Trying to capitalize on a golden opportunity to make a repeat
NBA Finals run, the Phoenix Suns made two moves at last week's NBA
First, Phoenix dealt 2020 No. 10 overall pick Jalen Smith and a
2022 second-round pick to the Indiana Pacers for Torrey Craig, who
was with the team last season and perfectly fit its vision as a
versatile two-way wing. Then, less than an hour later, Suns general
manager James Jones made another under-the-radar move to bolster
Phoenix sent cash considerations to the Washington Wizards for
reserve combo guard Aaron Holiday, who the organization was
actually very interested in throughout the 2018 pre-draft process.
If not for the Pacers swooping Holiday in the first round, Phoenix
was hoping Holiday would slip through the cracks to the top of the
second-round to pair him with Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges.
During his NBA career, Holiday is now on his third team in four
seasons. However, Phoenix’s team-oriented system could be the best
bet to bring out the intriguing upside Holiday displayed at UCLA as
a consistent three-point shooter and on-ball defender.
In three games with the Suns, Holiday is averaging 7.3 points
and 2.7 assists on an outstanding 84.6% True Shooting percentage.
Of course, small sample size alert, but the mixture of attributes
Holiday has brought aboard in Phoenix is a noticeable upgrade on
“He just continues to play the kind of basketball we like to
play,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said after the Suns’ 124-121
win over the Rockets on Wednesday. “Defensively, he just gets into
stuff and he comes up with balls. I thought the inbounds play under
the basket where he stole it and laid it up, that’s Aaron
[Holiday], and I like his willingness to take shots.
"And then, there was one play where it was just a muddied
offensive set, and he dribbled all over the place like [Steve] Nash
and then just went to the basket and laid it off the glass, and I
was like, 'He’s got some moxie and some toughness.' He’s come here
and he’s fit right in.”
As Williams alluded to, Holiday has stepped right into his role
and thrived within the flow of Phoenix’s “0.5” system. Holiday not
only has shown a more robust skill set than Elfrid Payton — whose
non-floor-spacing equity continues to be a bugaboo for the Suns’
reserves — but his defense in short spurts has also been fantastic
when flanked by Craig and JaVale McGee.
It’s easy to envision when the postseason arrives that Holiday
won’t play many meaningful minutes. Once Cameron Payne returns from
an ankle injury after the All-Star break, Holiday’s already
minuscule role will dwindle further.
Looking past Payne, though, could Holiday usurp Landry Shamet as
the fourth guard? With Shamet’s inconsistent play all season long,
especially from a shooting perspective, it’s not too far-fetched of
Here’s how the Suns’ guard group shakes out entering All-Star
Starters: Chris Paul, Devin Booker
Reserves: Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, Elfrid Payton, Aaron
Stockpiling depth across the board, the Suns now have options
behind their dynamic backcourt duo of Paul and Booker. Shamet
slides into the backup shooting guard minutes for Booker, but
Holiday can also provide a punch there if needed. Paul hurt his
hand in the Suns’ win over the Rockets, so if he’s out for any
meaningful time and they want to go very conservative with his
recovery time, they have three capable players who can split duties
in Payne, Payton and Holiday.
Holiday is a ball of energy, which showed itself frequently
throughout his first week with Phoenix. Only giving up cash
considerations for a 25-year-old reserve guard is another win for
Jones, who has a very strong resume to repeat as NBA Executive of
the Year with the Suns’ historically strong start at 48-10.
The Suns know their time to compete for championships is right
now, especially with Paul still playing at an MVP-like level during
his age-36 season. When canvassing through the Suns’ rotation,
there are very few, if any, real holes to analyze.
Holiday isn’t a game-changing move so to say, but his more
consistently stable two-way play could be what looms large when
shuffling out who fits within the Suns’ playoff rotation in a few
months time. The early returns with Holiday in Phoenix have been
outstanding, but now the real interesting tidbits will be monitored
relating to how Williams balances the Suns' guard rotation moving