Aaron Holiday: Looking Back To Project The Future

Aaron Holiday, the shortest tenured Phoenix Sun, is coming off arguably his best game with the team, posting 8 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in 18 minutes during Sunday’s loss against Milwaukee. 

He also did a great job containing his older brother, Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday – it’s tough to find individual matchup data, but Jrue was 2-7 for 7 points and three turnovers through the first three quarters, and Aaron didn’t play at all during the fourth.

Though he’s clearly been a better alternative to Elfrid Payton – who I hesitate to even bring up in giving some Suns fans PTSD – some fans may still be skeptical of the depth guard and what he can bring to a championship contender.

For the uninitiated, Holiday plays a lot like his aforementioned older brother, albeit obviously not to the same level. Aaron is reliable with the ball in his hands as a game manager, decent as a driver and spot-up shooter, and tough on defense.

The best way to project the future? Reviewing the past. So over the rest of the article, I dive back into Holiday’s past stints with Indiana and Washington to find the positive value he can offer.


Game 1: Dec. 23, 2021 with Washington @ New York: 16 points (6-11 FG, 4-7 3P), 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnover in 28:24 (+9 in a 7-point win)

This was a big playmaking game for Holiday, so that’ll be the focus with the clips here. The most encouraging plays to me are the live dribble passes, like these ones where he probes into the defense, reads, and reacts:

But he also showed aggression early in possessions with transition lookaheads, and we haven’t seen that much in Phoenix yet, but it could really add more to the element the Suns bench provides in throwing pace “changeups” relative to how Chris Paul plays.

 

And an example of the floater that’s been effective early with the Suns:


Game 2: Feb. 7, 2022 with Washington vs Miami: 14 points (5-10 FG, 1-4 3P, 3-4 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers in 27:49 (+4 in a 21-point loss)

In this game, we see a lot more of this probing, resulting in his own scoring, as well as buckets for others:

 

We also get to see Holiday work through different roll plays, one ending in a turnover (Miami’s Bam Adebayo has a big influence on why) and one making good for a bucket:

Also, I don’t want to let his plus-minus go unnoticed in this game. +4 in 28 minutes in a 21-point loss is incredibly impressive, especially for a point guard.


Game 3: Aug. 20, 2020 R1 G2 of ECP in Orlando Bubble with Indiana vs Miami: 12 points (5-9 FG, 2-3 3P), 1 rebound, 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers in 20:57 (-19 in a 9-point loss)

Aaron has already done a great job of putting his driving ability on display for Phoenix, but back in the Bubble, he hit now-teammate Jae Crowder with a nice hesitation move which felt notable:

And more flashes of that aggression on drives with this drive through contact:

Another fun Suns connection happened when Holiday found Bubble legend TJ Warren on this out-of-bounds play:

And for good measure, a few examples of his catch-and-shoot form from deep:


While I didn’t touch on the defense much in the film, I believe he’s effective enough in that department to be leaned on as a guard stopper when all else fails. This thought stuck especially in my brain as the fourth quarter of that Bucks game played out and no Sun could do anything against the elder Holiday. I thought Aaron should’ve at least gotten a look there to give a different type of coverage.

Overall, my biggest takeaway from this dive back into the past is that Holiday is someone that Monty Williams and the Suns can trust and can empower to make decisions and lead a second unit in instances where Cam Payne needs a break, or is just handling the starting job, like he will be for most, if not all, of the rest of the regular season.



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