The Kings attacked their weaknesses on the opening day of free agency, adding Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza and re-signing Harrison Barnes in a flurry of moves. On Day 2 of the signing period, they quietly added another quality player in big man Richaun Holmes.
He might not be a household name, but Holmes was an advanced-statistic star on a bad Phoenix Suns team last season. His per 36-minute numbers were better than those of Willie Cauley-Stein, the Kings’ starting center last season, so Vlade Divac invested a 2-year, $10 million contract on the 6-foot-10 big.
Sacramento has a lot of bodies in the post. There isn’t room for everyone to play. Despite his gaudy numbers from a season ago, Holmes is in a dog fight for minutes. The center position, like so many others on this year’s Kings roster, is going to be a challenge for coach Luke Walton as he tries to balance winning, development and personalities.
A season ago, the Kings had no answer for a player like Montrezl Harrell. Now they have multiple options, including Holmes, who plays the game with a similar force and energy to the Clippers big.
Holmes is really good at what he does on the offensive end. He shot 74.9 percent at the rim on 231 attempts. He added another 38 made field goals inside of 10 feet. 333 of his 365 shot attempts came inside of 10 feet and only three of his 222 makes came outside of the painted area.
He’s a pick-n-roll specialist and has the ability to finish above the rim like Cauley-Stein. While the starters didn’t use the two-man game all that often last year, Holmes and Bogdan Bogdanovic will make a great pairing with the second unit, if they see time together.
On the defensive end, Holmes put up strong numbers from every spot. He held his opponent to a -3.4 field goal differential overall, but his two best areas of concentration were from the 3-point line and inside of six feet.
Holmes limited his opponents to just 27.8 percent from long range, seven percent below his opponents average. In the paint, he posted a 55 percent field goal against, -7.2 below his opponents average.
The 25-year-old also averaged 1.1 blocks and .6 steals in just 16.9 minutes per game. His block total would have led the Kings and equates to 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes, which would have ranked in the top three in the league.
As a rebounder, Holmes posted an offensive rebounding percentage of 10.6 that would have ranked above Marvin Bagley and Kosta Koufos, the Kings’ two leaders last season. He posted a 20.6 defensive rebound percentage, which is solid, but not great.
The advanced statistics on Holmes are impressive. He posted a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 21.6, which would have led the Kings. He also finished the year with a 127 offensive rating and a defensive rating of 111.
Outside of the pick-n-roll and the putback, Holmes doesn’t offer much as an offensive weapon. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Holmes took just 32 shots from 10 feet extended to the 3-point line and he didn’t take a single triple on the season. He knows who he is and he does a very good job of playing to his strengths, but that might not work when paired with players like Bagley or Harry Giles, who also have limited range.
As a rebounder, Holmes needs to improve on the defensive end. He’s a high motor player and he’s often asked to get out on the break as a rim runner, but he’s leaving opportunities on the board(s).
Holmes averages 0.9 assists per game for his career, but he’s a low-usage player and the offense rarely runs through him. He also averaged 5.9 personal fouls per 36 minutes, which is a big number.
Path to Improvement
The Kings have a couple of wild cards coming into the season, including Holmes. He was very good when he played in the 20-29 minute range last season in Phoenix, but there are no guarantees he’ll get those same minutes this year off Walton’s bench.
During the 2016-17 season with the 76ers, Holmes knocked down 27-of-77 (35.1 percent) from 3-point range. If he can find that perimeter stroke, it would open the spacing for the Kings and allow them to use different combinations of players on the floor.
The Kings were outrebounded consistently last season and they need all hands on deck this year. Homes is a very good offensive rebounder, but like most of the Kings bigs, he needs to do a better job on the defensive glass.
Holmes hit a career-best 73.1 percent from the free throw line last season, but there is still room for improvement. He also needs to reduce the number of personal fouls per game, but he plays hard and brings something different to the court.
Is Holmes an insurance policy or something much more? It will take time for Walton to sort out the rotation, but don’t bet against the 25-year-old finding his way onto the court for quality minutes during the season.
Dedmon and Giles are likely options 1A and 1B at this point. They’ll split time early in the season as the team attempts to find its way, which should leave limited opportunities for a third center, at least initially.
They both have a history of injury, which is why the Kings spent an additional chunk of change on Holmes.
Anything can happen in training camp and early in the season as the rotation is worked out. Holmes is a competitor that plays with force and energy. He averaged 8.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 16.9 minutes per game last season in Phoenix and if he breaks into the rotation, he’ll post similar numbers in Sacramento.