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Richaun Holmes looks to bounce back in new role with Kings

What is Holmes’ ceiling for the 2022-2023 season?

Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Of all the players to wear a Sacramento Kings jersey over the last five years, Richaun Holmes has been a personal favorite for me and many other fans.

No, he isn’t the team’s star player. He may not even be one of the team’s top five players at this point. But when he steps on the court, you know exactly what you’re going to get out of him: heart and grit. Which is something many Kings players have lacked during the playoff drought.

On August 4, 2021, Holmes came to an agreement with the Kings which keeps him there for the next four years. At the time, he was the clear-cut starter at center. Even though he has struggled with injuries during his tenure in Sacramento, when he was on the floor, there was no player more passionate than him in the building.

As much as everybody loves Holmes, the truth is that he isn’t the best big man around. Along with his hustle, he can provide you with some help on offense with his ever consistent push shot from the top of the key. However, he has never averaged double-digit rebounds in a season and isn’t the most reliable on defense.

Then, on February 8, 2022, the Kings acquired their new starting center when they traded for Domantas Sabonis. Holmes was now coming off the bench, and the Kings got the All-Star they so desperately needed. Holmes would only play in eight more games after the trade due to some off-court issues.

Now with a full offseason behind him to get healthy and accept his new role, what does the impassioned vet have in store for 2022-2023?

What is the best-case scenario for Holmes?

There is one major issue I have had with Holmes over the last couple of years. Even if it’s some freak accident like what happened to his eye last season, the guy just can’t seem to stay healthy. And in sports, especially for role players, the best ability is availability.

The best-case scenario for him would simply be for his luck to turn around and he stays healthy enough to play in at least 65 games this season, something he’s only managed to do once in his seven-year career. If he can do that, I see him providing some very key minutes for the team and helping the Kings have possibly their best backcourt in quite some time.

What is the worst-case outcome?

The worst-case scenario for Holmes would be for the injuries to continue. He is without a doubt the second best big on the team. But with him already behind Sabonis, missing time may create a situation where the Kings play small off the bench with either Chimezie Metu or Trey Lyles filling in as the backup five.

With Holmes already being around the same size as both Metu and Lyles, the Kings wouldn’t lose any size. However, they would gain an additional shooter with either option. Holmes is not a shooter at all, he is at his best in the paint and as a rim runner. But if he misses time and Mike Brown sees success with the more modern lineup, it may hinder Holmes’ minutes when he returns.

What do you think is the most likely role for Holmes?

“I see that fitting perfectly,” Holmes stated when asked about playing alongside Sabonis. “You know, we’re basketball players, man. You put us out there, we’ll make it work.”

To no one’s surprise, the Kings officially announced that Sabonis will play the five for Sacramento this season. This means Holmes will be the backup. Again, no surprise. But just because he is not a rotational guy, it doesn’t mean Holmes is any less important.

Of all positions in basketball, no player rotates more frequently than centers do. Last season, only 10 centers averaged 30 or more minutes game, by far the least of any position. This is due to their size and the toll the sport takes on their bodies compared to other players.

Last season, Sabonis averaged 33.6 minutes per game once he came over to Sacramento. That leaves Holmes more than a full quarter’s worth of playing time to impact the game. He will need to continue playing efficiently on offense in these minutes, but will need to step it up on the boards and as a rim protector. Since he will no longer be guarding the likes of Embiid or Nikola Jokic for the majority of his minutes, Holmes should be able to impose his will on opposing backups.

Holmes has a chance to be the best backup big in the league if he stays healthy. Like many NBA players, he is gifted with unique size and athleticism. But Holmes’ true gift is his tenacious and unrelenting style of play. If he continues to bring that to the court night in and night out, Sacramento’s frontcourt will be a powerhouse.