Kings' Richaun Holmes warranting elite NBA center discussion

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Holmes' play warranting discussion among elite NBA centers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Richaun Holmes steadily improved through his first two seasons with the Kings, playing well enough to earn a multi-year contract extension this summer. Holmes has been worth every penny so far in 2021-22, and is beginning to warrant consideration among the NBA's elite centers.

Holmes put up a remarkable 23 points and 20 rebounds in Friday night's blowout win over the Charlotte Hornets at Golden 1 Center, and the 28-year-old is averaging 15.9 points and 11.0 rebounds on the season while shooting 69 percent from the field.

After finishing second in the NBA in field goal percentage a season ago, Holmes currently ranks fourth among all qualified players. Any time Holmes has had a chance at a high-percentage look, he has taken it.

As the team over at StatMuse found, Holmes is the first Kings player to put up a 20/20 game on 75 percent shooting since 1994.

Friday night was his finest outing of the year, but Holmes has been consistently good each and every night. His 26.0 PER ranks eighth among all qualified NBA players, with the only centers/power forwards above Holmes being Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Montrezl Harrell and Anthony Davis.

Holmes has been an elite presence offensively for Sacramento. The big man ranks third among all players with a 138.3 offensive rating, trailing only Joe Ingles and Robert Williams.

So far, the Kings have looked like a different team with Holmes on the court versus when he goes to the bench.

The Kings score 8.1 points per 100 possessions more with Holmes on the floor than when he is off, and the team's effective field goal percentage goes up by over seven percent when he is in the lineup.

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Holmes has been as valuable to his team as any big man in the league through the first few weeks. Speaking of value, there aren't many better financial bargains in the league production-wise than Holmes.

There are 15 centers in the NBA that will earn more base salary than Holmes in 2021-22, including Dwight Powell, Steven Adams and Al Horford.

“His steadiness, he brings energy, his communication continues to get better," Kings coach Luke Walton said of Holmes after his huge game. "Anytime you can give us a 20/20 game, I like our chances. Especially with how much we talk about rebounding. The whole team did a better job tonight, but he really stepped up and took care of that department for us.”

Rebounding has been a continual point of emphasis for Walton, and both Holmes and Harrison Barnes are averaging double-digit boards so far. That starting frontcourt has carried Sacramento despite so many talented young guards on the roster.

Thirty-point wins aren't a nightly occurrence for just about any team, but games like Friday night's show you the potential this Kings team has.

If Holmes can maintain this pace, the big man absolutely should warrant NBA All-Star consideration, although the Kings' record as the season wears on likely will dictate that.

Holmes still has room to grow, especially on the defensive end. But as the year goes on, he belongs in the discussion alongside the league's most elite centers.

Gobert and Jokic stand above the rest, but Holmes is proving he belongs in that next tier.