Should the Sixers look to trade Richaun Holmes?

Richaun Holmes is a fan favorite, someone who plays hard and relishes every opportunity to prove himself. But with Trevor Booker and Amir Johnson on the roster, how much does Brett Brown plan on playing him? After a recent hot stretch for Holmes, it may be time to explore the trade market.

Richaun Holmes embodies everything that The Process is about. He’s a former second-round pick who signed a team-friendly “Hinkie Special” deal as a rookie. He plays with an underdog’s mentality, hustling for loose balls and fearlessly attacking the rim as if he wants to rip it off with every single dunk. Holmes didn’t complain last year when he was sent to Delaware while a clearly inferior Jahlil Okafor stole his minutes. He kept his head down, worked hard, and eventually made it easy for the team to part with an unhappy Nerlens Noel. And now, much to the chagrin of Sixers fans, it makes sense for the team to explore his trade market.

Coming into the season, Holmes seemed like a perfect backup for Embiid. He played well down the stretch last year while Jojo sat with a knee injury. Unfortunately, Richaun suffered an injury of his own during the preseason, leaving the newly-signed Amir Johnson as Embiid’s primary backup. Sixers fans weren’t sure how the two would be deployed once Holmes returned to the lineup. After a month and a half, we’re still not sure. Holmes has had a few bright spots mixed in with some “Did Not Play - Coach’s Decision” outings.

Over the last four games, however, Holmes has gotten consistent minutes. He’s responded with strong performances, scoring double figures in each contest. Against the Lakers, he was the only Sixer to score off the bench, finishing with a +7 rating in a three-point loss. He’s always been more than a box score player, though. While they both count for two points, a mid-range jumper doesn’t have the same impact on teammates and fans as a thunderous throw-down. When Richaun makes a big play, the Sixers are instantly energized.

As good as he’s looked recently, Richaun’s playing time is still in doubt. There’s a chance that we just saw his best four-game stretch of the season, and his value is at an apex. Embiid sat out two of the last four games, and the Sixers just acquired another energetic, hard-working big man in Trevor Booker. Between Holmes, Booker, and Johnson, how will the frontcourt shake out behind Embiid and Dario Saric? Against the Timberwolves, Holmes started in place of Robert Covington and played a season-high 33 minutes, but once Covington returns, Brett Brown will have to tinker yet again. Richaun's role is still a big question mark.

On the other hand, of those three backup big men, only Holmes is signed beyond this season. It might make sense to let him grow with the team to see if he can become the T.J. McConnell of the frontcourt—a key cog who anchors bench units and plays within himself. But let’s not forget about the most recent draft class. The Sixers traded up to take Latvian 7-footer Anzjes Pasecniks, and second-round pick Jonah Bolden opened everyone’s eyes with a strong Summer League showing. As we learned with Embiid, Noel, and Okafor, there are only so many big man minutes to go around.   

Meanwhile, how many teams could use a young, cheap, athletic rim runner who can occasionally block a shot into the tenth row? Holmes is far from a finished product, but he already has the makings of a valuable role player in today’s NBA. If the Sixers won’t consistently carve out that role, they should capitalize on any value he currently holds.

To be clear, this is not a Jahlil Okafor situation. Richaun adds real value to this team, and he hasn’t complained about his playing time through the media. Dealing him is not some necessity for the good of both parties. But if he’s going to play fewer minutes than both Amir Johnson and Trevor Booker, why not see what he could fetch in a trade? With the likes of Jerryd Bayless and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot soaking up minutes, the Sixers could really use some better guard play off the bench.

Maybe Richaun Holmes doesn’t have that much of a trade market. Maybe Brett Brown is committed to giving him minutes after his recent stretch of promising play. If he barely sees the floor behind Booker and Johnson while staying on the roster, however, everybody loses. After showing gross incompetence with both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, it’s time for the Sixers to get smarter about how they manage their youth in the frontcourt.

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