HOUSTON – Who could have envisioned a Holiday brother not named Jrue to provide quality bench minutes for the Houston Rockets? Initially signed for the vet minimum, Aaron Holiday is proving otherwise. In 16 games, Holiday is averaging 7.4 points, with a 62.1% true shooting and 43.5% behind the arc in 18.7 minutes of playing time. On catch and shoots, the 27-year old is hitting them on a crisp 48.7% clip.
His best game in a Rockets uniform so far came from Wednesday night's matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was a key contributor to the 110-101 win, scoring 22 points on 8-of-13 from the field and 6-of-7 from deep in 27 minutes. The ball just kept swishing from his shooting stroke, especially from the top of the key.
“You wanna shoot like it's going in every night,” Holiday said, following the win. “I think I'm a pretty good shooter, so every shot I shoot I think its going in.”
A Necessary Role Off The Bench
Having that confidence, especially when fighting for quality minutes, bodes how unexpectedly significant Holiday has been on Udoka's roster. It's not just on offense. He's a pest when guarding on the ball, only allowing 40.9% field goal on 5.5 field goal attempts per game.
Of course, this offensive outburst isn't going to happen on a nightly basis.
“It's a long season but obviously my role is to come out play defense, shoot open shots, and make plays for others,” Holiday added. That could be my role for the rest of the season.”
For the Rockets, acquiring Holiday in the offseason was based on his veteran leadership and professionalism. He doesn't take anything too seriously when it comes to individual stats. Just like his brother Jrue, who's an NBA champion, Holiday aspires to be a winning player, no matter what role he is given on a roster. From Wednesday night's game, it was quite admirable for coach Ime Udoka to keep playing him on the floor, noticing how well he was shooting the basketball.
“He [Holiday] is another guy that compliments the group, Udoka said at the postgame conference. “On and off ball, the shooting ability obviously, but the defensive tenacity too,” Udoka said. “Just an overall guy that's been through every situation. You can start if you need him to, and obviously can be a great backup as he is right now or a third guard that always stays prepared.”
Amen Thompson's Return Could Impact Holiday's Playing Time
With Aaron Holiday putting up solid minutes off the bench, this bodes the question: What happens when Amen Thompson returns to the rotation? He recently returned from a month-long injury and was assigned to the Rio Grande Vipers, making his G-League debut Wednesday afternoon against the Oklahoma City Blue.
The former fourth overall pick did not disappoint, notching a mean triple double with 26 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists on 12-of-26 shooting and 2-of-3 from deep. On defense, Thompson picked up three steals and two blocks. It's no doubt this type of stat line is extremely promising for the Rockets as they await his return on an NBA court. Should he continue to put up these types of stat lines, he could return in the next couple of games.
When asked about Amen's imminent return, Holiday beamed at the possibility of the two playing together on the court:
“Having two ballhandlers out on the court is always good. It helps that he's [Amen] 6'7 and can guard multiple guys. I think it would be a good matchup with us two playing but it's not my decision. We'll see what happens.”
In situations where both Fred VanVleet and Alperen Sengun aren't on the floor, the Rockets offense becomes stagnant. Surely Thompson's return will alleviate this hole, but it cannot be at the expense of Holiday's minutes. Holiday has made a significant impact off the bench, particularly in providing perimeter defense and an additional scoring option when necessary.
The Rockets are in dire need of three-point shooters, and Thompson's questionable shooting at the NBA level needs to be considered. Nevertheless, Holiday mentioning the idea of having both him and Thompson on the court has the potential to be a formidable option, particularly in terms of defensive versatility, facilitating, and perimeter scoring.