For a franchise like the Sacramento Kings, mining the free agent market for undervalued players is a must. When the team stumbled upon Richaun Holmes in the summer of 2019, they knew he was talented, but they had no idea he would become one of the best free agent signings in their 36 year history in Sacramento.
Holmes put on a show once again Friday night in Boston. He did it on both ends of the floor and with every double-double, he is banking money for his next contract when he hits free agency again this summer.
With the trade deadline looming, Holmes opened up about his experience in Sacramento and sounded very much like a player who found his NBA home.
"I can't say enough how much I love this city, love these fans, love my teammates, love stepping out there in Sacramento in my jersey representing this city,” Holmes said following the win. “It's been some of the best times of my life."
At 27-year-old, Holmes is just hitting his prime. He came into the game against the Celtics leading the league in field goal percentage and he only added to his numbers when he dropped a 25-point, 11-rebound, three-block performance in the Kings’ 107-96 victory.
Holmes was a force on both ends of the court and he just keeps getting better each and every day.
“I thought down the stretch, Richaun Holmes’ defense and his play was inspiring in a way,” coach Luke Walton said. “It brought the type of energy that we need to finish games.”
Holmes could do no wrong. He even bailed the Kings out with a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock in the fourth quarter.
"He can shoot the three,” Walton said. “Part of my negotiations for bringing him back next year is to green light him to shoot those."
On the season, the 6-foot-10 center is averaging career-highs across the board including points (14), rebounds (8.7) and blocks (1.6). And the numbers don’t even tell the entire story.
“I know our record doesn’t show how great he’s been defensively, but he covers up a lot for all of us and I think he should make the NBA All-Defensive team,” Buddy Hield said. “Just the way he plays and how hard he plays every night. If you ask everybody around the league who brings it every night and he’s one of the guys who brings it every night on both ends.”
Whether Holmes is going to earn defensive acclaim or not is a question for another day, but on one of the worst defensive teams in league history, Holmes has a 131 offensive rating and a defensive rating of 116 according to basketball-reference.com.
“Our record hasn’t been as good as we would like and we’re not where we would like to be in the standings that he would get the recognition that he deserves,” Harrison Barnes said. “But I think tonight is just an example for people to see in a win of what he’s been doing for us all season long. But a lot of that is sometimes overlooked and overshadowed by how we play as a team.”
The Kings still have 31 games left on the schedule for Holmes to continue to grow. After bouncing from Philly to Phoenix before landing in Sacramento, he’s finally been given an opportunity to play starter minutes and he deserves all of the praise for being ready when he got his big chance.
“The preparation has met the opportunity and hopefully I can keep getting better and keep making big plays for this team,” Holmes said.
Holmes is going to get a nice payday, whether it’s in Sacramento or elsewhere. He’s a tireless worker and he also comes with an added bonus.
His parents, Dr. Lydecia and Dr. Richard Holmes, are a breath of fresh air, just like their son. In a stark contrast to some of the negativity that family members bring on social media, the Holmes’ celebrate each and every win like they are watching Richaun play in an AAU tournament and they were back at it after the Kings knocked off the Celtics.
With his impending free agency, the Kings have the option of trading Holmes between now and Thursday’s NBA trade deadline so they don’t risk losing him for nothing. A better option might be to initiate negotiations early and try to keep the energetic big in the fold for a long time.
They can’t sign him to an extension, but they will have plenty of options to retain him this summer if they are aggressive, like they were when he signed his original two-year contract with the team. They might even have an advantage over the field when it comes to keeping him around.
"I love Sacramento,” Holmes said. “I love playing here. We'll see what happens."
Those last four words hang in the air like a Tyrese Haliburton floater.
We’ll know more about Holmes’ future in the coming days when the March 25 trade deadline hits. If he’s still on the Kings after that day, it’s possible that will signal a potential long term partnership between the two sides.
This is the type of player you invest in, especially for a franchise that has missed so many times before.