Yesterday, our own John Voita kicked off a week of some in-depth free agency breakdowns. The focus of that first piece was Serge Ibaka, a veteran anchor who would no doubt boost the Suns’ offense, defense and leadership. At the same time, a player of Ibaka’s caliber will be pricey, requiring the Suns to make some theoretical cuts to their roster to preserve cap space.
But what if the Suns decide to “run it back,” as some fans have been suggesting since their 8-0 bubble run? If they focus on using bird rights to re-sign players like Saric, Baynes, and Carter, can they still add additional talent in an effort to improve?
The answer is yes! If the Suns decide to function as an over-the-cap team this offseason, they will still have access to a mid-level exception ($9.3 million this past season), and a bi-annual exception ($3.6 million, can only be used every other year). While this isn’t enough money to attract any top-tier names, it’s an appealing compromise where the team gets to maintain some consistency while still adding fresh talent.
Let’s say the Suns do have access to their MLE, and are in the market for a player in the $7-10 million range on a short-term deal. What type of guy could they target with that money?
In that event, I’d like to make the case for Justin Holiday as the first player I call.
Alright, here’s my pitch. Who do Suns fans like right now more than Mikal Bridges? Maybe Devin Booker? But even Devin Booker isn’t seeing his name shared on Twitter by thousands of accounts to the point that just his name alone is trending. In reality, Bridges’ ability to capture the hearts of Suns fans as just a 9 PPG scorer is remarkable. He stands for everything that makes a basketball team’s culture great: hustle, selflessness, awareness, and defense.
And you know what would be better than one Mikal Bridges? Two Mikal Bridgeses.
As far as I can tell, there is no free agent on the market this year more similar to Mikal Bridges than Justin Holiday. Let me explain why:
First, the length. Oh my goodness, the length! Standing 6’6” but sporting a 7’0” wingspan, Holiday would fit in perfectly next to long wings like Bridges (7’1” wingspan) and Oubre (7’2”). Whereas Bridges and Oubre are natural SFs with the ability to play up to the 4, Holiday is a natural SG who can play up to the 3. His offensive role might be limited (more on that in a bit), but defensively he can very comfortably guard positions 1-3.
When it comes to defensive box score stats, Holiday checks all the boxes, averaging 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks per 36 minutes this past season. Bridges, for comparison, averaged 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per 36.
But it’s not just about the steals, the blocks, the deflections, it’s the way in which Holiday racks up those numbers. He is one of the best anticipatory defenders in the league, cutting off passing and driving lanes before the offense has a chance to know what hit them. His rotations are razor sharp, something that will help prevent breakdowns even if he doesn’t receive credit in the box score.
So why is he going under the radar? A player like this is an obvious positive, shouldn’t he be raking in the cash?
Well, the truth is that even at the age of 31, Holiday’s offensive game is a bit of a work in progress. On the one hand, he shot a career-high 41% from deep this season, with many of those threes coming off the dribble. That’s a great asset to have.
However, Holiday’s finishing numbers at the rim remain subpar, he can’t really create for others, and he has no in-between game. While he might provide a boost to your spacing, that’s about all you can expect from him on that end of the court, barring some unexpected progression.
Still, I believe I’ve described the perfect 3-and-D role player. That’s easily worth the Suns’ MLE, if they opt to go over the cap. And it’s a great way to add an above-average depth piece while still retaining talent.
Imagine for a second a lineup of Devin Booker, Justin Holiday, Mikal Bridges, Kelly Oubre, and Deandre Ayton. Not only do you have an elite scorer and playmaker in Booker, and an elite lob threat in Ayton, but by surrounding that duo with three wings with 7’+ wingspans, you can build an incredibly formidable defense around Booker that has the confidence to be aggressive on defense and hit threes on offense. It’s an impeccably well-balanced lineup, and would give Rubio the chance to earn some additional rest as he enters his age 30 season.
If you’d like to see some footage of Holiday, I broke down his game in an extensive review on my podcast’s YouTube channel. There you’ll find some additional nuggets of info, such as a detailed shooting breakdown and a look at how dire his finishing numbers are.
Now it’s your turn to leave your thoughts. Should the Suns (again) go after the lesser brother?
Should the Suns target Justin Holiday?
This poll is closed
Yes! Great idea!
Not one of my favorite choices, but I wouldn’t mind.
Not interested at all