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NBA Rookie Week: Richaun Holmes Continues To Fly Under The Radar

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Richaun Holmes is a real NBA player, and it's time we start appreciating that.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Richaun Holmes has been under the radar his entire career. Whether it's blitzing through the MAC - a conference that could evaporate tomorrow without more than some beat writers and a handful of scouts noticing - or sticking in the Sixers' loaded front-court rotation as a surprisingly productive second-round pick, he's rarely gotten the credit he deserves.

Perhaps Philly's four, even five most intriguing pieces going forward are going to command minutes at one of the front-court slots, if not both. So it doesn't exactly bode well for his exposure with Embiid and Saric potentially coming into the fold this fall. But make no mistake - he's earned his time, and while he'll get no love nationally for the entirely sensible reason that no one outside of this blog wants to watch the second-unit nitwits on an 8-56 team, his production speaks for itself.

Rebounding

This is Holmes's clear-cut, identifiable skill on one side of the ball (and strenuous weakness on one end). He's not the most impressive explosive athlete in the open floor, but he flies in to crash the offensive glass and is a glorified pogo stick around the basket.

(Via Derek Bodner of PhillyMag)

Seriously, his motor is absurd. He's not by any stretch of the imagination a below-the-rim athlete, but if you lack explosiveness relative to your competition, you better have a damn strong motor to make up for some of that ground. His nineteenth jump looks the same as his first, and he's relentless as a hustle rebounder. He's not a textbook rebounder and doesn't get into position to seal off his man enough (which helps explain his bizarrely antithetical lack of production on the defensive glass), but when it comes to tracking and chasing energy boards, he's got you beat.

Offensive rebounding in this transition-heavy era has become an interesting talking point, and the conversation of its fit in the modern game was only amplified when Cleveland used Tristan Thompson's energy on the offensive glass to keep Golden State out of transition and stay competitive in the Finals last June. Holmes is an interesting case study here, because his production on the offensive boards comes with a historical lack of competition in rebounding on the other side of the ball.

The Great Offensive Rebounding Debate can wait for another day, but at this stage, the Sixers struggle so mightily in the defensive rebounding department with the Grant-Noel-Okafor front-court rotation as it is that going with a guy like Holmes who is somehow still an overall minus in that department doesn't make a ton of sense.  He's a great change-of-pace guy to have on your bench, especially for a team that could use some second-chance points more than most offenses. But whether he can become a productive rotation player will come down to bridging the gap between his rebounding on both sides of the ball.

Rim Protection

This is where Holmes gets surprisingly little respect. He's a productive bench rim-protector, and may actually be an interesting complement to Okafor in spot minutes if you're willing to surrender defensive rebounding entirely, which they've pretty much already done.

As of Feb. 26, Holmes' opponent field goal percentage measured by Nylon Calculus' rim protection numbers is the sixth-best in the NBA at 43.6 percent, behind only Rudy Gobert, John Henson, Jeff Withey, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison. His instincts are real and he's a strong weak-side rotation shot-blocker who harnesses a lot of that energy I mentioned on the defensive end. Having that bench rim-protection is incredibly valuable from a player who has split minutes about evenly at both front-court spots, and his opponent's attempts at the basket on-court vs. off-court is -2.4, also as of Feb. 26, a necessary deterrent to have behind Jahlil Okafor.

Miami ends with a second-chance bucket here, but he makes a sound rotation after staying patient on the weak-side to come up with a block. Boxing out Miami ManBeast Hassan Whiteside is no small task, but you see the instincts and the talent that's there.

Projection

Holmes is an older prospect, and he'll be 23 before his sophomore season kicks off, but there are lots of reasons to be positive about the progress he can make. First off, he has a fairly immature body. Baby face aside, he's still on the stockier side and has some room to turn that into muscle and fill out over the next couple of seasons. His skill-set aligns optimally with that time scale as well, with clearly identifiable skills to continue to build off of and plenty of room to grow on both sides of the ball.

He's already brought them production off the bench -- the Sixers are a -3.0 Net Rating with him on the floor and a -12.7 with him off. Yes, caveats regarding bench lineups and rabble rabble, but that's impressive any way you choose to paint it in the logjam he plays in during Year One.

Having an offensive rebounding machine off your bench to combat smaller lineups in this league-wide craze is a major boost, and coupled with the potential rim-protection he can give you, the development of his jump-shot is gravy. He's 9-for-26 on two-point jumpers outside the paint this season, and that mid-range game could obviously be a real difference-maker if it comes to fruition.

He lives at the rim on offense, where about 80 percent of his offense comes from and he's shooting 74.6 percent, according to basketball-reference. I don't like his chances to shoot the three consistently in the NBA, and the extended distance really seems to kill him judging by the time he needs to get off a three-pointer and the line-drive nature of a lot of his long jumpers. But he showcased a J at Bowling Green and I do think there's some touch there, somewhere. Of course, being able to let it fly against Northern Illinois doesn't lock him into Official NBA Shooter territory, but there's something to build off of, and he showed flashes in Summer League as well.

The offensive rebounding, the constant  motor and the bench rim protection should cement him as a valuable NBA rotation player down the road. The jump-shot could be the difference between him filling a role like, say, Jeff Withey and Darell Arthur, but regardless, despite the rotation he's buried in and the level at which he's flown under the radar, he's an NBA player. Grabbing that in the second round should have team execs jumping for joy, and still salivating at the room left to grow.