Welcome to our Phoenix Suns Season in Review series where we do individual PLAYER REVIEWS of each man that contributed in the 2021-22 season. We go through the roster to analyze what went right/wrong for them, and what they can do to get better for next season.
Check out all players covered so far here: 2022 Phoenix Suns Player Reviews, including Cameron Johnson, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and more.
- Position: Point Guard
- Vitals: 6’0”, 185 lbs, 25 years old
- Stats: 6.8 pts, 3.4 ast, 41.1% FG, 44.4% 3PT, 16.3 mpg in 22 games played as a Phoenix Sun; 6.1 pts, 1.9 ast, 46.7% FG, 34.3% 3PT, 16.2 mpg in 41 games played as a Washington Wizard.
Regular Season Recap
Aaron Holiday came to the Valley on a deadline-day trade between the Suns and the Washington Wizards, who had acquired him from the Indiana Pacers during the 2021 NBA Draft. The Suns did not have to give up much to get Holiday’s services, as the Wizards received only cash considerations from the Suns and a small trade exception from the NBA.
The youngest Holiday brother had shown flashes of his potential during his three years in Indiana and the Wizards were hoping to unlock his potential as a high-volume scoring guard to support their starting backcourt of Spencer Dinwiddie and Bradley Beal (I’ll let you try to figure out who was the “point guard” between the two).
But the fourth-year guard could not break out much, eclipsing 15+ points only twice as a Wizard, despite starting in 14 of his 41 games played and playing 24+ mins seven times.
Upon arriving in Phoenix, Holiday’s role in the team seemed to be the third point guard option, a role that one would expect to receive only bits and pieces minutes on a team with such a star-studded backcourt.
But injuries to Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and backup shooting guard Landry Shamet created plenty of opportunities for Holiday to show what he can do. While he did not break out as a scorer like his natural game would suggest, Holiday was able to show his capabilities as a creator.
After having only 8 games with 4+ assists as a Wizard, Holiday had 11 such games as a Sun despite playing 19 fewer games. And of those 11 games, Holiday recorded 6+ assists in four, which he had not done during his time in Washington.
One such game stuck out amongst the others. In the Suns’ narrow four-point loss to the Clippers on Apr. 6th, Holiday put his entire offensive skill set on display. After sitting out the first half and with the team trailing by 29 at the half, the former Bruin helped lead a furious second-half comeback. Holiday had 16 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds in under 19 minutes played, which included playing the entire fourth quarter, as the Suns outscored the Clippers 78-53 in the second half and nearly stole the game.
Despite only joining the team after the season’s midway point, Holiday fit seamlessly into the Suns’ system. Many players struggle with such a transition, and to see a young player like Holiday take his 2nd trade in less than a year so well is highly encouraging of his mental fortitude.
Holiday was not given much opportunity in the playoffs, playing in only six of the team’s 13 playoff games and failing to record a single game over 10 minutes. He found his way onto the scoring sheet in five of those games and had at least 1 three in four of them as well. When given the opportunity, Holiday was not afraid of the moment.
Holiday is a natural scorer, dating back to his time at UCLA. He has the range and the confidence to be a high-volume shooter and is not quite a turnstile on defense. He might not be a pass-first point guard, but Holiday can sufficiently play the point guard role in today’s NBA, creating scoring opportunities for others and finding his own opportunities in the flow of the offense. His vision and general high IQ on offense keep him from being an inefficient scorer.
Ultimately, Holiday’s biggest weakness is something he cannot work on - his height. At barely 6’0”, it’s difficult for him to share the court with Paul or Cam Payne, limiting Holiday to third-string point guard minutes. Holiday is a capable defender, but playing him at the two is a recipe for disaster against most lineups and can only be done if the other team is also running two smaller guards.
What to work on
It’s tough to analyze what a player is or isn’t doing in practice. But considering Payne’s deficiencies on defense, it was pretty alarming that Landry Shamet was chosen over Holiday to be the primary backup point guard option when Payne was taken out of the playoff rotation.
While some of that can probably be attributed to Suns’ coach Monty Williams having more trust in Shamet over Holiday due to Shamet being older, being on the team longer, and skill-wise the better shooter, Holiday should be taking that experience of being passed over as a lesson on how much better he needs to be in practice to gain the coach’s trust.
Including playoffs, this is how I will grade Aaron Holiday
Overall grade as an NBA player: C
Relative grade to preseason expectation: B*
*= Holiday’s 2020-2021 season was one to forget, as explained here and statistically shown here. All things considered, Holiday had a bounce-back season of sorts this year, especially as an inside scorer.
How would you grade Aaron Holiday’s year, including playoffs?
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