The Sacramento Kings are trying to do something that seemed improbable a month ago and climb into a play-in position in the Western Conference. Head coach Luke Walton has led his team to four consecutive victories, despite missing key pieces De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes and Tyrese Haliburton during the streak.
Sacramento has been up-and-down all season. The team has a pair of nine-game losing streaks but has also looked like a playoff contender at other times.
Despite the inconsistencies, one player who has been a reliable performer all season is center Richaun Holmes. The center is averaging 14.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. Holmes leads the team in effective field goal percentage and win shares this season, among players who have been on the team the whole season per Basketball-Reference.
Holmes’ season has not gone unnoticed for John Hollinger of The Athletic. He named the 27-year-old to his NBA All-Underrated Team.
So where’s the added value here? Well, much of it lies in the development of one shot. Quietly, Holmes has become one of the best floater shooters in the league, which is a rare statement for a center. Among bigs, his only competition in this category is Jokic. As a result, Holmes’ rim runs often result not in a flying dunk attempt but in a quick, soft push shot dropped softly in over a rotating defender. These are difficult shots, but Holmes is one of the rare players who shoots them so effectively that they add value to an offense. This season he’s shooting 59 percent on shots considered “short midrange”, according to Cleaning the Glass, and those comprised more than a third of his shots. Both figures place him near the top of all centers.
As a result of that floater, Holmes averages 23.5 points per 100 on 67.5 percent true shooting. Basically, that one trick turned him from a blah backup big into a pretty valuable offensive player.
Holmes is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Given his performance, he will be in line for a significant raise on top of the $5.05 million he’s making this season.
The Kings have been a much better team when Holmes is on the court. Sacramento’s net rating is seven points better per 100 possessions when Holmes is in the game rather than sitting on the bench, per NBA.com.
It will be interesting to see how general manager Monte McNair approaches Holmes’ new contract. All three centers (Holmes, Damian Jones, and Chimezie Metu) on the Kings roster could be up for free agency, so McNair will need to decide if he wants to retain one or more of them or start fresh at the 5 next season.
Sacramento does have Holmes’ early bird rights, so the team can offer the center a maximum four-year deal worth up 175 percent of this year’s salary or 105 percent of the league average salary this season without affecting the cap. Holmes could command more in the open market, so it will likely be an extended negotiation process.
Holmes previously stated his desire to return to the club next season. He’s a good fit with the team designed to push the pace and has fit in nicely next to Fox and Haliburton.
Do you think the Kings should bring Holmes back on a long-term deal? Or do you think McNair should let him walk if he gets a big offer from another club?