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Tyson Chandler’s buyout brings Richaun Holmes into Suns rotation

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns brought in veterans who could not only be good presences in the locker room but veterans who could also bring meaningful contributions on the court as well.

When it comes to the level of play from that group, it has been poor, and one of the many reasons the Suns are off to a 1-7 start.

One of those veterans struggling was backup center Tyson Chandler, who already looked a step or two behind last season and was even worse in his limited minutes this year.

He wasn’t even helping the team on the glass or defensively, the two areas the Los Angeles Lakers are going to look for him to add in when they sign him following Chandler’s buyout with Phoenix.

The play of Chandler and the other more experienced players has led to frustration within the fan base, as head coach Igor Kokoskov does have other options, and those options are younger and hold more long-term stock than the placeholders.

Center Richaun Holmes isn’t necessarily a player the Suns have penned in as a meaningful piece in 2020, but if he proves to be a capable backup to Deandre Ayton, he could be.

Holmes, 25, was drafted 37th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2015 NBA Draft. He’s been a career backup, averaging 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds a game over 16.4 minutes a night.

In late July the Suns traded cash for Holmes, who was traded by Philadelphia to open up a roster spot for one of their recent draft picks Jonah Bolden.

A player who thrives on his athleticism and energy, Holmes’ lack of consistency shined through his inability to earn minutes last season despite Philadelphia relying on the much older Amir Johnson to back up franchise big Joel Embiid.

With Chandler’s departure, Holmes has a real chance in a contract year to not only impress the Suns front office but others across the league as well.

Holmes could not be more different than Chandler. As my podcast co-host Kevin Zimmerman put it, Chandler’s biggest problem this year was, quite literally, moving.

He looked like he didn’t belong on any NBA floor anymore, and because head coach Igor Kokoskov’s system wants the bigs to touch the ball and keep moving, that made Chandler’s negative impact even worse.

Holmes sure can move. He’s one of the fastest centers in the league, and while undersized at a listed 6-foot-10, his springy legs make up for it and a solid second jump does too.

Watch him essentially run a go route here.

That makes his best skill and go-to area for value in the NBA as a diver, the role DeAndre Jordan revolutionized as something that can work for centers in this day and age who don’t shoot or create their own offense.

Throw it in the area and the big man can track it down.

“I just try to tell all my teammates there’s no such thing as a bad pass,” Holmes said after practice on Saturday. “I just go get everything.”

Devin Booker showed how that can work in Friday’s loss to the Raptors.

Holmes has to work on being locked in on defense at all times off the ball, but his shot-blocking ability is certainly a plus and Kokoskov described him as a vocal player.

If Holmes can limit his mental mistakes defensively, he can be a positive contributor as a finisher and shot-blocker while Ayton rests, something Chandler rarely was in his last two seasons in Phoenix.

“We need that voice,” Kokoskov said before Sunday’s game of Holmes’ role. “We need that live body, that athleticism and somebody — when we have older bodies on the court, we need that athleticism he has.”

NOTES

— De’Anthony Melton was called up from the NAZ Suns a day after being assigned. He played 44 minutes on Saturday night in the G League, shooting 6-for-18 from the field for 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

— The Suns made the buyout of Chandler official on Sunday, meaning they now have an open roster spot. Phoenix also has an additional two-way slot available as well.

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