Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Richaun Holmes

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Richaun Holmes

Position: Forward/center

Status for 2018-19: Club option that must be exercised by June 29 at $1,600,520

Holmes in 2017-18
The Sixers made it quite clear from the beginning of the season that they were going to opt for substance over flash at the backup center position. That meant Amir Johnson would receive the bulk of the playing time behind Joel Embiid instead of Holmes.

Sure, Holmes can be the prototypical spark off the bench that comes in throwing down monster dunks, grabbing boards and blocking shots. The 24-year-old can also miss reads on offense and lose his man for easy baskets on the defensive end.

Johnson is nowhere near the level of athlete as Holmes, but the veteran provided a steady approach to the game that Brett Brown favored for the Sixers.

So Holmes, who missed the first eight games of the season with a broken bone in his left wrist, was limited to a career-low 48 contests and saw his minutes dip from 20.9 a night one season ago to 15.5.

Not an ideal situation for a player with a club option on his contract for next season.

Signature game
Holmes had a string of games in mid-December when he put up big numbers, scoring in double figures six times in an eight-game stretch. However, those numbers proved pretty hollow as seven of those eight games resulted in losses.

Let’s go with Dec. 30 instead, a 107-102 road comeback over the Denver Nuggets. With Embiid sidelined, Holmes came off the bench to record 14 points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 19 minutes before fouling out.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Unlike T.J. McConnell, Holmes didn’t get verbal confirmation that his option would be picked up from team president Bryan Colangelo at end-of-season press conferences.

While it seems unlikely the Sixers will bring back Johnson at a similar salary to what he made last season, the organization will likely see what else is available on the backup big man market.

Still, at 24 years old and with an extremely manageable salary of $1.6 million, Holmes should expect to be back with the Sixers next season. Anything after that will hinge on the amount of growth he shows in what could be his last chance with the team.

On Holmes
“It’s always a competition. Coach always lets it be known that we’re going to compete for spots, going to compete for playing time. Just have to come in next year ready to compete and ready to compete harder.”

- Holmes on whether he expects to be the backup center next season

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Robert Covington

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Robert Covington

Robert Covington

Position: Small forward

Status for 2018-19: Enters first year of four-year contract extension at $10,464,092

Covington in 2017-18
Ah, the curious case of Robert Covington. 

There’s typically that one player on every team that fans love to hate. For the Sixers, that guy is clearly the ever-streaky Covington.

When he’s good, the production is very good. Like when Covington came into 2017-18 playing lockdown defense while he averaged 14.4 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting from the field and 41.6 percent from three-point range over the first two months of the regular season. 

That’s the level of play that helped the swingman secure his big payday from the Sixers in November.

But when it’s bad, it’s all bad for Covington. Look no further than the postseason when he was limited to 8.1 points a night on 32.5 percent field goal shooting and 31.3 percent from long range. That lack of confidence also showed in his defense as Covington was routinely beat by his man on that end, particularly against the Celtics. 

Eventually, the fifth-year forward was relegated to the bench in place of T.J. McConnell.

Signature game
With news of the Sixers and Covington working toward an extension, he made a strong impression right before the Nov. 15 deadline. 

Covington turned in a season-high 31 points in a Nov. 13 win over the LA Clippers. He shot 9 of 12 from the field (5 of 8 from three) to go along with six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Perhaps most impressive was that Covington managed to consistently get to the free throw line where he shot a perfect 8 for 8 in the game.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
As far as Sixers regulars currently under contract go, Covington’s role is probably the most up in the air. Sure, he’ll be back after inking that new four-year, $62 million extension. But if the Sixers have their way this summer, Covington will be backing up one of the NBA’s superstar wings such as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard or Paul George.

Either way, Covington has to work on being more consistent. Plus, he acknowledged during his end-of-season press conference that he must improve his virtually nonexistent ball-handling skills and ability to finish at the rim.

Those flaws were easier for Sixers fans to swallow for a player still under his rookie contract that was paying roughly $1 million a season. That won’t be the case now that Covington’s annual salary has skyrocketed.

On Covington
“Not really. It was more so just about what I’ve been through and everything in that transition. My expectations didn’t change. I still had to go out and fight the same way I’ve been fighting. That intensity didn’t change about me. … I was taken care of and blessed with the opportunity to be with this organization a few more years and it was significantly a lot more than what I had.”

- Covington on whether he felt more pressure after signing extension

Sixers' newfound success means draft lottery now less important

Sixers' newfound success means draft lottery now less important

It’s that time of year again.

When Sixers fans start getting excited at the sight of ping-pong balls and warming up their vocal chords for endless chants of “trust the process.”

The NBA’s draft lottery is set for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Chicago. The event has become a spectacle for Sixers supporters in recent years with each occasion representing a chance to land the next blue-chip prospect to push the rebuild forward.

Until now.

Sure, fans will still be excited for the lottery as the Sixers have an 86.98 percent chance of the Lakers’ pick conveying to them at No. 10 and even a 1.1 percent chance of snagging the top selection for a third straight year (see story).

However, the lottery outcome is no longer the franchise’s main source to obtain more firepower.

“With respect to adding — I’m going to say talent, not free agent — because talent comes in many forms,” Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said last week. “Talent comes in a possible trade, possible free agency. Both options loom with cap space and flexibility. If the right deal comes along, we’ll certainly pursue it. We will explore any and all options to add that talent.” 

Did you catch that? In Colangelo’s first answer during his end-of-season press conference, he mentioned different ways to add talent to the Sixers’ roster but not once did he discuss the draft.

A minor oversight? It’s possible. But it’s more likely he no longer sees that as a way to put the team over the top.

The Sixers took a major leap in 2017-18 and have now proven to be serious contenders in the Eastern Conference. How exactly are they going to get past the current dangers they face in the East and any other forces that may crop up down the line?  

The plan could involve taking another prospect and working him into the team’s blossoming young core. But that player likely isn’t going to push the Sixers into the NBA Finals, so the more realistic options involve hitting the free-agent market or using those first-rounder(s) as a potential bargaining chip in a trade.

“I don’t want to talk specifically about this year’s draft, but we do have a likelihood of picking somewhere between 10 and 11 with that Laker pick,” Colangelo said. “There’s less than a 2.0 percent chance, maybe a 1.2 percent chance that we move up to No. 1. There’s a combined, roughly, 2.5, 3.0 percent chance that we lose the pick at [Nos.] 2 or 3. But it’s very likely or probable that we select somewhere at the 10, 11 mark. And then we have the 26th pick in the draft. So we’re really looking at all facets of the draft. 

“We talk about the things that we would like to do with our roster internally. We look at some of the players that are available that could address that. And then with the 26th pick, it starts to get into do we have the roster spots to give up to select two players that will be on this team next year? We could consider doing something with a stash in terms of the second pick. Or utilize the assets to combine them to move up in a scenario or utilize in a trade to acquire a player. All kinds of things could evolve between now and draft day.” 

So bust out your Sixers jerseys and reminisce about how the team walked away on recent lottery nights with the picks that ended up being Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. Just don’t expect the same euphoria when the organization’s draft slots are announced this time around.