Much of the focus so far this offseason while talking about the draft has been on the Sixers and who they will take with the 10th overall pick. It can’t be forgotten that the team also owns the 26th pick, one that could help shape the roster and give the team some much needed depth. Names later on in the draft may not be flashy, but there are plenty of players that could step in and have a role from day one. At the top of that list of players is Aaron Holiday, the point guard from UCLA. The youngest brother of the Sixers first family, Holiday could end up being another successful guard, like his brothers Jrue Holiday and Justin Holiday.
Aaron Holiday already looks like a Philadelphia point guard, even if he played college basketball across the country. On offense he plays with an edge that allows him to get to the rim, and by doing that allows him to get open space outside for three point shots. In his three years at UCLA Holiday has seen his point totals increase each year, going from 10.3 to 12.3 and finally to 20.3 points per game this season. He looked in control of his game, never too fast or too slow, but always at the right pace and always in control of what was going on. One of the first things that jumped out at me was the fact that Holiday is able to finish at the net without much true speed. He’s not slow by any stretch, but defenders also don’t have to play catch up on him. Even with something many would consider a deficiency Holiday uses it to his advantage as you can often see him drawing the contact from his defender and making the tough basket using his bigger frame.
In this clip, Holiday’s defender does a great job at sticking on him, but Holiday’s tough upper body allows him to get just enough separation down low to get a shot off.
Besides getting to the lane Holiday has shown growth from outside as well, improving his three point percentage to 43% on 6.2 three point attempts per game this year. The increase in shots from 3.6 per game his sophomore year to the 6.2 of this year show he’s much more comfortable with his shot. Aside from scoring, Aaron Holiday will make his mark at the next level thanks to his court vision. Using a tight dribble that doesn’t give defenses the opportunity to steal the ball, Holiday often draws defenses in by coming inside and finds a way to kick the ball out at the very last second for a wide open shot.
In this clip, Holiday takes two defenders as close as he can get them to the basket and passes it out to an open shooter while in the air. This is the type of play that makes it surprising Holiday may be an option so late in the first round. He may never be an all star caliber player due to some concerns over his speed (3.27 second 3/4 sprint, 44th in NBA Draft Combine) and shooting form, but he can become a consistent contributor at the next level. His shooting numbers are good, so his form isn’t broken, but in the NBA Holiday may want to try and get more lift on his shots. Too often this year defenders wouldn’t close out on him, so he wouldn’t have to jump high to shoot over them. This won’t happen at the next level as defenders are always attacking so in order for his shot to translate he may need to make some changes mechanically. In the NBA Holiday will have to learn to be more concious of the shots he’s taking. In college it was common to see him shooting tough shots instead of passing the ball off, so if he can learn to base his offensive game around driving the ball instead of settling for jumpers, Holiday could become a solid scorer.
Aaron Holiday would make a great fit on the Sixers second unit as he can worry about controlling the pace of an offense in half court sets and let T.J. McConnell push the ball when necessary. McConnell showed this year that he doesn’t always need the ball in his hands and it is very obvious Holiday does, so that combo could work out well.
Just as Holiday plays on offense, he plays the same way on defense. His upside may be limited because of the lack of size, but he makes up for it with aggressiveness and heart. His larger frame allows him to be a player hard to get around, but if he has to matchup with a speedy guard he can struggle to keep up. His 6’6” wingspan helps Holiday knock the ball free from opposing guards, shown by his 1.3 steals per game, especially when they initiate contact. All in all, his defensive game is something that should help him stick in a rotation even if his shot isn’t falling. He won’t lose you games, and that is something the Sixers need to take a look at after having such poor defense from depth players this past season.
Aaron Holiday would slot in as a rotational bench player from day one with the Sixers. Depending on what the team does in free agency as well as looking at the progress of Markelle Fultz, Holiday could either be used frequently or very sparingly. If Fultz finds his way to the starting lineup then Holiday could be used in the role of second unit guard, if not it would be easy to see him as an energy player that plays in short, infrequent spurts. The guard position is a pretty deep one for the Sixers, so unless Holiday really impresses he may not have a giant effect on the team.
Holiday is projected to be picked right around where the Sixers are late in the first round, but I don’t see him slipping far enough for the Sixers to strike. He can bring a consistent nature to whatever team he ends up being drafted by, something that is not often found when selecting into the later picks of the first round. For that reason I have Holiday being selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 23rd pick of the NBA Draft, somewhere he can hone his craft on the bench while still playing consistent minutes as a second unit player. If Holiday does end up being available with the Sixers pick they should discuss bringing him in, but with the guard position so deep this pick could be used elsewhere.