Did Richaun Holmes Make Nerlens Noel Expendable?
Its seems like when given an opportunity, Richaun Holmes has been productive, and it might be the reason the Sixers moved on from Nerlens Noel at the NBA trade deadline.
In the wake of the Noel trade, Holmes stepped into Noel's minutes on Friday night, scoring 12 points with 10 rebounds, one assist, two steals and five blocks in 26 minutes. Holmes did this at a fraction of the price, and has been when given the opportunity during his limited playing time in his two NBA seasons.
The former second-round pick averaged 11.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in his three seasons at Bowling Green, earning MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in his senior campaign. After being selected in the second-round of the 2015 draft, and impressed the Sixers brass, averaging 10 points and five rebounds in the NBA summer league.
Now, with the Sixers moving on from Noel, it appears Holmes might have found his role, for the time being. The 23-year-old has caught on as a fan favorite, and now he’s getting attention for his play. With Noel in Dallas and Embiid still sitting out with a bone bruise to his knee, Holmes has been the first big-man off-the-bench, backing up Jahlil Okafor.
"I'm a big believer in Richaun Holmes," Former Sixers center Marc Jackson and current Sixers pre and postgame analyst explained on the Sports Bash. "I think he can give you very similar things Nerlens Noel can, but at a lower price tag."
When given the opportunity to shine, his nonstop motor, rebounding ability and activity around the basket, has given the Sixers a lift, and could have been the reason the Sixers felt at ease moving on from Noel, having a much cheaper option on the roster in Holmes.
Noel was a restricted free agent at the end of this season and Sixers President of Basketball operations Bryan Colangelo admitted that his impending status impacted his potential return to the team. The Sixers were unwilling to match a potential offer that Noel might receive on the free agent market and decided to instead get something for him, rather than lose him for nothing.
Having Holmes waiting in the wings, probably didn't hurt either.
Holmes is 6-foot-10 with a ton of athleticism, possesses good instincts on both ends of the court, including as a shot-blocker - similar to Noel's skill set, but at a fraction of the cost.
Next season Holmes has a non-guaranteed $1,014,746 coming is way, which will almost certainly be retained and the following year he has a friendly team option, priced at $1,088,038.
Meanwhile, Noel could be looking for a big deal. Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical reported right before the trade deadline that Noel is seeking a "big number," that could have scared some teams away who didn't have the cap room to re-sign him this offseason.
"It didn't make sense to go forward with restricted free agency," Colangelo admitted on Friday morning.
That's why the presence of Holmes is such a big deal, with the team almost certain to move on from Jahlil Okafor this offseason, or at the draft. Holmes might be the key player behind Embiid, that allows the Sixers to move their two former lottery picks.