In his rookie season for the Indiana Pacers, Aaron Holiday flashed his promise frequently but was often confined to the bench behind a pair of veteran point guards.
Don’t expect that to be the case in his second year.
“I feel he should be a rotational player next season,” said Pacers head coach Nate McMillan of Holiday during last week’s press conference. “There’s certainly some areas he needs to grow, but I like what he brings to the floor. He’s a young kid that has a great deal of confidence in himself. I think he can help us. … He certainly should be in the rotation next year.”
McMillan said he was impressed with him from the start of training camp and he earned the respect of his teammates too.
“I love Aaron, man,” Myles Turner said after the Pacers were eliminated from the playoffs. “He’s just so poised. I feel like any position he’s in he can be himself. You can’t make him speed up. You can’t make him get out of character.”
Thad Young had plenty of praise for the rookie when he had his breakout game against the Atlanta Hawks in his first chance with real minutes.
“I’ve always said that he’s better than his draft number,” Young said. “Definitely could have been one of the guys in the top 10 especially when you put him one-on-one against anybody in his draft class. He’s done a good job waiting for his turn, staying poised and the sky’s the limit for him.”
Most of Holiday’s minutes saw him working off the ball and McMillan mentioned him being able to play both guard spots. It seems likely he’ll have the opportunity to run the offense more often in the future with three ball dominant guards that were ahead of him in the pecking order likely looking for new teams this summer.
“What we need, they’ll put me there,” Holiday recently told the IndyStar. “I’m pretty good at both positions. I like having the ball in my hands a lot more but at the same time I like to spot up and shoot the ball.”
He showed bursts of passing ability when running the pick and roll and seemed adept at finding shooters in the corners and elsewhere on the arc when attacking with the ball. This pass below that came late in a blowout is one that neither Darren Collison or Cory Joseph would even attempt to make.
Holiday was prone to some bad rookie turnovers but nothing unexpected from a first-year point guard. To his credit, many of these giveaways that resulted in fast breaks for the other team were eventually thwarted by his own hustle and athleticism as he got a surprising number of chasedown blocks for a guard his size. He has plenty of developing to do as the primary ball-handler of the offense but he needs reps to improve.
He shot only 40% overall and 33% from 3-point in his first season. Those numbers will have to improve for him to viable as a player long term but shooting was supposed to be one of his best assets coming out of UCLA. There’s no reason to believe that those percentages won’t rise with more consistent minutes and being more used to the speed of the NBA game.
“I think he’s going to be great for our organization and the city as well,” Turner said. “I have high hopes for him. He’s going to work hard this summer, and he’s only going to continue to grow. He’s been groomed to do so and he’s going to make an impact here.”
Pacers first chance to see how much he’ll improve before his sophomore campaign will be in the Las Vegas Summer League.