Richaun Holmes' confidence as a starter is showing the Sixers have what they need in a backup for next season.
The Sixers have a starting center of the future in Joel Embiid. The question heading into the offseason is, who will back him up?
That role on the Sixers has been in flux because of injuries and trades. For most of his short NBA career, Holmes had been at the bottom of the five spot depth chart. He sat when the other three bigs were healthy and even spent time in the D-League to get an opportunity to play.
Now that Embiid is out for the season and Nerlens Noel has been traded to the Mavericks, that leaves just Holmes and Okafor. Expect the Sixers to look to move Okafor this offseason after they were unable to do so at the trade deadline. That would leave the backup center role open for a player to grab. Holmes is proving he is capable of stepping into that spot and earning consistent minutes.
While Okafor is still on the Sixers, Brett Brown had said he would get the start in most cases. When Okafor missed two games earlier this month, Holmes got the nod.
Holmes capitalized, and when it came time for Brown to match up with Dirk Nowitzki in the starting lineup Friday, he went with Holmes for his athleticism to defend the future Hall of Famer away from the basket.
"For me to consider Richaun is born out of what we've seen and it's really born out of those skill packages, as I've said, with his bounce, his athleticism, his ability to get from one end of the court to the other fast," Brown said before the 42-point win.
Holmes scored 17 points against the Mavericks. He got off to a perfect 7 for 7 start from the field, including two dunks to begin the game, and dropped 15 points in the first half.
"(I feel) very comfortable," Holmes said. "Every time you step on the court, [an] opportunity to play against the best in the world, you're going to get better. I feel like I'm getting better with every game, learning more every game, and just looking to continue to improve."
This month, Holmes is averaging 13.4 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 63.3 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three in 23.7 minutes. He scored a career-high 24 points against the Clippers last weekend in 27 minutes off the bench.
Holmes has been proving he can handle the pressure and competition of the starting lineup. In five games as a starter, he's averaging 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds, compared to 7.9 points and 4.7 boards off the bench.
"He's a beast," Justin Anderson said. "I've [seen] that for a while. I remember watching him in summer league. He plays extremely hard, and then now he's shooting the three, his ability to just dunk on people. He's really good. He's a really good player. I'm happy for him. When he gets going like that, we're a tough team."
Holmes has been in and out of lineups, back and forth from NBA to the D-League. Whenever a chance to step up arises he has run with it, fast enough and far enough to demonstrate why he should earn a consistent role next season.
"I don't think my confidence has been down," Holmes said. "I've always been a confident player, confident in the work I put in. Now it's about just getting a chance to show it and trying to go out there and prove it every night."