Safe to say, Richaun Holmes’ 2017-18 season did not go as he or Philadelphia 76ers fans had planned. Holmes had an unlucky start to his campaign, suffering a fractured wrist back in October that postponed his season debut until the team’s 9th game of the season. By then, head coach Brett Brown had gotten comfortable with Amir Johnson as the primary backup to Joel Embiid, preferring the steady, defensive presence of the veteran to the former second round pick’s play that was equal parts exciting and inconsistent.
As the season progressed, Holmes would appear in just 48 regular season games total, often finding himself entirely out of the rotation for multiple games at a time. It was a situation the 24-year-old frequently found frustrating.
Richaun Holmes just tweeted and immediately deleted before I could screen grab— Josh Lloyd (@redrock_bball) March 7, 2018
"Fuck This Shit"
By the time the postseason rolled around, Holmes was little more than an afterthought on the active roster, only playing a total of 11 minutes across the two playoff series.
In the team’s exit interviews a couple weeks ago, Bryan Colangelo essentially confirmed the Sixers will be picking up T.J. McConnell’s team option for next season. However, no such comment was made regarding Holmes, who has an identical $1.6M option. Even though that figures represents a relatively paltry sum, every million of cleared cap space counts in Philadelphia’s pursuit of a max level free agent this summer. It would seem the Sixers are ready to move on from Holmes, especially with Jonah Bolden reportedly coming stateside to grab any available developmental minutes in the frontcourt next season.
It’s a cold business with how quickly a young, affordable part of the team’s future becomes yesterday’s news. Holmes’ potential exit would be an anticlimactic end for the last man standing in Philadelphia’s great center logjam. Back when Joel Embiid’s health was still a giant question mark, the Nerlens Noel vs. Jahlil Okafor debate was the Laurel vs. Yanny of its time. Yet, Brett Brown said he felt worse for Richaun Holmes than Nerlens Noel in regard to not receiving playing time. Then, back in April 2017, Colangelo credited the team’s ability to trade Nerlens Noel to Holmes’ emergence.
#Sixers Colangelo on center logjam: 'The dynamic has changed with the Nerlens trade & the emergence of Richaun Holmes.'— Tom Moore (@TomMoorePhilly) April 14, 2017
The Sixers would go on to trade Jahlil Okafor last December, seemingly leaving Holmes with the backup center position to himself. So why wasn’t Holmes able to seize the moment and beat out Amir Johnson for minutes?
As Brett Brown made known on numerous occasions, defense was to blame. The Sixers had a defensive rating of 101.3 with Johnson on the floor, rising to 106.2 when Holmes was out there. Holmes possesses the athleticism to showcase the occasional highlight-reel block, but too often gambles and leaves his feet unnecessarily. He also struggles to defend out on the perimeter and navigate the nuances of the pick-and-roll. In one of his rare playoff possessions during the playoffs, we see Holmes close out on Kelly Olynyk completely flat-footed, allowing the long-haired thorn in Philadelphia’s side to drive past and draw the foul.
Offensively, Holmes can finish an alley-oop with the best of them. I don’t know how many times the big man got to a ball in the air and flushed what looked to be an errant pass. But the promise of an outside shot never materialized for him. Holmes shot just 4-31 (12.9%) on threes and 21.4% on shots between 16 feet out to the three-point line. He was essentially one note offensively as a rim runner, not enough to justify his presence on the court given his defensive inconsistencies, at least not in the eyes of Brett Brown.
That’s how a guy who outlasted multiple lottery picks at the same position will likely be in search of a new employer this summer. I’m not ruling out the possibility of Richaun Holmes being a rotation player someday. Some team could use an energetic big man off the bench to soar down the lane and hammer home thunderous slams. I just don’t think that team will be the Sixers.
Final Grade: D (for dunks, but also DNP-CD’s)
Previous season report cards: J.J. Redick