes expect Holmes to be a solid defensive anchor.
Holmes does not have a big body like Jonas Valanciunas but he is a very adept screen setter. He does a good job positioning his body at the perfect angle to free up the ball handler and force a switch. He’s very disciplined in setting illegal screens, only totaling 24 offensive fouls. He had 262 screen assists and 611 screen points on the year.
He’s very active and willing to be involved in actions, so wherever he goes expect the team that gets him to run a pick and roll dominant offense.
The biggest thing that sticks out about Holmes is his non-existent jump shot. This is made up for by his very good free throw shooting and push shot but not being able to pop makes it hard for teams to run a lot at the rim without him involved since teams can just sag off of him.
His other problem is his fouling. As good as he is on the perimeter, he can be easily baited into shooting fouls and he can be over aggressive when trying to deter shots at the rim. He averaged 3.5 fouls per game last season which means most games he was in foul trouble. He has to work on his discipline and timing if he wants to be a serious playoff big.
Holmes is very comfortably the best center that will hit free agency this off-season, the only couple of names that come close are Kanter, Robinson and Allen. This means there will be a sweetened pot for Holmes and he’ll have plenty of leverage.
I estimate he’ll receive around a 70-80 million dollar deal for 4 years. The free agent market is extremely barren and teams will have money to spend. Holmes will be at the top of the free agent power rankings so some team will likely shell out to get him. The Hornets, Kings, and Raptors will likely be the top 3 teams in the running for Holmes seeing as they all need a center.