Player Review 2021: Aaron Holiday

Age: 24
Years Pro: 3
Status: One year remaining on rookie contract.
Key Stats: Appeared in 66 games, starting eight. Averaged 7.2 points and 1.9 assists while shooting 36.8 percent from the field and 81.9 percent from the free throw line.

After a breakout sophomore season, Aaron Holiday had high expectations entering the 2020-21 campaign. The year didn't go entirely as planned, however, as Holiday endured an up-and-down year that saw his role fluctuate over the course of the season and his minutes and production dip from 2019-20.

Still, Holiday had plenty of strong moments for the Pacers, continuing to show his potential as a playmaking guard that enticed Indiana to take him with the 23rd overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and he played his best basketball over the final two months of the season.

The younger Holiday brother was perhaps the most improved Pacer in the 2019-20 season, when he averaged 9.5 points and 3.4 assists in 24.5 minutes while shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range. In his third season, those numbers dipped to 7.2 points and 1.9 assists in 17.8 minutes on 36.8 percent 3-point shooting.

Holiday acknowledged the drop-off in his exit interview with the media, but put a positive spin on the season.

"You've got to go through these things to get to where you want to be in life," he said. "I don't see it as a disappointing year. I see it more so as a year of learning and (getting more) experience."

Holiday entered the season as a key member of the Pacers' second unit and actually started six games early in the season, getting the nod when Victor Oladipo rested on the second night of a back-to-back on Dec. 27 and then also starting the first five games after T.J. Warren suffered a season-ending foot injury.

He had some strong games, scoring 12 points in a win over Cleveland on Dec. 31 and recording a double-double with 16 points and 12 assists in a victory at Golden State on Jan. 12, but overall, Holiday began the year in a bit of a shooting slump.

The 6-foot guard was nearly a 40-percent 3-point shooter last season, but was more inconsistent this season. He shot 30.6 percent from 3-point range in January, jumped up to 40 percent in February, and dropped back down to 20 percent in March.

Holiday endured similar struggles inside the arc. Although one of the smaller guards in the NBA, Holiday nonetheless had shown an ability to finish at the rim over his first two seasons thanks to his speed and athleticism. He shot 60.4 percent and 57 percent within three feet of the basket in his first two seasons, but that number dipped down to 48.1 percent this season.

Aaron Holiday

Photo Credit: Matt Kryger

Holiday's early-season struggles, coupled with strong play by fellow reserve guards T.J. McConnell and Edmond Sumner, eventually led to a reduction in Holiday's minutes. Over a 12-game span between March 3 and March 29, Holiday did not play at all in two games and received less than 10 minutes in seven more contests.

But as injuries continued to ravage the Pacers' roster, Holiday received more opportunities later in the season and played much better than he had in the first half of the year. He scored in double figures in four of the first five games in April, leading the team in scoring in consecutive wins on April 7 and April 9. He scored a season-high 22 points and went 4-for-4 from 3-point range in a win over Minnesota, then made a career-best six 3-pointers and scored 20 points in a victory in Orlando two nights later.

Holiday again reached double figures four times in a five-day stretch from April 29 to May 6. His shooting percentages jumped up as well, as he shot 48.9 percent from 3-point range in April and 46.5 percent from the field in May, his best month of the season in each respective category. Unfortunately, he sprained his toe and missed the final four games of the regular season (the only games he missed all year due to injury), but he was able to return for the Play-In Tournament.

Defensively, Holiday is a capable defender on the perimeter thanks to his quickness, but he faced some unique challenges this season. Playing the majority of his minutes alongside the also-undersized McConnell, Holiday often had to guard bigger wings. To make matters more difficult for him, the Pacers also deployed three-guard lineups — he played 173 minutes with McConnell and Sumner and 106 minutes with McConnell and Malcolm Brogdon, for instance — that would occasionally put the 6-foot Holiday onto forwards. In his exit interview, he noted that he had to guard 6-10 Wizards forward Davis Bertans in the Play-In Tournament.

For his part, Holiday remained proud of how he closed the year after the adversity he experienced and remained hopeful that facing adversity head-on can help him as he heads into the final year of his rookie contract.

"For me personally, I always feel like I'm getting better," Holiday said.

"Just being able to be mentally tough is key with being in the NBA. It's a hard business and you don't really know what's going to happen next. So you've just got to try to stay mentally tough and get out there and play as hard as you can each and every game."