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July 20, 2018

Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Phoenix, sign Jonah Bolden to four-year contract

The Philadelphia 76ers have traded Richaun Holmes to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for cash considerations, clearing the way to sign former second-round pick Jonah Bolden to an NBA contract, a source told PhillyVoice on Friday afternoon.

Bolden's new contract with Philadelphia, as previously reported by Yahoo's Shams Charania, will be for four years, $7 million. The final two years of his contract are non-guaranteed, according to a team source who spoke to PhillyVoice.

It is a bit of an inglorious end to Holmes' tenure to Philadelphia, whose value was debated externally by fans a lot more than it seems to have been debated by the various members of the Sixers' brain trust. While fans often pined for him to earn playing time over veteran Amir Johnson, Holmes never earned the trust of Brett Brown on the defensive end enough to justify getting playing time on a regular basis.

The Sixers' head coach (and now interim GM) has always prided himself on being a defensive coach above all else, and Johnson is just straight up better than Holmes there. Holmes is flashier on that end with some monster highlight blocks, but Johnson consistently graded out better and put himself in the right position to snuff out plays before they could develop.

To a degree, that is the story of Holmes' career so far. The highs are extremely high, and he showed some positional fluidity last season that offered a glimmer of hope for him as a potential backup at the four. During one particularly noteworthy performance against the Lakers last winter, Holmes and Embiid showed nice synergy and expressed excitement about playing together.

But Brown never really gave that partnership a whole lot of time to develop, and with good reason. The Sixers need shooting at as many spots as they can find around Embiid and Ben Simmons, and Holmes is shooting less than 26 percent from three for his career there. The NBA is trending smaller, which also makes it a tough sell on defense despite Holmes' plus athleticism at his size.

With Mike Muscala now joining the fray and taking minutes at what is likely to be both spots in the frontcourt — one source who spoke to PhillyVoice insisted a Muscala deal was in the works before the Nemanja Bjelica signing went up in smoke — Holmes just didn't have a realistic path to playing this season.

On the Bolden side of things, the former second rounder did not exactly blow the doors off Summer League this July, and there was a legitimate question as to whether he or the team would have been better served having him play and develop overseas for another year. Perhaps that down performance and Philadelphia's increased leveraged played a part in the final two years of his new contract being non-guaranteed.

And it wasn't all bad for Bolden this summer. His defensive effort against Phoenix was a big reason No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton struggled to build any momentum against Philadelphia last week. Bolden was clearly prepared to compete against the highly-touted prospect, and got his work done with positioning and tough contests, rather than chasing after blocks. There is a foundation to build on, presuming Brown and the development staff can take his raw tools and round them into something workable.

Much like in the cases of Justin Anderson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who departed in a trade agreed upon Thursday, Holmes exit signals the end of a development cycle for a former draft pick that will now be passed down to a younger player with warts of his own. 

Everyone loves shiny new toys and the ability to project upside onto a new crop of prospects, but on some level, Bolden represents something of a reset button, offering a chance to find/develop the player Holmes never did on their watch. Time will tell if they're capable of bringing that out of him.

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