EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

22 for 22: Is C DaRon Holmes II who the Suns have been looking for?

Jun 6, 2024, 10:32 AM

DaRon Holmes, Dayton's NBA Draft prospect...

DaRon Holmes II #15 of the Dayton Flyers dribbles against Oumar Ballo #11 of the Arizona Wildcats during the first half in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Delta Center on March 23, 2024 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Exploring trade possibilities for Jusuf Nurkic with the 22nd overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft covered how the Phoenix Suns need to add either a lob threat or 3-point shooter at center this offseason.

Their best option through either the trade market, free agency or the draft for a combination of both skill sets very well could be Dayton big DaRon Holmes II. He’s the first prospect out of a handful we will go in-depth on for possibilities to get picked at No. 22.

Holmes was a consensus top-50 prospect out of Goodyear’s Millennium High School before spending three years playing for the Flyers. He was one of the better bigs in college basketball the last two seasons. As a junior, he averaged 20.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.1 blocks per game.

The soon-to-be 22-year-old is a bucket-getter, creating offense for himself in an encouraging way. Holmes got to the foul line nearly nine times a night. He attempted almost half of his shots at the rim, shooting 74% there, and only 56.6% of those baskets were assisted, per Hoop-Math.

Taking Holmes’ free-throw rate of .724 and tossing in qualifiers of a .7 threshold with at least 20 points per game, the NBA prospects you get in the last 20 years are Zach Edey this year, 2009 Blake Griffin, 2008 Tyler Hansbrough, 2005 Leon Powe and Ike Diogu’s last two Arizona State seasons in 2004 and 2005 (!), per Stathead. Think less about the NBA products those guys were and more that those are some of the best college big men of the last two decades, a testament to how freaking good Holmes was this year.

ESPN ranks him 45th, The Ringer slots Holmes 30th while The Athletic is a bit more on board with Holmes at 26th. ESPN reported Holmes “canceled several workouts” recently, which suggests he has a promise from a team in the first round.

Holmes’ biggest obstacle is overcoming a lack of high-end competition in the Atlantic 10. He is an athletic guy who uses long strides and long arms (7-foot-1 wingspan) but he’s not necessarily the most explosive with his first step or jump. The handle has to improve. It’s pretty formulaic and he’s going to get stonewalled into turnovers a lot if it doesn’t, limitations that already showed in college.

Taking that into consideration, Holmes drives with confidence, a big tool for modern bigs to possess. He’s equal parts nimble and rigid, so not complicating the process of developing his role is important. This right here is the short-term vision: Force defenders to press up on the pick-and-pop 3 before Holmes takes two dribbles in a straight line with the space to do so.

Not everyone has to try and be Naz Reid now with the hesis followed by crossovers. Reid’s teammate, Karl-Anthony Towns, was almost strictly using line drives when attacking the basket in the postseason to tremendous success.

Holmes can establish that threat because he improved greatly as a 3-point shooter this past season. He took just 26 of ’em in his first two years with Dayton before making 38.6% of his 86 tries this year. His free-throw percentage of 71.3% could have been a smidge higher to inspire more confidence that the jumper is real but it looks good and he takes it in one, confident motion.

He showed this offensive game off in the NCAA Tournament against Arizona, more than hanging with high-level athletes and size despite him being slightly smaller for a 5 at 6-foot-10.

Here is more of the full package for an extended look, including the lob threat he is.

A team selecting Holmes in the first round believes 1) he has enough athleticism to score at a decent level and 2) will be a plus 3-point shooter. There’s a solid argument both of those boxes should be checked.

The defensive pitch is a little more skittish. Holmes is a good shot-blocker and can move a bit. Is that good enough to avoid the downsides of his size at the 5? What popped in a limited viewing of tape was the intangibles across the floor.

He understands the value of screening. He positions himself on the glass. Those are indicators he will work at the defense and make it passable.

A trend that will never die for the NBA Draft is tabbing certain breakout players from the previous season and identifying which prospects should perhaps be looked at through a different lens with those players in mind. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson made a few first-round selections more money in 2020 and 2021. Reid will make Holmes more money this year.

Front offices have either realized or soon will that their rosters require a big like Reid, an athletic spacer that can drive the basketball while also serving as a vertical diver. More and more teams have them now. The funny thing is, it looks like the Suns have realized this already. They drafted Jalen Smith in 2020 and signed Chimezie Metu last offseason. They are trying to fill this role, and they could try again with Holmes.

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22 for 22: Is C DaRon Holmes II who the Suns have been looking for?