Richaun Holmes

Richaun Holmes
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Kings: Center Richaun Holmes out at least 2-3 weeks

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Richaun Holmes has been the Kings’ most productive player this season.

Better players have battled injury and inconsistency. Higher-paid players have disappointed.

But Holmes – who signed for the room exception last summer – has been a breath of fresh air at center. He’s averaging a highly efficient 13 points, eight rebounds, a block and a steal per game. He’s Sacramento’s only rotation player with a positive plus-minus.

So, this is a blow.

James Ham of NBC Sports:

Sacramento (15-24) is hanging in the periphery of the postseason race. Competing will be far more difficult without Holmes.

At least the Kings have options at center.

They can turn back to Dewayne Dedmon, who requested a trade amid a role reduction behind Holmes. Harry Giles might not have a future in Sacramento, but he can step in now. Marvin Bagley III is also getting healthy:

Watch J.J. Redick silence the Sacramento crowd with layup game-winner

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Sacramento needed a miracle to tie the game, down four with 5.6 seconds left. Then Nemanja Bjelica delivered them one.

The Golden 1 Center was rocking. Then J.J. Redick quieted it down with the game-winner.

Watch the down screen Derrick Favors sets on Trevor Ariza to free Redick up — that was better than the blocking than Deshaun Watson got most of Saturday. Kings fans wanted a foul call on Favors, but you’re not getting that call at that point in the game. Sorry.

Richaun Holmes tried to help, but Redick is a veteran who knows how to use his body to create a little space and hit the difficult shot. That’s why the Pelicans got the win.

Lonzo Ball had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Pelicans. Harrison Barnes had 30 for the Kings in the loss.

It takes double OT, but Timberwolves end 11-game losing streak with win over Kings

Associated Press
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — As he watched Buddy Hield‘s last-second 3-point shot clang off the back of the rim at the end of double overtime, Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins breathed a sigh of relief that had been nearly a month in the making.

For the first time in December, the Timberwolves won a game.

“All you could do was look and watch,” Wiggins said. “I was looking at the shot and it missed. Thank God.”

https://twitter.com/Timberwolves?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Wiggins scored the first basket of the second overtime and then fed Robert Covington for another score, and Minnesota ended its long losing streak by beating the Sacramento Kings 105-104 on Thursday night.

Minnesota hadn’t won since Nov. 27 before limiting Sacramento to 11 points in the fourth quarter and then outlasting the Kings in two overtimes. The Wolves did it without Karl-Anthony Towns, who missed his fifth straight game with a left knee sprain.

“We did a lot of great things tonight,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “Our offense was not pretty tonight but we found ways. That locker room deserves to feel good.”

Wiggins got the Wolves going in the second OT with a short jumper that started a 6-0 run. After Jeff Teague made a floater, Wiggins passed to Robert Covington for a layup.

Gorgui Dieng‘s dunk with 3:11 left put Minnesota up 105-99. Hield scored five straight points for Sacramento to close the gap, but the Wolves held on after Hield missed the potential game-winner.

“Winning in double overtime, winning in regulation, either way I would have took it,” Minnesota’s Treveon Graham said.

Wiggins finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Dieng had 21 points and 15 rebounds, and Covington scored 19 for the Timberwolves.

Richaun Holmes had 20 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for the Kings, who have their own injury concerns.

De'Aaron Fox left two minutes into the first quarter with back spasms. Sacramento’s point guard missed 17 games this season with an ankle injury sustained in practice. Marvin Bagley III limped off the court in the third quarter and was wearing a walking boot on his left foot after the game. Bagley had also recently returned after missing 22 games because of a broken right thumb sustained in the season opener.

“Give Minnesota credit. They knocked down some big shots when they had to and we didn’t,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “We have to keep scrapping and fighting. We have to be better.”

Both teams turned chances to win in the first overtime into turnovers. In the final 0.5 seconds alone, Teague attempted an inbounds pass but threw the ball out of bounds, and Bogdan Bogdanovic tried a 3-pointer on an inbounds play with 0.2 seconds left but his shot failed to hit the rim.

 

Devonte’ Graham keeps exceeding expectations, including his own

Devonte' Graham
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Devonte' Graham signed with Appalachian State.

It made sense at the time. His next-best scholarship offer came from Murray State. He didn’t view himself as an elite prospect bound to get better offers. Several of his AAU teammates had already committed. So, Graham pledged to play for the middling Southern Conference team that hasn’t produced an NBA player since the professional league’s infancy.

Seven years later, Graham hardly resembles that unconfident kid. He appears in complete control on the court, leading the Hornets and building a strong case for Most Improved Player.

But shades of the mindset that nearly drove Graham to Appalachian State persist and have helped him reach this point.

***

Charlotte’s prized acquisition this offseason was Terry Rozier, a hyped young point guard to replace Kemba Walker. The Hornets gave Rozier a three-year, $56.7 million contract.

Graham hoped to succeed retired Tony Parker as backup point guard.

Once again, Graham didn’t believe enough in himself. The minimum-salaried Graham has forced his way into the starting lineup, sharing the backcourt with Rozier. It’s a tenable, though unideal, fit. The Hornets often stagger the point guards. Graham is just too good to limit to backup minutes.

“We’re figuring that out on the fly,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said.

Graham is averaging 20 points and eight assist per game. He’s launching nine 3-pointers per game and making 43% of them. His real plus-minus (+3.13) ranks ninth among point guards.

If the Hornets knew Graham would be this good, they might not have signed-and-traded for Rozier.

To be fair, how could they have seen this coming?

***

Graham entered last year’s NBA draft looking like a prototypical college star who’d peak on that level. He was undersized (6-foot-1) and relatively old (23). Charlotte drafted him No. 34.

That itself was an accomplishment considering where Graham started.

He blossomed on the court his senior of high school and, finally realizing he could get bigger offers, decommitted from Appalachian State. But Appalachian State held him to his letter of intent. So, Graham enrolled at Brewster Academy, a prep school in New Hampshire, where he continued to impress.

Eventually, Appalachian State fired the coach who refused to release Graham. Jason Capel’s replacement, Jim Fox, set Graham free.

A premier recruit, Graham went to Kansas. It was a big stage for someone who originally didn’t want want to stray too far from his mother, grandmother and sister in North Carolina.

In Lawrence, Jayhawks coach Bill Self urged Graham to shoot more and told him not to worry about getting subbed out. After Graham came off the bench as a freshman, Self told Graham to expect to start the rest of his college career. To Self, it was a simple assessment. To Graham, it was an inspirational message that stuck with him.

Graham started all but two of his games the next three years (coming off the bench once because he overslept and once so a teammate could start on senior day). Graham became Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus All-American.

“He’s the sweetest, nicest, most popular kid on our campus, hands down,” Self said. “Hands down, the most popular kid on our campus. Everybody adored him. He ran this place as much as a college student could.

“We used to get letters in the mail all the time about what a great kid Devonte’ Graham was. ‘We saw him at Wal-Mart, and he walked out to the car and took pictures with everybody’ or just whatever. He’s just an amazing kid.”

From there, Graham joined a Hornets team with Kemba Walker and Tony Parker at point guard. Graham spent most of last season out of the rotation.

How did Graham handle going from Big Man On Campus to such a limited role?

“It’s something that a lot of people might not be used to, but I wasn’t always the best player on my team growing up,” Graham said. “So, I kind of already knew what that felt like, not being the man.”

Undeterred, Graham kept working

***

One of the NBA’s biggest surprises, Graham looks the part.

“He’s an assassin with a boy’s grin and looks like he’s about 14 years old without his hair out,” Self said. “I asked him, ‘Why don’t you go back to wearing braids or whatever?’ He said, ‘Coach, do you see how young I look when I’ve got my hair short?'”

More importantly, he also plays the part.

Graham has increased his box plus-minus from -4.3 last season to +1.5 this season. That’s one of the biggest jumps in the league.

Here are the biggest increases in box plus-minus from a previous career high (marked by the left side of the bar) to this season (marked by the right side of the bar) with the increase listed in the middle (minimum: 500 minutes this season, 200 minutes in prior season):

image

Player Previous high 2019-20 Improvement
Luka Doncic (DAL) +4.1 +13.2 9.1
Devonte’ Graham (CHA) -4.3 +1.5 5.8
Trae Young (ATL) -1.1 +3.5 4.6
Justin Holiday (IND) -0.8 +2.4 3.2
Jonathan Isaac (ORL) +0.1 +3.1 3.0
Brandon Ingram (NOP) -1.3 +1.4 2.7
OG Anunoby (TOR) +0.6 +3.3 2.7
Malcolm Brogdon (IND) +1.5 +4.1 2.6
Richaun Holmes (SAC) +1.7 +4.2 2.5
Will Barton (DEN) +1.0 +3.1 2.1
Jaylen Brown (BOS) -0.2 +1.9 2.1
Bam Adebayo (MIA) +3.0 +5.1 2.1
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) +6.8 +8.8 2.0
Luke Kennard (DET) -1.5 +0.5 2.0
Markelle Fultz (ORL) -3.0 -1.0 2.0

Most Improved Players voters are reluctant to pick second-year players, but the usual argument – that highly touted players are bound to improve after a full season of adjusting to the NBA – doesn’t apply. Graham was just a second-round pick, and he didn’t play much last season. His résumé differs greatly from the players sandwiching him on the above leaderboard (last year’s No. 3 pick Luka Doncic and No. 5 pick Trae Young).

Graham also has an attention-grabbing rise in the statistic that matters most to voters, points per game. Including 40 points in the Hornets’ win over the Nets last night, Graham is now averaging 20.0 points per game – a huge leap from the 4.7 points per game he averaged last season.

That 15.3-point increase from his previous career is one of the largest ever. The last time someone improved his scoring average so much: Dale Ellis who went from 7.1 points per game in 1986 to 24.9 points per game the next season.

Here are the biggest increases in points per from a previous career high (marked by the left side of the bar) to a later season (marked by the right side of the bar) with the increase listed in the middle (minimum: 10 games):

image

Player Previous high New high Improvement
John Block (1968 SDR) 2.9 20.2 17.2
Neil Johnston (1953 PHW) 6.0 22.3 16.4
Don May (1971 BUF) 4.3 20.2 15.9
Dale Ellis (1987 SEA) 9.3 24.9 15.6
Robert Hawkins (1977 NYN) 3.9 19.3 15.4
Devonte’ Graham (2020 CHA) 4.7 20.0 15.3
Cliff Hagan (1958 STL) 5.5 19.9 14.4
Bob Love (1970 CHI) 6.7 21.0 14.3
C.J. McCollum (2016 POR) 6.8 20.8 14.0
Reggie Lewis (1989 BOS) 4.5 18.5 14.0
Jerry West (1962 LAL) 17.6 30.8 13.2
Bob Kauffman (1971 BUF) 7.8 20.4 12.6
Bob McAdoo (1974 BUF) 18.0 30.6 12.5
World B. Free (1979 SDC) 16.3 28.8 12.5
Phil Smith (1976 GSW) 7.7 20.0 12.3

***

Graham will likely face another test of his confidence next offseason. He’ll be eligible for a contract extension that projects to be worth about $54 million over four years. That’s life-long financial security. The way he’s trending and the premium on point guards around the league, it’d be surprising if Charlotte doesn’t offer that highest-allowable amount.

However, if Graham forgoes an extension and completes his contract, he could fetch far more in 2021 restricted free agency. He’d be eligible for any salary, up to the league-wide maximum.

A guaranteed $54 million would be difficult to turn down, especially for someone getting just $150,000 above a minimum salary over his first three seasons. Risking waiting for more money would be a major departure in approach for Graham. At least he could still enter free agency a few years after signing an extension, maybe still in his prime.

Graham has shown, with the right determination, the safe route can work out.

Watch Bogdan Bogdanovic hit game-winning 3-pointer for Kings vs. Thunder (video)

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Another game, another Kings game-winning 3-pointer.

After Nemanja Bjelica hit a buzzer-beater against the Rockets on Monday, Bogdan Bogdanovic sunk the go-ahead 3-pointer against the Thunder last night. That stood as the game-winner once Richaun Holmes successfully defended Chris Paul on the other end, clinching Sacramento’s 94-93 victory.

The Kings have won three straight – over the Mavericks, Rockets and Thunder. The schedule softens over the next week and a half, giving Sacramento a real chance to rise in the Western Conference standings.

And if he keeps playing like this, Bogdanovic might find his way into a starting lineup.