Over the last decade, the Kings have struggled to get a solid return on their free-agent investments. Only one player, center Kosta Koufos, actually finished out a free agent contract that was longer than two seasons.
For the most part, veteran players come to Sacramento and then play well below their previous standard of play. They eventually are replaced by younger players and then shipped out, usually for pennies on the dollar.
One of the few bright spots from this era of Kings hoops is center Richaun Holmes. Younger than most of the Kings’ past veteran signings, Holmes came to Sacramento after stops in Philadelphia and Phoenix.
In one season, he went from an under-appreciated journeyman to a starting center with upside. A shoulder injury cost him a portion of the season, but for one of the few times in recent Kings history, they found a free agent diamond in the rough.
The 27-year-old is back for a second season with the Kings, and he’s trying to add elements to his game to become even more valuable.
“I think the big thing for me is just playmaking and being able to space the floor,” Holmes said of what his points of emphasis were this offseason. “I’ve been taking a lot of shots and working on my playmaking from the middle of the floor to just kinda open things up for our offense.”
According to Holmes, he shot anywhere from 500 to 1500 3-point shots per day to expand his range and build his muscle memory. He shot until he felt comfortable and confident in his delivery.
“I’m just getting reps up,” Holmes said. “I worked on my jump shot, the mechanics of it, things of that sort. I just really spent countless hours in the gym trying to get something I was comfortable with and get something I can make efficiently. I’m confident in it.”
During his second NBA season, Holmes shot an impressive 35.1 percent from behind the arc, but he’s taken just 31 triples in the three seasons since then, including zero in each of the last two years.
Shooting the 3-ball could become an important aspect of his game, especially if he hopes to get on the floor with some of the team’s other bigs like Marvin Bagley and Hassan Whiteside.
In addition to shooting from long range, Holmes worked with development coach Rico Hines on his passing, especially from the high post. This aspect of his game mostly has been untapped during his five seasons in the league, but it might be the key to unlocking the log jam in the frontcourt for the Kings.
In addition to working with Hines on the court, Holmes hit the film room as well, focusing on one of the best up and coming big men in the game.
“I watched a lot of Bam Adebayo down in Miami, just kinda how he’s that outlet, he’s the guy who kind of gets the offense going for Miami,” Holmes said.
Last season, coach Luke Walton ran the offense through Harry Giles for stretches with the second unit. Giles now is gone, but the Kings still have a need for a big man that can facilitate for others.
Holmes is an exceptional pick-and-roll player, but if he can become a player that also can handle the ball in the two-man game and possibly create for others, he can increase his value and earn more time on the court.
It’s a transition year in Sacramento. They’ve brought in three rookies and a handful of veterans on one-year contracts, but Holmes has faith in the squad and believes that his team can surprise some people.
“There’s a lot of talent here and there’s a lot of hungry guys,” Holmes said. “It’s not going to be no cakewalk when people play Sacramento or it’s not going to be no easy game when they play Sacramento. We’ve got a lot of tough-minded guys here, a lot of competitors and we’re looking forward to getting after it every night.”
Holmes has potential to be part of the core moving forward for the Kings, especially if he can expand his game. He’s entering the final season of a two-year, $10 million contract he signed last summer, but he has said many times that he would like to stick around in Sacramento long-term.
He'll have to compete for minutes with newcomers like Whiteside and Frank Kaminsky for minutes, as well as holdovers like Bagley and Nemanja Bjelica. If he can bring an expanded skill set, it should help him stay on the court.