(First posted at RealGM)
Aaron Holiday is about to beat the odds.
Sure, he is the brother of two NBA players but was only the 88th-ranked prospect in the 2015 high school class and not really considered to be a high end pro prospect until this past season.
After attending the 2017 Combine, Holiday returned to UCLA for his junior year and did well in terms of making the shots and passes that he was probably advised to focus. He was also benefited by the departures of Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford, which opened up opportunities for him to control the offense some more and increase his usage.
UCLA had a +8.5 pace-adjusted point differential with him on the floor but played only the 63rd-toughest schedule in the country, so it’s up for debate to which extent he is able to elevate the level of his team.
Holiday was the triggerman of UCLA’s motion offense and its most reliable shot creator against a set defense late in the shot clock. He improved his capability of making pull-up three-pointers out of the pick-and-roll and passing to the opposite end of the court off dribble penetration.
On the other end, the native of Ruston, Louisiana is tough and executes the scheme but can only make a limited impact due to his size, though he does have an above average six-foot-seven wingspan for someone his height.
The 21-year-old enters the league with so-so experience, having accumulated 3,206 NCAA minutes but participation in other events include only 138 minutes at the 2013 Nike Global Challenge and 2014 adidas Nations.
Holiday is not a speedster or a genius passer but has proven to be a reliable shot creator out of the pick-and-roll thanks for his resourcefulness and craft.
The owner of an advanced handle, he is able to split double teams at the point of attack, snake the pick-and-roll to maneuver his way through traffic and unleash an in-and-out dribble to shake the big defender off balance and get downhill.
Holiday improved his ability to protect the ball in traffic but remains a high turnover player – averaging four turnovers per 40 minutes last season, though his turnover rate has gone down year-over-year, despite the fact his usage rate has gone up.
Despite his height, he can make well timed passes over the top if the opponent throws a soft show or a half-trap at him and proved he is able to pass to the opposite end of the court off turning the corner – assisting on 29.9% of UCLA’s scores when he was on the floor last season.
Holiday is also resourceful in isolation, where he uses basic crossovers, between the legs crossovers and spin moves to get by his man, aside from having a good deal of strength in his 187-pound frame to maintain his balance and his momentum forward through contact when the defender can stay in front.
He took 28.7% of his shots at the rim and averaged 8.6 free throws per 40 minutes last season – fair marks for someone who is not very fast with the ball in his hands.
FINISHING & SHOOTING
Holiday finished well at the rim through the non-conference part of the schedule but struggled against PAC 12 competition. He is not an explosive leaper off one foot in traffic but is flexible enough to adjust his body in the air for reverse finishes among the trees, seeks contact and can finish on his way down.
Nonetheless, Holiday finished his 132 attempts at the rim at a 58.7% clip last season, though he did score at a much more pleasant rate of 64.4% on 101 such shots the year before.
Seems clear that, although there is a chance he might be one of those guys who manages to live at the foul line, Holiday is going to have to earn his money as a scoring threat away from the basket.
He can crossover into pull-ups one-on-one and spin into a floater to score from the in-between area attacking off the catch or off a live dribble but hasn’t yet developed into a particularly efficient shot maker or gifted scorer bringing the ball up off the bounce – hitting just 38.2% of his 123 mid-range shots last season.
But Holiday showed improvement on the shot he truly needs to get a real look by the NBA: the pull-up three-pointer off the pick-and-roll to punish opponents who can’t extend coverage beyond the foul line. He hit 41 unassisted three-pointers last season, after making just eight such shots the year before.
Holiday also flashed some improvement operating off the ball, as UCLA got him some looks coming off pindown screens. The bulk of his shooting was still as a weak-side floor-spacer, though.
He is a tremendous open shot shooter – nailing 42.3% of his 427 three-point shots over his three years at UCLA, at a pace of 5.3 such attempts per 40 minutes, though that average went up to 6.2 last season. His 79.5% foul shooting percentage on 391 free throws also creates the expectation that he can be just as good a shooter in the pros.
Holiday puts in the effort.
He bends his knees to get down in a stance, has decent lateral quickness to stay in front of his man in isolation and gets skinny navigating over picks at the point of attack.
Away from the ball, Holiday executes the scheme and is attentive to his responsibilities rotating off the weak-side to help crowd the area near the basket.
But at his size, he has to play with incredible intensity to make a positive impact, which he just doesn’t at this point of his development.
Holiday doesn’t often contain dribble penetration through contact and can’t contest shots effectively due to his eight-foot-one standing reach.
On top of it, he is not an asset to help in rim protection or pitching in on the defensive glass and his contributions using his six-foot-seven wingspan to make plays in the passing lanes were only average.
Holiday has proven he can mix it up with wings and box them out if need be but doesn’t figure to offer much versatility because eventually these bigger types can just shoot over him. He’d need to play with a level of physicality that he just doesn’t right now.
His defensive rating was second worst on the team among rotation players.
 DOB: 9/30/1996
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara