DaRon Holmes II is an easy player to mock to the Denver Nuggets in this year’s NBA Draft. The Nuggets have a very obvious need for another backup big to help keep both Aaron Gordon as well as MVP Nikola Jokic better rested for the playoff run next season. In fact, several publications have already mocked him to the Mile High, and he reportedly stopped his team workouts after getting a promise of a first-round selection from someone. Drafting him isn’t a new idea around Denver, but since he’s been one of my favorites for them for most of the college season, how realistic is his fit with the Nuggets as they look to reclaim the title that eluded them this year?

DaRon Holmes II, Center, Dayton


Height (w/o shoes): 6 feet 8.75 inches

Weight: 236 pounds

Wingspan: 7 feet 1 inches

Age: 21 (08/15/2002)

DaRon is not the biggest center, measuring about where Zeke Nnaji (6’9.25″, 246 pounds, 7’1 wingspan) did coming out of college. This makes him a tweener in the NBA most likely, as he also doesn’t have a freakish wingspan or great vert like Clint Capela. But he has enough of a plus wingspan and defensive tenacity, as well as experience playing the 5 in college, to know how to match up with bigger players, and his more slender build lets him keep up on the perimeter for at least a bit with wings and some guards.

College Statistics

2023/2024 Season Stats

32.5 20.4 8.5 2.6 0.9 45.40% 40.40% 2.1 12.3



Finishing in the paint

You would think this is a given, but there are plenty of bigs who have only one skill in the paint (dunking) and Holmes is not that guy. He can finish drives, hit a pick-and-pop, protect the ball from opposing shot-blockers while banking in shots and oh yeah – he’s also a crafty dunking machine. He’s tailor-made for the dunker spot role while also being able to get great position for put-backs, oop finishes, or drive from the outside off a screen – because he loves to set screens.

Screening / Pick-and-rolls

The Nuggets have been dying for a big who can set a screen and help the perimeter ball-handlers on the bench, and Holmes delights in doing just that. Hard screens, slip screens, pick-and-rolls – whatever you are looking for in that regard, he can do. He’s also willing to shoot from deep if teams try to ignore him on the perimeter and jump the ball-handler, making 38.6% of his threes this year on 83 attempts. More likely though he will cut to the basket for a dunk over, around or through any opposition like he did over and over and over again at Dayton. His ruthlessness in slicing from the three-point line to the rim in a couple of quick strides really stands out and he has good hands to both handle the pass and turn it into a shot opportunity from a variety of angles. And if he gets cut off, he has a nice little hook shot and isn’t afraid to change speeds on the fly to a slow finish as defenders fly by. The offense Denver wants from its bench is something Holmes can definitely help with.

Defensive Disruption

Holmes was the A-10’s Defensive Player Of The Year. He’s downright rude when it comes to swatting weak attempts out of the paint or chasing down players in transition. Prayer layups turn into rejections an awful lot of the time with Holmes near the rim. He’s more of a Peyton-Watson-style shot blocker but that kind of weakside presence is very helpful. He’s also very good at the Nuggets-specific type of defense that requires hands in passing lanes to create turnovers and transition points, with a 1.8% steal percentage. This is another place where his motor helps him step up a notch. You can never fault his effort and if players go side to side on him he’ll hound them all day.

Improvement Areas

Defensive versatility

Holmes has the athleticism to be better on the perimeter, but maybe not the instincts. On-ball defense is asking for trouble against guards or wings who can get him leaning the wrong way, although he will stuff weak attempts. He uses his size to his advantage without necessarily having the fundamentals to be a multi-position defender for more than short stretches. That leaves him mostly as a paint and help presence off players that don’t drive the hoop, and being relatively skinny he doesn’t have the heft to stop bigger 5s from getting to their spots either. This is where the tweener label for him – not versatile enough for wing defense as a 4, not big enough for pure center play as a 5 – comes in.

Shooting outside the paint

Holmes vastly improved his three-point shot this year, both in appearance and outcome, which is one of the reasons I’m so high on him, but he still doesn’t have much offense between 22 and 10 feet. In the modern NBA that’s not the worst thing, and his shooting touch and footwork makes one think he should be able to get a nice jumper or fallaway from 16 to bail out the team, but he hasn’t shown much of it yet.

Mock Outcome (Nuggets draft 28th)

The Athletic: 25th

CBS Sports: 23rd

The Ringer: 28th

Yahoo! Sports: 28th


I’ll be honest, I do not expect DaRon Holmes to be there at 28 when Denver is up. That said, I didn’t expect Christian Braun to be there for Denver 2 years ago either, nor MPJ for certain. Everybody has a different read on prospects, especially in a relatively flat draft like this one where the opportunity to find someone who will respond to your coaching style and team makeup may matter more to non-lotto teams than a pure talent ranking. There should be several bigs to choose from for teams looking for one, and Holmes may not match what all those squads want.

But for Denver? His ability to potentially play the 4 next to Jokic as a defender and dunker-spot player would be a huge help in taking the burden off Aaron Gordon when required, while his experience playing center gives Denver better options for big man rotations off the bench than they’ve had in a while. Blocks and steals help the squad do the thing Malone desperately wants them to do – namely, score in transition before the defense is set so that the group’s weaknesses are less apparent. He’s a good rebounder, and more than that he’s an effort rebounder while having enough size that it is a strength rather than a knock. Not being a pure 7-footer may play to his advantage with Denver, because it makes it easier to play him next to Jokic in stretches rather than relegating him only to a center backup role. A small-ball stretch 5 who can block shots and lurk in the dunker spot if he gets time with the starters? He’s my top pick for Denver if available as someone who can both fill an immediate need as well as provide growth potential.

As DaRon said himself:

“I can do it all on the court you know, I know I lot of people will say that but I’m being serious. For my size I can literally do it all, I’m a very good team player as well. I’m unselfish, I think my value is very good for my position, I think that I can mix it up and also on the defensive end I provide very good capabilities being able to switch and guard.”