As seasons pass, people are always quick to reflect on the previous year’s draft class. Words like “bust” and “steal” are thrown around before players even get the chance to prove themselves over a long period of time, effectively shaping how those specific classes are remembered in history.
The draft class of 2015 is closing in on just their second pro season, but at this juncture, it doesn’t seem to have the kind of depth people originally thought it would. While Karl-Anthony Towns has lived up to the hype, Kristaps Porzingis has crushed the stigma of European big men, and Myles Turner and Devin Booker have very clearly outplayed where they were selected, Jahlil Okafor, Mario Hezonja, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Stanley Johnson have all been rather large disappointments.
After re-drafting the 2016 class on Sunday (Ben Simmons is still number one), ESPN’s Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton have now turned their attention to the class of 2015. One name that showed up in both Ford and Pelton’s top 10? Sixers center and 37th overall pick Richaun Holmes. Ford and Pelton both ranked Holmes seventh. Ford placed Holmes behind big men like Towns, Porzingis, Turner, Willie Cauley-Stein and Frank Kaminsky, while Pelton has Holmes as the fourth best big man in the group.
Ford had this to say:
Who would've guessed that the best center the Sixers drafted in 2015 would be Richaun Holmes (the 37th pick), not Okafor (the third pick)? Since he moved into the starting lineup, Holmes has been averaging 14.5 points per game and seven rebounds per game in about 27 minutes per game.
Holmes showed plenty of potential in limited minutes during his rookie campaign and this year as well, but the trade of Nerlens Noel and injuries to Joel Embiid and Okafor have allowed him to become unleashed.
He’s shown tremendous growth from his first season in the league, particularly on the offensive end. After knocking down just 8 of his 44 attempts (18.2 percent) from beyond the arc in his rookie campaign, he’s made 21 of 61 (34.4 percent), most of which have come in the month of March. He’s continued to improve his mid-range game, and has been a beast around the rim. Take a look at his 2015-16 shot chart (pictured first) compared to this year.
The 23-year-old continues to be a menace around the rim. He’s averaging 1.29 points per possession in the pick and roll, which is currently fifth in the NBA amongst players whose frequency in that play type is 20 percent or higher. He’s right behind Rudy Gobert, and ahead of guys like Clint Capela, Anthony Davis, and his old teammate Noel.
Defense isn’t necessarily his calling card, but he’s showing improvement on that end in just his second year. His DRtg is down from 109 to 106, and he’s increased his defensive rebounding percentage, up from 11.7 percent in 2015-16 to 18.9 percent this year. He may never be able to replicate Nerlens Noel’s presence on defense, particularly in guarding the pick and roll, but Noel will never display have that same shooting range.
As the Sixers still figure out what’s going on with their centers, Holmes feels like the only player who is consistently healthy and a joy to watch on a nightly basis. Dependent on how the team approaches the draft and free agency, Holmes should be the clubhouse favorite to back up Embiid next season. Plus, he’ll be under contract for just north of $1 million in his third season, and has a club option for $1.08 million in 2018-19.
It’s certainly safe to label Holmes as one of the steals from a draft class that has yet to really live up to expectations.