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Aaron Holiday is the real deal on offense

At first glance Aaron Holiday is a good shooter. Now we’ll see if it translates into summer league and the NBA.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Four-St. Bonaventure vs. UCLA
UCLA Bruins guard Aaron Holiday (3) shoots defined by St. Bonaventure Bonnies guard Idris Taqqee (1) in the first half during the First Four of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Dayton Arena. Credit: Brian Spurlock
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

If the Pacers were looking for a good shooter with both a strong basketball IQ and the ability to bring high effort then they found their man in Aaron Holiday. While it was surprising that he fell to the 23rd overall pick, it was completely shocking because of his size and speed.

Holiday was not just a good three-point shooter at UCLA, he was a great one. He shot above 40 percent from three for all three of his college year. Watch Holiday’s first two shots in this video -- he has the ability to make three’s from NBA range.

His shot form is good and he has a quick enough release that he should be able to hit shots off the catch, dribble or a screen without the fear of being blocked.

The easiest thing to do would be to compare Holiday to Darren Collison, Indiana’s current starting point guard. Both players are below 6’1”, played college at UCLA and are late first round draft picks.

But while Collison dominates games with his speed and efficiency, Holiday is much more methodical and is prone to turnovers while under defensive pressure.

On offense, Holiday’s first step isn’t fast enough to beat most players off the dribble; instead he uses his long arms and a nice touch around the rim to score over bigger defenders.

Holiday’s 6’7” wingspan will be his biggest advantage in the NBA on the defensive end and he’ll have to use it to make up for his lack of speed. Holiday’s ¾ of sprint time was 3.27 seconds at the combine, while Collison’s was 3.1.

It’s tough to make an impact on defense on elite point guards considering how short Holiday is. Most of the top NBA guards aren’t good defenders anyway, but his length should allow him to make more plays like this in the pros.

He’s very raw defensively and can sometimes overcommit and get beat. Holiday seems to be a willing defender, especially in an area where a lot of young guards with his scoring ability aren’t.

Indiana’s defensive coach Dan Burke should be able to take advantage of that and help mold Holiday into the type of player who can fit his defensive scheme.

The Pacers were one of the best teams in the league last season at cutting off passing lanes thanks to the long arms of Victor Oladipo and Thaddeus Young. By using his length Holiday was able to average 1.3 steals per game his junior year. He should able to fit into the Pacers’ style of defense but it will take some time.

The biggest worry with Holiday though has to be whether he’s ready for the level of competition in the NBA. The Pac-12 was the worst power five conference in the NCAA this season. Holiday and DeAndre Ayton were the only two players from the conference to go in the first round.

Only three Pac-12 teams made the NCAA tournament and none of them won a game. The other top point guard in the conference was De’Anthony Melton (went 46th in the draft) but he sat out the entire year because of the NCAA’s FBI probe.

Luckily for Holiday, there isn’t an expectation for him to come in and play right away because of Collison and Cory Joseph. But Indiana is banking on him not needing as much time to develop because of his age (21) and familiarity with the league (because of his brothers).

Holiday will likely get some minutes this season but with both Collision and Joseph on expiring deals, they’ll need him to be part of the rotation by 2019.