Philadelphia 76ers: Trading Richaun Holmes for cash was a mistake

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Richaun Holmes is being paid $5.005 million for the 2020-21 NBA season.

That mark ranks eighth on the Sacramento Kings, 35th among NBA centers, and 211th overall among all players in the NBA, sandwiched nicely between Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton – both of whom are on rookie-scale contracts.

Typically, when a sixth-year pro is earning such a relatively meager salary, they would probably be classified as a role-playing starter, if not an outright bench player, but, in a weird twist of fate, Holmes is quite possibly the most important player –  at least defensively – on a Kings squad that also features seven first-round picks, three All-Rookie team members, and a two-time blocks champion.

If, in 2018, you were to tell Philadelphia 76ers interim GM Brett Brown that Holmes would eventually be a starting center over Hassan Whiteside, he probably wouldn’t have opted to trade the former second-round pick to the Phoenix Suns for *checks notes* cash considerations but alas, them’s the breaks sometimes.

You know what they say in the NBA, cash considerations have never helped a team win or lose a game, just occasionally buy a copy machine.

Could you imagine 2021 Holmes backing up Embiid on the Philadelphia 76ers?

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Since having his contract cashed in by the Philadelphia 76ers, Richaun Holmes has played for two teams, the Phoenix Suns and the Sacramento Kings. He’s appeared in 152 games and counting – all regular season because, you know, they are the Suns and Kings – and has averaged 10.8 points, 6.7 rebound, and 1.3 blocks in roughly 23.5 minutes of action a night.

While the Suns opted against retaining Holmes’ services when his contract expired at the end of the 2018-19 season, due in no small part to the additions of Aaron Baynes, Frank Kaminsky, and our old pal Dario Saric, the former Bowling Green Falcon was able to latch on with the Kings in his first bite at the free agency apple, signing a two-year contract with the club worth $9.7 million.

Like Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, Sacramento will surely forever hold a special place in Holmes’ heart, as it’s where he proved once and for all that he could not only survive but thrive as an NBA lifer.

Signed to serve as a defensive foil for former second overall pick Marvin Bagley – who, get this, was actually drafted before both Luka Doncic and Trae Young – Holmes earned his first start in the purple and black in the team’s fifth game of the 2019-20 season and remained in that role until a torn labrum cost the former second-rounder 25 games. Though Holmes did eventually make it back to the court, returning for the Kings’ March 7th bout against the Portland Trail Blazers, his comeback would be short-lived, as the season was halted one day later and would not resume until the end of July.

Had Holmes been allowed to hit the free agent market then and there, he surely would have been handed a handsome raise for his improved play, but fortunately for the fine folks of California’s capital city, the 27-year-old Lockport, Illinois native still had a year left to play on his contract and room to expand his game even further.

Through the first 38 games of the 2020-21 NBA season, Holmes is averaging a career-high 13.9 points and 8.6 rebounds, all the while shooting 64.4 percent from the field and 81.1 percent from the charity stripe. Holmes has recorded 15 double-doubles, eight games with 20 or more points scored, and three games where he recorded five or more blocks.

But wait, it gets better. Not only has Holmes become a consistent double-digit scorer and a legit point scorer from about 19 feet in, but he’s become the lynchpin of Luke Walton’s defense. He’s averaging the 17th most rebounds of any player in the league, the eight-most blocks, and oh yeah, just so happens to have the 32nd best defensive rating of any player in the NBA regardless of position.

Holmes is such a big part of the Kings’ defensive abilities that when he’s on the court, the team has a +0.1 net rating, but when he leaves, the team falls to a brutal -11.8, which is the worst mark in the entire league according to The Ringers’ Zach Kram.

Who would have ever imagined Richaun Holmes, the 37th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, would have an on/off differential in the same ballpark as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Seth Curry’s older brother.

dark. Next. Philadelphia 76ers to trade or not to trade: Furkan Korkmaz

Now, in theory, could the Philadelphia 76ers still find a way to reunite with their wayward second-rounder? Most definitely. Rumor has it that Richaun Holmes could be had at the trade deadline, and the Sixers undoubtedly have the picks and contracts/exceptions to make a potential deal work, but honestly, that ship has probably sailed. Holmes is surely in-line for a contract in the $12-18 million AAV this summer, and his lack of an outside game would make him a less than ideal fit long-term. But there is a moral to this story that I hope new GM Daryl Morey takes to heart: Never, ever, ever trade a promising young player for cap considerations, that is, unless you really need a new copy machine more than a Hall of Fame-caliber marksman.