Phoenix Suns: Richaun Holmes Can Be Respectable Backup Center

Richaun Holmes has had an interesting career so far, but with a chance to prove himself, he may be a good option to back up Deandre Ayton for the Phoenix Suns.

Going into the 2018-19 NBA season and beyond, Phoenix Suns fans have a considerable amount to be excited about, and it will be very interesting to see how Richaun Holmes plays into that.

With No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton set to debut alongside some other exciting rookies around the league, it will be fun to see how Ayton — the almost surefire starter — fits into the ever-changing landscape of big men around the NBA.

Over the last several years, big men have been evolving. Once thought to be a position of the past as small-ball was all the rage with teams such as the Golden State Warriors classically running Draymond Green as their center deep in important playoffs series, the position has resurfaced and changed the game.

Players like Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Joel Embiid survived the near extinction of the position by expanding their range and taking ball-handling into their own hands when they had to. Having 7-foot and beyond players that needed to be guarded beyond the arc confused a lot of defenses, and further added to the point that some players like Hassan Whiteside just weren’t cut out for the league, unless they evolved.

Caught somewhere in the middle is Holmes, who the Suns traded for this summer.

Holmes previously spent his entire career with the Philadelphia 76ers, where Embiid has been not-so-quietly reinventing the center position.

In his first season, Holmes was put third in line behind Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two centers who were the center of significant amounts of team drama and youngster issues (Okafor had a reported street fight with a fan in Boston, Noel reportedly trashed an apartment in South Philly before abandoning it).

Holmes simply has not gotten much of an elongated opportunity in the NBA up to this point. In his first season, he was the third option behind Noel and Okafor as the team tried to figure out how to handle both of them and who to start. In his sophomore season, the issues were worse, as the team suddenly had to balance Noel, Okafor, and Embiid who was returning from injury.

His sophomore season was when he finally got his first stretch of quality minutes, though, due to a sudden availability in minutes at the 5 due to the team trading Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks and Joel Embiid getting injured yet again.

From February 24 until the end of the season, Holmes finally saw quality minutes after months of waiting. He appeared in all 26 remaining games and started in 15, averaging nearly 27 minutes per game.

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In those 26 games, Holmes averaged 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game and shot 34.5 percent from beyond the arc in those games, attempting just over two 3-pointers per game.

That 3-point streak was not a fluke, either. Holmes was known for his range at Bowling Green, shooting a respectable 35.3 percent from beyond the arc in his career there.

He’s no rebounding slouch either, in 2016-17, Holmes brought in 49.2 percent of contested rebounding opportunities, 11th in the league among players who played more than 20 minutes per game.

While not yet proven in the NBA, so far, whenever Holmes has been given a chance to prove himself over a significant period of time, he’s done a good job.

With Deandre Ayton pretty much locked in at the starting center spot, Richaun will be battling for the backup position with veteran Tyson Chandler.

While Chandler is a better rebounder than Holmes (averages 9.4 per game throughout his lengthy career) there may be merit in giving Holmes some more minutes than Chandler. Chandler, who is certainly coming to the end of his career at this point, offers a great veteran value for the team in leadership and can offer some on-court value as well. But in terms of centers and the ever-changing archetype of what an effective center looks like, Holmes gives you the best bang for your buck.

Next: Sorting out the Suns starting lineup

This is a contract year for Holmes. The Suns may want to give him some shine and see what he can do with good minutes. While his potential has largely been unknown due to a lack of available minutes, the Suns could very well find out how good this young center can be, and how well he can run with the new NBA.

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