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2018 NBA Draft: Aaron Holiday can provide critical backcourt depth for the Lakers

Holiday would add much needed shooting and playmaking to the Lakers second unit

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

UCLA guard Aaron Holiday, younger brother of current NBA players Jrue and Justin, is the kind of NBA prospect that can make a GM look like a genius at the end of first round. In a league filled with elite point guards, he may not have the ceiling to be a perennial All-Star, but he has a skill set that could help him carve out a valuable niche for the right team.

The concerns about Holiday are valid – he’s already 22 and, at 6’1”, he’s undersized and lacks elite athleticism to keep up with NBA athletes. He will largely be confined to the point guard spot and will only be able to play combo guard in specific line-ups.

And while Holiday’s role in UCLA expanded dramatically last year, so did his turnovers (3.8 from 2.4 the previous season), a weakness that NBA defenses will readily exploit. At his size, his ability to get to the rim at will in college may not translate against the Rudy Goberts of the world.

So why should the Lakers consider drafting him? Because his strengths and intangibles make him an intriguing prospect to round out their young core. With potential stars like Ingram, Ball, and Kuzma in development, the purple and gold have the luxury of finding high floor role players that can help complete their depth chart.

Aaron Holiday

Physical Stats: 6’1” 190 pounds

2017-18 Stats: 20.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 42.9% 3PT%

Strengths: Outsider shooting, interior finishing, tough team defender

Weaknesses: Average athleticism, limited ability to create off the dribble

First of all, Aaron will help the Lakers space the floor. Holiday is an elite shooter (41% over three seasons at UCLA) whose range should extend to the NBA. He can step up and drain the types of catch-and-shoot threes that Lonzo will create for him, but also use his savvy to penetrate into the paint on closeouts, where he finished at a high level last season. While still developing as a playmaker, Holiday is still able to hit the open shooter and make smart plays in transition.

Defensively, Holiday is undersized but feisty. He has a long wingspan for his frame and generated 1.3 steals per game with his constant motor and hustle. After a few years under Alford’s lackluster defensive system at UCLA, he will need to develop more discipline as a team defender and close out on shooters with more intensity. With his work ethic, there’s no reason to suspect he won’t develop into a solid NBA defender.

In terms of intangibles, Holiday is a gamer who developed his leadership skills last season dragging a mediocre UCLA squad into the tournament. After the departure of Ball and other key pieces of the 2017 squad, Holiday made the transition from complementary piece to star. He took over as the primary ballhandler and late game closer, shining at both roles while seeing a huge increase in productivity (20 PPG from 12 PPG the prior year). In end of game scenarios, Holiday consistently made big plays and hit key shots when UCLA needed them.

Looking ahead to how this might play out for the Lakers, Holiday could be the back-up PG the team needed last year while enduring the Tyler Ennis / Alex Caruso era. He would provide much needed depth to the backcourt, while adding enough outside shooting and playmaking to juice up the bench. A tantalizing Josh Hart / Aaron Holiday guard lineup could do some real damage against opposing second units. While Holiday is unlikely to be a star for the purple and gold, he projects as exactly the kind of quality role player that will bolster their depth and help them win games in the future.

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