Kings grades: Richaun Holmes earns high mark as free agency looms

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Grading Holmes' breakout season with Kings as free agency looms originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Kings have one of the worst track records in the league at finding value on the free-agent market. They’ve squandered huge contracts on veterans that underperform and rarely finish out their contracts.

Every once in a while, Sacramento finds a diamond in the rough, which is exactly what Richaun Holmes has been since the Kings signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract in the summer of 2019.

After bouncing around the league, the 27-year-old center has earned a starting NBA job and is set for a huge new contract this summer, either with the Kings or on the open market. 

For a second straight season, Holmes posted career numbers across the board. While his game is unconventional, his impact on the court is tremendous. He’s a player the Kings should try to build around, although that will be a challenge with his pending free agency and the team’s current cap situation. 

Here is a deep dive into Holmes and his breakout season with the Kings.

Offense

20-21 Stats: 14.2 points, 1.7 assists, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 63.7 percent FG19-20 Stats: 12.3 points, 1.0 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 64.8 percent FG

Know your role. That is one of the most difficult things for an NBA player to learn, but Holmes seems to have mastered it. 

Call it a baby jump hook or a push shot, whatever it is, Holmes’ ability to score inside the key over larger opponents is impressive. He finished second in the NBA in field goal percentage, with most of his shots coming in two tightly grouped areas.

At the rim, Holmes shot 74.7 percent, including 91 makes on 95 dunk attempts. He’s one of the better pick-and-roll finishers that you’ll find in the league and despite being undersized for a five, he rarely gets blocked. Late in the season, he even showed some flair with highlight-reel dunks in traffic that got the limited number of fans in attendance on their feet.

Outside of the pick-and-roll, Holmes has perfected a flip shot that is equally unconventional and effective. He’s also extended his range, which used to be concentrated in just the 3-10 foot area on the court. This season, he knocked down 55.2 percent from 3-10 feet on 163 attempts, and hit 62.2 percent on 148 attempts from 10-16 feet, making him one of the few Kings players with a mid-range game. 

Holmes’ ability to extend his range opened up some interesting sets for De’Aaron Fox and a few of the other Kings playmakers. Instead of drawing the defense in and dishing to the perimeter for long-range shots, Fox and others used Holmes as a trailer of sorts in the key area. A stunning 90 of his 92 makes in the 10-16 foot range came off of an assist.

While Holmes has been working on his 3-point range, he took only 11 triples on the season, with most of them coming on desperation shots at the end of quarters or shot clocks. He hit just two triples on the year, but there is still a chance he can add this weapon to his arsenal.

Holmes continues to increase his free throw attempts per game, although he still needs to find ways to get to the line more than the 2.8 attempts he averaged this season. He’s a quality free throw shooter, knocking down 79.4 percent from the stripe this season.

On the offensive glass, Holmes took a slight step back from his previous season, but he still managed to finish in the top 20 in the NBA at 2.3 offensive boards per game. In addition to the rebounding numbers, Holmes posted a career-best 1.7 assists per game on the season and he led the Kings in offensive win shares. 

Defense

There was a push during the season for Holmes to be considered for the All-NBA defensive team. With the Kings having a historically bad defense, that is a tough pull. 

Holmes plays with a force and energy on the defensive end that can be contagious. He’s undersized at the five and struggled on occasion with some of the bigger NBA centers, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the numbers.

On a team that finished 30th in the league in defensive rating, Holmes managed to hold his defender to 3.5 percent below their season average overall. He allowed perimeter shooters to hit on plus-1.6 percent from behind the arc, but at every spot on the floor he held his opponent below their season average.

Inside of six feet, Holmes held opposing players to 11 percent below their season average and from 10 feet in, his opponents posted a minus-8.3 percent. Holmes makes up for any lack of size by hustling and outmaneuvering his opponent. 

RELATED: Grading Bagley's third injury-plagued season for the Kings

Holmes finished 21st in the league with 5.9 defensive rebounds per game and 23rd in defensive rebound percentage. He still has room to grow as a rebounder, but he notched 22 double-doubles in 61 games this season and posted 30 games where he grabbed nine rebounds or more. 

In his sixth NBA season, Holmes averaged a career-high 1.6 blocks per game, which was good enough for the eighth overall in the NBA. He’s developed into a strong weak-side shot-blocker and he’s an above-average team defender. 

On the downside, he finished in a tie with Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks for the most fouls per game on the season. This is an area that he should be able to clean up if the Kings improve as a defensive squad overall. 

Overall

Grade: A-

Holmes is one of the best free-agent signings during the 36 years of Kings basketball in Sacramento. He’s an energizer bunny that brings an efficient offensive game and near-elite defense. 

After bouncing around the league, Holmes has proven that he is a starting-level NBA center during his two seasons in Sacramento. He has dealt with a few minor injuries, but he brought consistency and passion to the court.

Holmes struggled to carve out a niche in the league before joining the Kings, but now he is primed for a big-time payday on the open market as an unrestricted free agent. His team is looking for a contract in the neighborhood of four years, $80 million, which as of now is out of the Kings’ price range.

It’s possible that number comes down. It’s also possible that the Kings clear out some cap space in order to retain their starting center. He’s a perfect fit for Sacramento’s style of play and he’s been the heart and soul of the squad for the last two seasons. 

In addition to the play on the court, the Holmes family as a whole has been a welcome addition to the Sacramento community. They bring a positive spirit, whether the team is winning or losing.