Aaron Holiday – UCLA
CPP Big Board Ranking: #36 Overall (#9 PG)
Weight: 187 lbs
Age/Birthday: 21 (9/30/96)
Hometown: Chatsworth, CA
High School: Campbell Hall High School
(Jonny Gee – 3/12/18)
Past the names of Collin Sexton, Trae Young, and Trevon Duval the 2018 NBA Draft class doesn’t present many standout, superstar point guards, but there are some under the radar point guards that would make a great addition to several rosters, including UCLA’s junior, Aaron Holiday. Holiday started all 32 games for coach Steve Alford in his freshman season (2015-16), but then came off the bench behind freshman star Lonzo Ball during the 2016-17 season. Even after being removed from the starting lineup, Holiday was able to increase his scoring average from 10.3 PPG to 12.3 PPG as a sophomore, and has exploded this year as his team’s leading scorer with 20.1 PPG. Holiday has been the highlight of this year’s Bruins team, who were able to sneak into the NCAA tournament field as one of the last four schools in. He also leads the team in assists, steals, and both 3-point FG and FT percentage. Holiday will look to build off his First Team All-PAC-12 campaign through the NCAA tournament to prove himself as the valuable second round gem that many project him to be.
At just over 6-foot and 187 pounds, Aaron Holiday could certainly be a gamble for teams at the next level, but Holiday’s skill set and motor at both ends of the floor are difficult to not see transitioning well into the NBA. Holiday is an explosive dribbler who has the ability to blow by defenders and get to the rim, but also has the weapon of shooting from about anywhere on the floor with a field goal percentage of about 47%, and 3-point field goal percentage of about 44%. Holiday is certainly an attack-first point guard who loves to get into the paint and is great at finishing in traffic, but also has one of the quickest pull-up jump shots in college basketball, which keeps his defenders guessing all game long. Holiday’s on-ball offense is not the only intriguing aspect of Holiday’s game. Despite being just over six-foot tall, Aaron does have solid length with his 6’6” wingspan and uses this to his advantage on the defensive end. Holiday has been praised on his defensive improvements and has certainly seen how these improvements have been beneficial to his overall game. In addition to his length, Holiday also utilizes his speed and quickness to stay in front of bigger guards, and beat his man to spots on the floor. His intense motor really shines on the defensive end as he is great at fighting through screens and recovering after losing his man.
Although he does not play like it, Aaron Holiday is barely over six-foot tall, and is a serious question for NBA teams. Despite being a great defender, Holiday’s size does hinder his efforts at times as bigger guards are able to simply rise and shoot over him, and stronger guards are able to go through him and get inside the paint. Many NBA scouts have made note of this and have commented on the fact that at the next level he will be limited to guarding one position only on the floor. Besides the size on defense, Holiday’s other weaknesses are also certainly concerning for a future NBA point guard. Even after three years in the PAC-12 and playing for Steve Alford, Holiday is criticized for his passing decisions and play making abilities. In his junior year, Aaron is committing almost four turnovers a game, which is much higher than his previous two seasons. The majority of his turnovers occur in transition where he tends to speed things up too much and force passes that are not there. Some analysts have blamed this on a lack of basketball IQ, which also has scouts questioning his abilities in the NBA. In order to solidify himself as a solid pick in June’s draft, and develop as a true NBA point guard, Holiday must work on his decision making with the ball, and work on making the simplest passes and plays. Unfortunately, his size is out of his control and nothing can be done about bigger and stronger guys taking advantage of him, but the turnovers must be a point of emphasis in between now and the start of the 2018-19 NBA season.
Player Outlook & NBA Comparison: Isaiah Canaan
After electing to return to Los Angeles for his junior season, Aaron Holiday has certainly made strides that NBA teams wanted to see. His shooting abilities and arsenal off the dribble are very intriguing, but then again his size and mediocre passing have teams leery to pull the trigger on the point guard. Overall though, I do believe that returning for this season was a great decision by Holiday and it has certainly raised his stock for the 2018 draft. Despite the questions around his basketball future, I do not see Aaron Holiday still being available by the end of the first round. After Young, Sexton, Duval, and maybe a couple others are off the table, there will still be some teams in need of a point guard, and I think Holiday would be a great early to mid-second round pick up. Even if there are questions around the on-court IQ/awareness, there are no questions about the motor and work ethic of this young man. Some NBA team will see this and be willing to risk the project of developing and undersized guard.
Isaiah Canaan seems to be the most appropriate comparison for Aaron Holiday. Canaan, the 34th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, is also a 6’1” point guard who has great length, speed, and shooting ability. Canaan has bounced around the league, while dealing with some serious injuries, but when healthy was a serious contributor. Canaan was also questioned about his disadvantages on defense and decision making, but quieted most critics in his 2014-15 Rockets campaign where he filled in for the injured Patrick Beverley and kept Houston five games above .500. Canaan was a target for many teams and looked to have a bright career ahead of him before dealing with several leg injuries. It seems that Aaron Holiday has the same reputation leading up the NBA draft. NBA teams have seen how he excels at the college level, but the question remains whether he will have the same impact at the next level, if any impact at all.
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