With Myles Turner, 23, set to enter his fifth season as the team’s only returning playoff starter from 2018-19, as well as the longest tenured player on the roster, the Pacers are about to look a whole lot different than they did just a few short months ago when they got swept at the hands of the Boston Celtics, especially until Victor Oladipo returns. In fact, according to NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, Indiana is one of only five teams in the league bringing back less than 45 percent of last season’s minutes. As such, in an effort to get a better handle on the team’s quietly dramatic offseason, we’re bringing back our annual offseason Q&A series to delve deeper into what each of the newest Pacers brings to the table.
Acquired in somewhat of a desperation deal, Holiday wasn’t as efficient with the Grizzlies as he was in Chicago. What would you point to as most responsible for that drop-off (i.e. style of play, opportunity, fit, etc.)?
It was 100% a desperation deal, and goodness was it dumb in hindsight. It’s important to remember, though, that at that time most of us still operated in a “Gasol + Conley = playoffs” world, which...didn’t work out. Holiday himself was a classic “square peg in round hole” in former HC JB Bickerstaff’s schemes. Offensively he was asked to do too much in limited time, especially as a creator off the dribble and coming off curls and screens around the elbow. Defensively he was never really given ample opportunity to do what he does best - play passing lanes and attack possessions - given the time he was on the floor.
In the 24 games when his minutes were in the thirties, Justin averaged 13 points and 1.4 steals on 42-35 shooting splits, a significant bump over his other 20 games when he averaged five points on 30 percent shooting (29 percent from three). Is it fair to say he’s a rhythm player?
Yes - and he was never fully allowed to be that player in Memphis, at least not consistently. Whatever the role, he needs to be allowed to adapt within it and he relies on that consistency. It lacked with the Grizzlies especially - the change mid season in scheme and role took its toll. Regardless of what he’s asked to do for Indy, as long as it’s consistent he should be fine
If you are who you guard, what is Holiday’s ideal position? Can he guard twos as well as threes, and would you say he still qualifies as a 3-and-D player?
I would say so. It’s fun to say “positionless basketball” and sound NBA/NCAA “woke”, but the reality is if you can’t defend more than two positions you have a set spot on a roster...maybe just not the traditional 1-5. Overall you can count on Holiday to defend most wings relatively well, but coaches need to allow for him to play to his strengths as an anticipatory opportunist. He sees things well right as they develop, and that understanding means he can make up for an inch or two wingspan disadvantage here or being a half step or so slow there, depending on matchup.
At his media availability, Justin described himself as a “natural leader.” Was there any specific evidence of that during his short stint in Memphis, or was that mainly more of a Mike Conley thing?
Eh, not really, but again Memphis was a dumpster fire as they gutted out the realities of their situation. He didn’t have much of a chance to flex this particular muscle. Perhaps you can point to him being a pro through it all - that’d be fair. He’s smart - he likely knew he wasn’t being used right, that the coaching staff and front office were flawed, and through it all you rarely (if ever) heard about him being disgruntled. He took responsibility for his struggles and emphasized what he could do to improve his situation. Without a specific opportunity to lead from the front, in a way he did it as part of the pack.
Is there anything else fans should know about Justin Holiday?
Don’t judge him by what he was in Memphis. The Grizzlies never should have traded for him, especially considering what was given up to acquire him. If used the right way (3-and-D specifically) within a set rotational role, he will be a nice player for the Pacers.