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Aaron Holiday: Pioneer

Welcome to The Gallery, featuring Aaron Holiday going where the Pacers have only sparsely gone before.

Original image via Kim Klement — USA TODAY Sports

(“The Gallery” is an end-of-season series featuring one uniquely titled picture or video installation for every player that best summarizes or encapsulates that player’s season in a single snapshot. These aren’t highlights, they’re seminal moments expressed through the medium of art placards. Enjoy your tour!)

Aaron Holiday

Guard, Age 22


Indiana Pacers versus Detroit Pistons, April 1

Bankers Life Fieldhouse

A bold and unflinching exploration of vertical spacing, Pioneer speaks to Aaron Holiday’s ability to whip out tricks at a moment’s notice that allow the Pacers to tread into previously uncharted territory. Such was the case in Game 78 of 82, when the 22-year-old rookie point guard delivered this floating, one-handed lob to Domantas Sabonis. In addition to being the only assist of its kind on the season, the resulting layup was just the team’s 22nd attempted alley-oop, the fewest of any team in the league:

To be fair, Turner and Sabonis aren’t going to play much above the rim; and, outside of Victor Oladipo (who, by the way, missed 46 games), Indiana’s offense is built more around side-to-side action and spot-up shooting than dazzling athleticism. Still, as the subject of this piece suggests, the team’s lack of above-average passing at the point guard position was also a contributing factor, at least as it pertains to the regular rotation.

Granted, Wesley Matthews tossed a one-handed oop to Myles Turner earlier in the season, but he wasn’t dribbling off a screen, he was driving a closeout. That’s an important distinction, because the Pacers struggled to execute against switching defenses. If Holiday can master hitting Sabonis with these types of over-the-top, live-dribble passes a beat early (i.e. when the defense is in process of trading assignments), Indiana would gain a proactive means by which to attack switches, as opposed to always grinding their gears in isolation.

That said, Indiana’s 2018 first-round pick has at times shown signs of grappling with being assertive versus creating for others. During the intervening period between Oladipo’s season-ending injury and when the team signed Wesley Matthews, Holiday shot on 23 percent of his touches, the second-highest rate on the team (minimum 50 field goal attempts). Against Memphis, otherwise known as the team’s first game without Oladipo, he hoisted a team-high 11 shots in 15 minutes, almost as if he were Oladipo. Much to his credit, he tempered that quick trigger over the back-end of the season, shooting on 19 percent of his touches with improved efficiency while still maintaining his drive to push the pace in transition. Rather than shooting challenged runners against a collapsed defense, he was collapsing the defense and making early reads.

He isn’t pass-first, and he could stand to up his conversion rate when rising above the pick (29 percent); but, the fact that he has this pass in his arsenal, along with things like snaking his dribble and using windmill crossovers, indicates that the Pacers might yet discover some brave new worlds with him joining the regular rotation, assuming he builds on the groundwork he laid during his rookie season.

Prior Collections:

Darren Collison: Meh

Thaddeus Young: The Sticking Point

Cory Joseph: It’s all in the Details

Alize Johnson: Rough around the Edges

Doug McDermott: The Invisible Man

T.J. Leaf: Passable

Victor Oladipo: Break in the Clouds

Bojan Bogdanovic: The Imperfection

Myles Turner: It’s a Two-way Street

Kyle O’Quinn: Mad Respect