This past June, the Philadelphia 76ers used a draft pick on a young big man who could have a huge impact during the upcoming season. No, this isn’t the ‘Jahlil Okafor will be the centerpiece of the offense’ article; I speak instead of second-round pick Richaun Holmes. Drafted by the Sixers 37th overall out of Bowling Green, the 6’10” power forward possesses the length and athleticism that have become a hallmark of Sam Hinkie draft picks these last few years.
However, unlike a large number of the guys previously brought in, Holmes supplements that athleticism with a pretty good outside shot, having shot 35.3 percent from three during his college career, including a 41.9 percent mark in his final season. The Sixers’ offseason priority centered around populating the roster with shooting to work around the post game of Okafor, with Holmes included in that group. It’s precisely his projected fit playing next to Okafor, and to a lesser extent, Nerlens Noel, that makes Holmes such an intriguing player for the Sixers.
I already alluded to how Holmes would slot alongside Okafor offensively, when the Sixers would presumably go with a 4-out/1-in style reminiscent of the late-2000s Magic. Additionally, Holmes projects as a terrific complement to Okafor on the defensive end as well. Holmes has decent enough quickness to stay with stretch 4s along the perimeter, but more crucially, blocked over 2.5 shots per game at Bowling Green. With Okafor’s rim protection very much a question at the professional level, Holmes could capably help secure the painted area alongside Okafor when Nerlens Noel leaves the court.
Projecting skills from college is great and all, but how has Holmes looked thus far against higher-level competition?
In addition to posting the third-highest PER in the last 15 years at the Portsmouth Invitational, Holmes shined in limited minutes at the Salt Lake City Summer League. Across three games, he averaged 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in just 16.5 minutes per game of floor time. The former Falcon also averaged a block and a three-pointer made, and although he shot poorly from downtown across the limited sample size (23.1 percent), his stroke looked smooth and easily transferable to the slightly longer NBA distance.
So what should Sixers fans expect from the rookie moving forward?
The first step for Holmes will be to simply stay on the court. At the tail end of his final Summer League game, he didn’t stick the landing on a tremendous chase-down block, breaking his elbow on impact with the floor. Then, after rehabbing diligently to be ready in time for training camp, his second day back saw Holmes twist his ankle during practice. It’s not a serious sprain (he’s expected back within a week), but the last thing the Sixers need is another oft-injured big man. You hate to knock a guy for what could simply be a couple fluke injuries, but injury prevention is, to some degree, a skill. As the old saying goes, sometimes the best ability is availability.
Nevertheless, for all the talk centered around how Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel will fit together, the Sixers themselves have noted the pair will spend a good deal of time playing separately as well:
— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) September 23, 2015
In a perfect world, Holmes would slot in as the third rotational big men alongside those two young stars. With the potential for a combination of outside shooting and rim protection that is perfect for today’s NBA game, Richaun Holmes might very well become more than an afterthought in NBA circles by season’s end.