When seeing the report late last week of the Sacramento Kings making Richaun Holmes available for trade, there should’ve been several NBA teams channeling a 1980 Muhammad Ali saying, “I want Holmes! I want Holmes!”
(Couldn’t find the clip, but I remember watching it long ago.)
Of course, Ali was talking about former World Heavyweight Champion Larry Holmes, whom he lost to later that year — 42 years later, we’re talking about an underrated Kings center, but the point stands. Nothing, not even 50-year-old Johnny Knoxville being in this week’s Royal Rumble, is less surprising than the Kings looking to revamp their roster in some form. That basketball team in Sacramento rebuilds more often than Griselda releases music.
But, again, less than five months after signing a four-year, $46 million extension, including a $12.9 million player option for 2024-25, Holmes is possibly available. At just $10.3 million this season, he’s very affordable by NBA standards. Having turned 28 years old in October and playing in year seven, he’s in the prime of his career. Given where he currently is, he might indeed be better off elsewhere.
Holmes has battled an eye injury and COVID this season, but has been productive despite a drop in playing time, logging 25.8 minutes through his 32 games (all starts) compared to last year, where he was at 29.2 minutes. He’s posting 12.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game this season while shooting a career-best 70% from the floor. Per 36-minutes, he’s at 17.1 points, 1.5 blocks and a career-best 11.3 boards. Holmes is a distant first in win shares per 48 minutes at .179 (second is .111). He’s also second in team box plus-minus (1.3) behind Tyrese Haliburton’s 2.5 and ahead of Harrison Barnes’ 0.5; everyone else is in the negative. (Yes, that means De’Aaron Fox, for whatever that’s worth.)
Ideally, if you’re the team making this move, you’d look to solidify your center position while prepping for your playoff push. The good news is that all of the following teams are in the playoff hunt — so don't worry, my fellow rec spec-wearing friend, let's get you outta there.
The Hornets are (quietly?) 27-22 as of this writing, and are seventh in the Eastern Conference. At least they're quiet for a team run by a rising star in LaMelo Ball, his underappreciated backcourt mate Terry Rozier, Most Improved Player candidate Miles Bridges and steady swingman Gordon Hayward That’s four-fifths of their starting five, with the center spot being occupied by Mason Plumlee. Kelly Oubre Jr. and PJ Washington play significant minutes off the bench, meaning the Hornets — who are 21st in rebounding and allow the third-most rebounds per game — are often playing small.
PJ Washington, in particular, is a trade piece that’s been rumored to be available and likely has to be included in the deal, since his minutes and production have declined since last season, where he was an everyday starter. It should be added that, entering the last of his rookie-scale contract next season, it’s likely the Hornets won’t extend him by 2023.
The trade logistically couldn’t be PJ for Holmes straight up since Washington only makes $4.2 million this season. The Kings also are rumored to be shopping others on their team, so there’s a potential for this to extend beyond Holmes arriving from Sacramento by himself in this hypothetical — your simplest route is to pair Washington with Plumlee’s $8.1 million, which mathematically makes this work straight up. Plumlee has a partially guaranteed $8.5 million coming to him next season, and the Kings should also receive a couple of second-rounders or a first coming back to them, both of which the Hornets have enough to entice with.
A Ball-Rozier-Hayward-Bridges-Holmes lineup sounds fun as hell.
Richaun Holmes is dunking all over the Lakers 😤 pic.twitter.com/y9fO2OprSI— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 1, 2021
Between Dwight Powell, Moses Brown, Maxi Kleber, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marquese Chriss and Boban Marjanović, the Dallas Mavericks have had what’s felt like a 💩 ton of bigs this season. Even so, as our Nekias Duncan wrote last week, without a true anchor, the Mavs have recently become one of the league’s best defenses.
Still, on the roster, there isn’t a clear long-term answer there as you continue to build this around the already extended Luka Dončić and, for now, the seemingly bought-in Kristaps Porziņģis. Enter Holmes, who is signed through at least the 2023-24 season. Powell and Kleber, who generally eat the lion’s share of minutes next to KP, are both signed through 2022-23 before they’d each become unrestricted free agents. Though Kleber makes $8.9 million this season and Powell is at $11 million, both work for Holmes mathematically straight up. Obviously, Dallas would attach at least one or two second-round draft picks, if not a protected first, to either guy (Powell more likely) and make it nearly a straight-up trade.
There’s room to open this up further. Buddy Hield makes $22.5 million this season, and his contract descends to $20 and $18 million until it expires in the summer of 2024. Tim Hardaway Jr., who Dallas extended this past summer and is now out with a fractured left foot, makes $21 million this year but is also on a descending deal that drops to $19.6, $17.9, and $16.1 million through the 2024-25 season. Both struggling shooting guards probably aren’t long for their organizations, even as they were both recently extended. Hardaway Jr. was also moved to the bench for Jalen Brunson, who’s facing a contract situation of his own given his pending free agency (keep him, Dallas).
So there’s a path to this becoming a Powell and Hardaway plus draft picks for Holmes and Hield exchange. Holmes is the type of hustling, dirty-work, efficient and quality center that the Mavericks could use. Unlike in 2K, you can trade injured players in real life — sorry Tim. Just imagine the push shots off Luka feeds.
death, taxes, and richaun holmes hitting 62.5% of his push shots (20-of-32) pic.twitter.com/iGH0xuA7Gn— Dan Favale (@danfavale) November 30, 2021
I mean, could you think of a more Raptor-ass center than Holmes? Who better be run with Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr.?
Now, how do you make this happen? First, with that being the Raptors’ starting five, where does Holmes fit? Well, it’s really their starting five out of necessity because Precious Achiuwa hasn’t had the second NBA season they’d been hoping for. Ideally, you’d still want an actual center in that mix as one of your top six minutes getters so that you have a bit more reliable size. The Raptors don’t currently have a true center you could trust for extended periods, and Holmes fills that void.
Now, regarding trade pieces, Chris Boucher is on a $7 million expiring contract, and Khem Birch is on the first of a three-year, $19 million contract, which lands him at $6.3 million this season. Combining those two does work, and it would obviously have to come with considerable draft capital, but even the Kings would probably ask wtf are they going to do with that and have a point.
Remove Birch and insert Achiuwa? That works – would the Raptors already want to move off the centerpiece of their Kyle Lowry trade, who is just due $2.8 million next year with a $4.3 million team option the season after? I mean, maybe? It would certainly help preserve some draft capital in a hypothetical Holmes trade and, you figure, if you’re acquiring a center Achiuwa would have a tougher time seeing minutes anyway. But that’s generally what you’d be looking at moving if you’re Toronto: Boucher and Birch, Boucher and Achuiwa; Boucher, Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn, along with some combination of picks or a first-rounder, for Holmes.
And if I’m Holmes, I’m down for whatever, as long as I could leave Sacramento.
Bonus: Golden State Warriors
Okay … here we go.
There’s really only one way to do this, and it’s using James Wiseman’s $9.1 million salary this season straight up. Y’all could determine what picks may or may not go where, but these are the two names because the Golden State Warriors don’t have much middle-class salary to use, nor do they probably want to shake up their roster a ton, including even this. But if they determine that Wiseman, who hasn’t played since Apr. 10 of last year due to a torn meniscus that required additional arthroscopic surgery in December, isn’t worth waiting for, then there you have it.
Wiseman showed flashes, but struggled defensively as a rookie while only logging 39 games (though he posted 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds on 52% percent shooting in 21.4 minutes per contest). He’ll turn 21 in March, and because of NCAA nonsense, we were only able to see him three times in college. Wiseman’s due $9.6 million next year and will likely bank another $12.1 million, assuming his option gets accepted.
I’m still a Wiseman stockholder, but I’m also pro going for a championship now in this seemingly wide-open NBA season — an immediate upgrade at center might be what Golden State sees as a necessary step. It makes something like a possible Holmes deal reasonable to think twice about. Just sayin’.
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