Philadelphia 76ers are smart to exercise options on McConnell, Holmes

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

With free agency and the NBA Draft fast approaching, the Philadelphia 76ers have locked up Richaun Holmes and T.J. McConnell for another season.

The Philadelphia 76ers just filled two of their bigger needs two weeks before the beginning of the 2017-2018 NBA calendar year.

That’s right, after some mild speculation, the 76ers basketball operations department, now being run by head coach Brett Brown on an interim basis, has officially picked up the fourth-year options of T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes, locking the duo in for another season in South Philly.

While the decision to extend McConnell seemed fairly inevitable, as the diminutive passer has proven himself invaluable as the team’s small-ball point guard, even with 2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz nipping at his heels, the decision to bring back Holmes seemed much more up in the air.

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Since being selected 37th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft out of Bowling Green, Holmes has had a fairly peculiar first three years to his NBA career.

On one hand, whenever Holmes has been given an opportunity to see the court, he’s consistently brought an infectious energy to both ends of the court, routinely throwing down monster dunks, however, those opportunities have been fleeting, to say the least.

After playing fairly well in 2016-2017, starting 17 of the 57 games he appeared in while averaging a solid 20.9 minutes of action a night, many assumed Holmes would take on a larger role going into the 2017-2018 season, but in actuality, things went the other way.

Though Holmes did play well the previous season, then-GM Bryan Colangelo opted to add some veteran leadership to his frontcourt by signing Amir Johnson to a one-year $11 million deal to backup Joel Embiid. Relegated to the third string, Holmes remained eternally optimistic, never expressing any dissatisfaction for his diminished role, and still performed well whenever given the opportunity to play, like in the Sixers playoff series against the Miami Heat.

And now, with Johnson set to become a free agent, Holmes may finally ascend to the role many have wanted him to occupy for the last two years: Joel Embiid’s primary backup

Sure, he’s only 6-foot-10, but Holmes’ game is remarkably similar to that of Embiid’s, from possessing the ability to anchor the defense in the paint, to his ability to knock down open threes, and inserting him as a backup would allow Brown’s squad to maintain the intensity of their up-tempo assault with their star center on the bench.

With Holmes on the court, the Sixers may be able to play even faster.

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Though only time will tell what Holmes’ and McConnell’s roles will be in 2018, whether that be primary backups, end of the bench role players or potential trade chips, one thing is certain: no team has ever gotten worse by retaining quality young players on value-conscious contracts.