What The Future Holds For Richaun Holmes

Philadelphia 76ers center Richaun Holmes. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia 76ers center Richaun Holmes. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

After forcing his way into the rotation by exceeding all expectations, Richaun Holmes has made it clear that he is a viable NBA player capable of making an impact.

Prior to the 2016-2017 NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers had a three man log jam at the center position.  Joel Embiid was the clear cornerstone from the start, while Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor were supposed to battle it out for the backup spot.  Overall, this was not an ideal situation to be in, but the team had no choice.

Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers /

Philadelphia 76ers

This situation became a headache for everyone involved, as it became abundantly clear that Nerlens Noel was unhappy with his role on the team.  He missed the first 23 games of the season due to an injury, and when he came back he struggled to consistently find playing time.

Jahlil Okafor was also recovering from a meniscus tear that he suffered last season, which held him out of participating in most of the offseason.  His play throughout the year, to put it lightly, was inconsistent, and he soon found himself out of the rotation entirely by the end of the year.

When Nerlens Noel was traded, the “too many centers” issue was supposed to have been resolved, but that was not the case at all.  With Okafor constantly in and out of the lineup because of injuries, the backup center position was up for grabs, and oh boy did Richaun Holmes grab a hold of it.

After the Noel trade, Holmes stepped into his position flawlessly and instantly made 76ers fans forget about Noel.  From the time Noel left, Holmes averaged 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game.  He also shot 58.1 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from three in this span.  These are phenomenal numbers for a backup center, and are extra impressive for a guy who was thrown into the lineup without much prior experience.

To reference how good Holmes production was, Nerlens Noel only averaged 8.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game on the season with Philadelphia. He also shot 61 percent from the field.  If anything, one could argue that Holmes was actually an upgrade at the backup center position.

Related Story: Will Holmes and Okafor Stack Up Next Season?

Holmes’ impactful play made it difficult to keep him out of the rotation even when Okafor was healthy.  Numerous times throughout the year, Okafor was a healthy scratch from the lineup because Holmes was just too good to bench.  This has left many questions about Okafor’s future in Philadelphia, but thats an entirely different discussion.

Moving forward, I believe that it is clear that Holmes has proven himself enough to lock up the backup center position for the foreseeable future.  He has all of the characteristics of a modern-day big man, and can give defenses a different set of problems with Joel Embiid on the bench.

Holmes’ most notable trait is his athleticism.  His bounce is lethal in the pick and roll, and he found himself finishing lobs and slamming it home with ease on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, Al Horford learned this the hard way, as seen below.

The key to being a successful big man in today’s NBA is that players need to be able to keep defenses honest.  If a player’s only way of scoring is around the basket, then teams can pack the paint to limit their production.  Richaun Holmes, however, is not one of those players.  He has range to the three point line, and his efficiency steadily improved as his confidence went up.  Not only can he run a pick and roll, but he can also keep defenses on their toes by running pick and pops.

On the defensive side of the ball, although he is undersized he still served as an excellent rim protector off the bench.  He posted a very respectable defensive rating of 106 this season, and players shot 3.4 percent worse against Holmes at the rim.

A good summary of everything Holmes brings to the table can be seen in his highlights against the Clippers on January 24 below.

The best part about having Holmes on the team, in the eyes of the team’s management, is that he is barely making more than one million dollars each of the next two seasons.  This gives the team the ability to spend big elsewhere without losing any key contributors.

Next: Teams Don't Need Jahlil Okafor

Overall, Richaun Holmes has to be the permanent backup for a long time.  Him and Embiid should have the center position on lock for many years to come.  Yes, Jahlil Okafor is still on the team, which is an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, but he simply is not a better player than Holmes.  It would be in the best interest for everyone involved if the team could find a new home for Okafor, because Holmes has done more than enough to prove his worth.