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Aaron Holiday headlines strong second predraft workout for Suns

Plenty of prospects in Phoenix on Monday fit the criteria as possible targets. Holiday was a major standout.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Four-St. Bonaventure vs. UCLA Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns were back on their predraft workout grind Monday after their first one Friday centered around SMU’s Shake Milton. This time around, even more renowned perimeter players were competing.

However, there was one who really stood out and that was UCLA’s Aaron Holiday.

Alongside five other guards — Hamidou Diallo, Anfernee Simons, Bruce Brown Jr., Tony Carr, and Svi Mykhaliliuk — Holiday put together a similar outing to Jordan Bell last year.

The media is only able to see some spot-up shooting drills and then prospects go straight into their infamous 3-minute run. Holiday absolutely torched the competition, lapping people multiple times on his way to 28 completed down-and-backs. That beats Bell’s mark last year and places him right behind Shaquille Harrison for the most ever in a predraft workout.

Assistant GM Pat Connelly spoke on just how physically taxing today’s workout was. Contact wasn’t shied away from, it was encouraged. For Holiday to still have the endurance to nearly break the Suns record likely stood out heavily in their eyes.

One underrated aspect for Holiday is his ability to patrol the floor and place everyone in the right spots. Connelly mentioned Holiday’s vocal nature came back out in a more controlled environment, which is critically important for lead ball handlers.

“As a point guard, you have to be vocal. As we watched him at UCLA over the last few years and it’s good to see it carry over today,” Connelly said. “We watched him in practice and he’s not afraid to talk. As a point guard, it’s really, really important because you’re kind of quarterback of the team.”

If you are unfamiliar with Holiday’s backstory, he’s following in his brothers footsteps to the pros. Jrue Holiday (Pelicans) and Justin Holiday (Bulls) laid the groundwork and allowed Aaron to experience the ups and downs of NBA life up-close.

“Obviously, they played a big role,” Holiday said of his siblings. “Justin not being drafted, going through what he went through obviously showed me a different way than what Jrue was going first round after his freshman year. So, I’ve seen both sides of it and it obviously that helps a lot being in that situation, if I ever get there.”

In predraft workouts, as Connelly let us know, Phoenix puts an emphasis on competing hard, picking up concepts quickly, and not getting too fatigued. On the outside looking in from his profile at UCLA, Holiday checks off all the boxes. As he would explain about the youngest Holiday, Connelly believes he’s a strong, feisty defender who not only is a plus ball handler and shooter but also has great character.

Having siblings like Holiday does is beneficial, because, as mentioned, he’s seen it all already before even knowing where he’s going. Living with those two not only helped Holiday grow as a player but having bloodlines like that is another positive.

“It helps, I think, because you grow up with two guys when you workout in the summer it’s not like working out against me, you’re working out with two really good players, All-Stars, that can come out and push you everyday,” Connelly said of the Holidays. “Jrue was a little bit taller but a point guard and his brother in Chicago is more of a wing. So, it’s a little different in terms of what they get each time. But, yeah, it helps. It means he’s grown up seeing what it takes to get to that level and see brothers succeed. You had one that was a high draft pick to one that went undrafted that’s in the league so he’s kind of seen it from all angles.”

This past season at UCLA, Holiday was re-inserted back into his starting role after coming off the bench behind Lonzo Ball. He not only increased his efficiency with a bigger workload but he also took his leadership role by the horns alongside senior big man Thomas Welsh.

Holiday averaged 20.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.3 steals on 46.1/42.9/82.8 shooting splits. When you dig even further from a pure shooting perspective, Holiday is part of an exclusive club.

Point guards drafted over the past 25 years to average at least 20 points and 5 assists while also shooting +40% on 3s, including TS% above 60, is actually more rare than I thought. Only Damon Stoudamire, Steve Nash, Antonio Daniels, Frank Mason, and Holiday.

All of the sudden, you can see why many teams value him in this year’s class among the mid-first range.

As Holiday let us know, his trek to Phoenix was only his third workout thus far after Washington (15) and Atlanta (19). Both of those teams sit right in the range where Phoenix selects with their second first round pick at No. 16.

If the Suns decide on Deandre Ayton, Holiday’s shooting profile alongside his no-nonsense attitude he exudes defensively on tape might be exactly what they target.

It’s obviously early in the process, but the Suns seem to be locking in on ball handlers who possess above-average length. Not only does Holiday carry a +7 H2W discrepancy (height-to-wingspan; Holiday measured at 6’0.75” with 6’7’.50” wingspan) but Milton and Simons also cross the +6” threshold that you usually see with guards who are ultra switch-versatile.

Holiday has proven time and time again at UCLA he’s a certified scorer but he wants to show off his tenacious defense and ability to read and react as the primary initiator for NBA executives in group sessions.

There are some knocks on his lack of overall pop and speed to maneuver around more sturdy defenders, but his sharpshooting archetype and plus character make him a very intriguing option at No. 16.

“In these workouts, I want to prove I can play defense, great point guard, shoot the ball well, make shots and just get to my spot and making plays,” Holiday said.

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