Aaron Holiday 2019 Season Review

Rookie Aaron Holiday reflected on what he learned during his first NBA season and discussed what he plans to work on during the offseason.

Aaron Holiday 2019 Season Review

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Aaron Holiday 2019 Season Review

Rookie Aaron Holiday reflected on what he learned during his first NBA season and discussed what he plans to work on during the offseason.
May 9, 2019  |  03:16

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Player Review 2019: Aaron Holiday

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Age: 22
Years Pro: 1
Status: Entering the second season of his rookie contract.
Key Stats: Averaged 5.9 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists in 12.9 minutes per game in 50 appearances, all off the bench.

There are advantages to being a young backup quarterback. If things aren't going well people want you to play, and your mistakes are forgiven far more readily than those of the starters.

Aaron Holiday benefited some from that mindset throughout his rookie season, but he also showed enough substance to warrant optimism for his future. His stats weren't flashy and his judgement often was typical of anxious rookies, but he showed shot-making and playmaking talent along with the ability and inclination to become a good defender.

His greatest immediate need is experience, and he appears headed for more of that. Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan both indicated at the season's wrap-up press conference that they expect Holiday to have a greater role next season. With the two point guards ahead of him on last season's roster pyramid structure facing free agency, the opportunity is ripe for him to move up.

"I'm very comfortable with him," McMillan said. "He has a maturity about him...whenever he got the opportunity to play, he played with confidence and did some good things for us."

PHOTO GALLERY: Aaron Holiday's 2018-19 Season in Photos »

Some good things, some bad things, but that's how it goes for rookie point guards. For a guy picked 23rd in last summer's NBA Draft, Holiday had a successful inaugural season. His advanced analytics, adjusted for playing time, were more impressive than 11 of the 14 players drafted immediately ahead of him.

That continued a progression that began after the Pacers drafted him last June. He averaged 14.5 points, 6.9 assists, and 2.8 steals in four Summer League games, although he shot just 34 percent. He then averaged 10 points in 12.8 minutes on 50 percent shooting — 54 percent from 3-point range — in preseason play.

He was practically invisible through the regular season's first 15 games, scoring five points in about 16 total minutes. His only 3-point field goal to that point had been a fluky banked-in shot in garbage time of the season-opening blowout victory over Memphis.

And then, suddenly, everything changed.

The Pacers were playing a 3-13 Atlanta team at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Nov. 17. Victor Oladipo had gone down with a strained knee 4 1/2 minutes into the game and the Pacers were floundering, trailing by as many as 14 points in the second quarter. Their deficit had shrunk to two points by the time Atlanta called a timeout with 3:14 left in the third period. That's when McMillan gave Holiday his first meaningful minutes of the season.

It didn't take long for everyone to learn of the rookie's nearly-to-a-fault confidence. On the Pacers' second possession after his entry into the game he pulled up from 30 feet in transition and nailed a 3-pointer to provide a 68-67 lead that was never relinquished.

You had to be there to appreciate the shock and awe from the unexpected bomber. Bedlam ensued on the Pacers bench, where the players jumped up and cheered and Myles Turner pranced along the baseline. But it was only the beginning. Holiday hit two more 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, added a layup off a penetrating drive out of the halfcourt offense, and then fed Domantas Sabonis for an uncontested dunk a drive to the rim and behind-the-back pass.

He followed up two nights later with a season-high 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, along with seven rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench in a blowout victory over a Utah team wrapping up a five-game road trip.

For fans, it was a Holiday, all right. Christmas, to be specific. For his teammates, it was a continuation of what they had been witnessing in practice.

Aaron Holiday

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

"He's a heckuva talent," Darren Collison said. "He's going to be a good player for a very long time in this league. The thing I liked the most is that even when he wasn't playing, he was still working. Most young guys would probably shut it down for a little bit or pout. He stays in the gym and works. He's always positive."

Holiday scored in double figures in the next three games as well, but rookie realities set in after his five-game streak in double figures. He finished the season with rather mundane stats, shooting 40 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range, and his assist-to-turnover ratio was barely better than 2-to-1.

Still, he had his moments, and enough of them to keep hope alive. He scored 17 points in a 42-point victory over the Lakers and had a season-high seven assists in the final regular season home game, against Brooklyn.

He also played capable defense, utilizing his long arms, low center of gravity and willing mindset.

"I try to play both (offense and defense) as hard as I can," he said.

One of Holiday's most significant assets, however, is his bloodline — not just for the genetic gifts, but also for the opportunity to grow up in a hardcore, sophisticated basketball environment. Both of his parents played the game collegiately, his two older brothers are well-established in the NBA and his older sister was a standout high school player whose promising career at UCLA was cut short by injuries.

Where Aaron — who proudly bills himself as "the 4th Holiday" — ultimately figures into the mix remains to be seen. But wherever he winds up, he has the makings of a savvy draft pick.

"I've always said, he's better than his draft number," Thaddeus Young said. "He could have been in the top 10. He's a Holiday. I've played with all three. I know exactly what he can do. I know how they were raised and I know their mentality."

Aaron grew up the youngest of the four Holidays. He's three inches shorter than Jrue and five inches shorter than Justin, and took his share of beatings from his sister, Lauren, as well. Despite all that, or maybe because of it, he doesn't lack confidence. His is a laid-back confidence, but it's confidence just the same. He didn't hesitate to put up shots, even when he should have, and he was blasé whenever asked about his contributions in a game.

His stock answer: "I just try to get out there and play my game."

What his game becomes is one of the more intriguing subplots of the Pacers' future.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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