After four memorable and eventful years in burnt orange, former Texas Longhorns' forward Jonathan Holmes' basketball career on the 40 Acres is now behind him. From here, Holmes focus will shift to pre-NBA Draft workouts and the NBA Draft Combine, as Holmes will need to leave a strong enough impression on some NBA general manager in order to convince them to take a chance on him.
It's hard for someone like myself, who has followed and admired Holmes' career dating back to his days at Antonian Prep High School in San Antonio, to say Holmes couldn't compete at the pro level. But the harsh reality is not everyone is cut out for competing at the highest level...not by a long shot, but for a few reasons, I believe the former Longhorn is worthy of a roster spot somewhere in the league.
If you're of those who believe Holmes doesn't have a place in the NBA, you're not in the minority. I looked through several mock drafts to find where most had Holmes projected and the 6'8" forward was left off of every mock I came across except NBA Draft Room's, who had Holmes slotted in the No. 54 spot. Arguably the most notable outlet for NBA Draft projections and insight is Draft Express, who left Holmes out of their most recent mock draft and listed him as the No. 63 overall prospect, which would leave Holmes on the immediate outside looking in.
What hurts Holmes when analyzing him as an NBA prospect in the reality of him being a combo-forward caught in between two positions. For his first three seasons at Texas, Holmes played in the post for Rick Barnes as a bit of an undersized power forward with the versatility to pose mismatches nearly across the board. When he was listed at 254 pounds prior to his senior season, Holmes had the strength to back down smaller defenders and had the quickness and skill set to stretch the floor against bigger defenders and hit shots from about 12 feet and in.
While Holmes was a walking mismatch in the post for Texas as a junior, he averaged 21.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per 40 minutes to lead the Longhorns in scoring at 12.8 per game. But as a senior, Holmes was forced to assume the majority of his minutes on the perimeter with the arrival of Myles Turner and it's safe to say it wasn't the smoothest transition. As expected, Holmes starting heaving more threes than he ever had at 4.1 per game, hitting 1.3 of those on average, but Holmes struggled from more than simply shooting beyond the arc, per Draft Express:
"Holmes never became the knock-down shooter NBA scouts would have liked to see, and he ended his career shooting 33.1% on long distance shots and 33.3% on all catch and shoot jump shots this season according to Synergy Sports Technology."
"He hit just 3 of the 16 pull-ups he attempted this season. Generally speaking, Holmes was not very effective inside the arc this year, converting just 48.1% of his shots around the rim in the half-court this season, according to Synergy Sports Technology."
This shouldn't come as news to anyone, though. Holmes never excelled as a jump shooter, but that's completely understandable when you consider the circumstances. As I mentioned earlier, Holmes was pushed to the perimeter during his final season in Texas and it was unfamiliar territory, as Holmes has played in the paint since high school and this could be what makes Holmes such an interesting NBA prospect.
Holmes has already proven he can survive, and even have success in the paint and if he would have concluded his college career in the paint, he would very likely have a higher draft stock as a versatile stretch four. But even though he didn't have the kind of eye-opening year on the wing that would have all-but assured him a spot in the NBA, Holmes did provide glimpses of the potential he could have on the perimeter if given some time to develop.
Of course, shooting 33 percent from the perimeter isn't ideal, but when you consider this was his first full season as a true wing player, but for simple comparison, his efforts were more efficient than Isaiah Taylor's 28 percent and Turner's 27 percent from deep, as well as matching Kendal Yancy's 33 percent from beyond the arc last season. None of these guys are notable shooters, but for Holmes to have the same shooting touch as guards and a big man considered to have a shooting touch speaks to his ability to contribute from the outside.
It's also worth nothing that Holmes has the potential to be an effective defender after rejecting 2.1 shots per 40 as a junior and 1.6 as a senior from the wing.
When you compile all of these skills into Holmes' 6'8 frame, you get a player that can contribute in several different ways, but suffers from not necessarily excelling in any particular area. If Holmes were to land on an NBA team, it would likely be an offseason addition where he would get a chance to compete in the Summer League, but it would have to be a system that has the flexibility to take on someone that isn't required to have a clear impact immediately.
A team like the Philadelphia 76ers are a prime example of the type of system Holmes could find himself in, as they have several tweeners playing multiple positions and provide plenty of opportunities for young players that aren't ready to find a place on a competitive roster.
The biggest benefit Holmes has is his versatility. Although he will likely go undrafted, he could bulk back up to the 254 pounds he was prior to his senor season and play as a stretch four, continue to slim down and develop on the wing and contribute off the bench as a small forward, or get lucky and land somewhere that finds a median and utilizes Holmes from both forward spots.
Unless Holmes really leaves an impression on some NBA general manager, he probably has to wait and hope a team adds him to their Summer League roster to prove he has a place in the pros. From there, it's a complete toss up.
He could end up on a losing team with available minutes for works in progress, an elite team willing to stash him in the D-League for a few seasons, or even sign overseas somewhere. But one way or another, I believe Holmes will find himself on a professional roster at some point by next season, regardless of which level it's at.