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By bringing back Holmes, McNair sets Kings on new path

NBC Sports
Richaun Holmes

It started with a pair of defensive players on draft night. A small, but meaningful trade Friday further developed a pattern. And the opening of free agency Monday was more of the same.

After posting one of the worst defensive ratings in NBA history a season ago, Kings general manager Monte McNair went out and got Luke Walton some help over the last four days and he likely isn’t done with his roster overhaul.

Davion Mitchell, Neemias Queta, Tristan Thompson, Moe Harkless and Alex Len all are for their defensive prowess, although none of them are considered 30-minute-per-game starters heading into the 2021-22 season. 

That is where Richaun Holmes comes in, who the Kings agreed to re-sign to a four-year, $55 million contract Monday.

Holmes is the centerpiece of the Kings' defense. He’s a center that can track much smaller players on the perimeter, hold his own against giants in the post and he’s a glue guy for a team in search of leadership. 

After a season where it often seemed like Holmes was on an island, he now has reinforcements all around him and there is potential for even more pieces to arrive in the coming days. 


Why Holmes matters

Holmes is a diamond in the rough. After bouncing around the league for four seasons, he joined the Kings on a budget two-year, $10 million contract that was considered an overpay by many. 

It took Holmes all of four games to overtake Dewayne Dedmon as the starter in his first year in Sacramento, a position he flourished in over the last two seasons.

Not only is Holmes a perfect fit with the Kings’ style of play, but he is a player who found himself in Sacramento. He set career-highs across the board in each of his two seasons with the team and he developed into a high-level two-way player.

The Kings don’t have a young center waiting in the wings or even another via option in free agency. If they had lost Holmes, the hole would be glaring.

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Not this time

While the Kings have moved on, they were burned badly last season leading up to free agency. Days before the signing period, they worked out a trade to send starting shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic to the Milwaukee Bucks for Donte DiVincenzo. 

That deal fell apart when someone went to the press and the NBA stepped in. Bogdanovic signed an offer sheet with the Atlanta Hawks instead of moving onto the Bucks. McNair and his staff decided not to match and the Kings lost a starter for nothing.

That’s a huge deal in Sacramento and it’s a situation that could have repeated itself. The Kings aren’t a hotbed for free agents and they need more overall talent. McNair had more information about Holmes’ desires in free agency, but he still rolled the dice when he decided not to trade his soon-to-be free agent starting center at the deadline.

By locking up Holmes, McNair has ended a narrative. While that isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, it is in a small market. 

What’s next

With Holmes locked up and defensive upgrades all over the roster, McNair now has an opportunity to truly swing for the fences. 

The Kings still need another forward, more length and another shooter or two. There are still plenty of free agent options, but McNair also has some more roster balancing to do.

Armed with an elite level shooter in Buddy Hield, a former top No. 2 pick in Marvin Bagley and all kinds of future draft capital, McNair has an opportunity to make one or two more major changes. 

Monday was an exciting day for Sacramento, but it might not be the end. There is more that can be done. There is more that needs to be done, especially if the Kings want to snap their 15-year playoff drought.