Thursday may be the culmination of four years of growth for former Bowling Green forward Richaun Holmes.
Holmes, who played guard in high school, evolved from a scrawny, forgettable player as a freshman to a legit NBA power forward prospect by his senior year. During his last year with the Falcons, Holmes was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-MAC. To boot, Holmes showed signs of developing a consistent outside shot towards the end of a 20-win season for Bowling Green.
Overall, Holmes is still a relatively raw player. He might benefit from some time in the D-League next year, but he comes in as a player who runs the floor well and, despite measuring at 6'9" in shoes, can project the rim well for a power forward due a 7'1" wingspan. With the right development, he can be a quality rotation player.
Heading into the draft, Holmes could potentially be a late-first round pick and he figures to be the only player from the MAC drafted. As far as mock drafts go - and beyond the first round, they can be a crap shoot - Draft Express currently has him going No. 47 overall to the Philadelphia 76ers, ESPN's Chad Ford has him going No. 49 overall to the Washington Wizards and CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie has him going No. 51 overall to the Orlando Magic.
Here's a look at some possible fits for Holmes in the NBA.
Draft Picks: No. 12, No. 42, No. 54
Utah was one of the NBA's more intriguing young teams last season. That was partly due to the emergence of center Rudy Gobert, but it helps that Derrick Favors fully looked like a building block. With a core of Gobert, Favors and Gordan Hayward - and perhaps Dante Exum - Utah is on the up and up.
Holmes would fit in perfectly with what the Jazz have in place. He wouldn't be asked to come in and play a ton right away, but he might not be shoved to the end of the bench either. The one issue is that the Jazz play slow - they were last in the league in pace last season - and Holmes is going to have to adjust to playing in the half court. Still, Utah offers Holmes the chance to have a chance to play right away while also being able to grow free of immediate playoff hopes.
Draft Picks: No. 19, No. 49
The Wizards are an interesting team. Their playoff success have them trending upward and, as their bigs age, there will be opportunities for younger players to crack the rotation. On top of that, Kevin Seraphin could be a free agent and while he isn't a huge part of what the Wizards do, you'd think the Wizards would want to find a replacement for him if he turns down his player option and moves to another NBA team in July.
The one issue here is that Washington really thrived with Paul Pierce playing as a stretch four. Unless Randy Wittman isn't quite as adept as he'd like us to think, the Wizards are probably going to want to stick to that, even if Pierce leaves. Their current bigs - Nene, Marcin Gortat, etc. - aren't stretch players, meaning they'd need to sign one in free agency or draft one. Holmes isn't that, despite his improvements on offense.
New Orleans Pelicans
Draft Picks: No. 56
New Orleans might be the most intriguing landing spot for Holmes. For one, new coach Alvin Gentry is going to install an offense similar to what the Golden State Warriors ran last year en route to the NBA title. This is perfect for Holmes, as is currently best suited to run the floor and take advantage of opportunities to finish in the flow of the game as opposed.
The other intriguing part of this for Holmes is that he'd become teammates with Anthony Davis. Davis is going to be the NBA's best player in the near future and Holmes' best career scenario involves him becoming a niche role player on a good team. He isn't the perfect pair with Davis - you're ideally pairing an elite rebounder next to Davis and Holmes will need to work his rebounding - but there's potential there. If you're Holmes, this is a team you want drafting you.
Draft Picks: No. 17, No. 46
The Bucks are an awkward fit. One could argue very easily that their best lineup next year and moving forward involves shifting Jabari Parker down to the four so he can be on the floor with Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo. This, of course, takes away Holmes' spot on the floor with the Bucks' best players.
But Holmes might be able to play some small-ball five in the NBA due to his wingspan and shot blocking potential. To boot, Milwaukee was above league average in pace last year and Holmes would pair nicely with Parker up front due. On top of that, having lost Larry Sanders to retirement and having traded Ersan Ilyasova to the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee should be in the market for a big. And while the Bucks made the playoffs last season, they are probably a few years away from being serious players. That's more than enough time for Holmes to round out his game.
Draft Picks: No. 5, No. 51
The Magic, like the Jazz, are a young team brimming with talent. The difference, however, is that the Magic haven't quite figured it out how it all is going to come together. Some of their current parts are overlapping and how Holmes fits on the roster depends on what you think of some of the players they currently have. In particular, if you think Aaron Gordon is a four, it's hard to justify Holmes fitting with the Magic. Orlando also has a clogged front court, meaning some things would have to break correctly for Holmes to get minutes as a rookie.
But Gordon is mostly likely a three who plays some four and this makes Orlando a fit. At center, Nikola Vucevic is a very good offensive player but he's a sieve on defense. Holmes' ability as a shot blocker - particularly if Orlando doesn't land one earlier in the draft - could make him an attractive pick. Plus, Magic coach Scott Skiles, for all of his flaws and likely limited shelf, has a history of developing young players and Holmes fits in with some of what Skiles preaches.