Paul Hudrick

NBA draft profile: UCLA PG Aaron Holiday

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NBA draft profile: UCLA PG Aaron Holiday

Aaron Holiday

Position: Guard

Height: 6-0

Weight: 187

School: UCLA

Sixers fans should recognize the name. Aaron Holiday is the brother of former Sixers first-round pick Jrue Holiday and Bulls wing Justin Holiday. Aaron is the youngest — and smallest — of the three. 

A three-year player at UCLA, Holiday developed into one of the most prodigious scorers and shooters in Bruins history. He was the first UCLA player to lead the Pac 12 in scoring (20.3 points per game) since some guy named Reggie Miller. For his efforts, he was named to the All-Pac 12 first team.

For his college career, Holiday averaged 14.3 points and 4.7 assists per contest in 101 games (65 starts). He also hit 180 treys, shooting 42 percent from three.

Holiday’s most obvious and translatable NBA attribute is his jump shot. He shot over 40 percent in all three of his seasons at UCLA and is capable off the dribble, off screens and in catch-and-shoot opportunities. He also has NBA range and is not afraid to pull up from any spot on the floor.

For his size, he’s a good, creative finisher and features a pretty nice floater. He understands how to attack defenses, especially in the pick and roll. He’s excellent at changing his pace and lulling defenders to sleep. He’s a good and willing passer. Defensively he has excellent instincts. He’s aggressive and does well at getting his hands in passing lanes.

Size is a huge issue for Holiday. The other big issue is, he’s just an OK athlete that lacks quickness and explosion while driving to the basket. Defense is always going to be an issue as he’ll struggle to guard some of the bigger and more explosive point guards in the league. He also struggled with turnovers.

NBA comparison
Aaron Brooks, most recently of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Both players make up for their size with excellent perimeter shooting. Brooks was more explosive coming out of Oregon, but also has a good change of pace to confuse opponents. Holiday has better feel and vision. Brooks has struggled defensively at the NBA level and Holiday will likely encounter the same issues.

How he'd fit with Sixers
It’s tough to project Holiday to the Sixers. His shooting would play well here and playing with a 6-foot-10 point guard would certainly help his cause, but where would he fit? He won’t be a starter right away and the Sixers already feature T.J. McConnell off the bench. McConnell provides energy and top-notch defense that Holiday cannot.

Draft projection
The modern NBA is all about the three so teams will be interested in Holiday as a backup point guard and shooter off the bench. He could go anywhere from the late teens to the mid-20s.

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If report is true, who could Sixers target in top 5 of 2018 NBA draft?

If report is true, who could Sixers target in top 5 of 2018 NBA draft?

An interesting report from an even more interesting source surfaced Friday. 

The Sixers are reportedly “very much looking to move up to get somebody they think will go in the top five” in next week’s NBA draft. With that in mind, the question becomes: Which player are they targeting?

The top of the draft is loaded with centers, but it’s pretty safe to assume they won’t be looking for one with All-Star Joel Embiid signed long term. That means you can likely cross DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. off the list. 

Here’s a look at three players that would make sense for the Sixers that will likely go in the top five.

Luka Doncic, G/F, Real Madrid (6-8/228)
Doncic would make a ton of sense for the Sixers. The Slovenian wing is known for his elite playmaking ability. He’s an excellent ball handler and has an incredible offensive feel for a player his age. He also played in the second-best league in the world and excelled, taking home MVP of the EuroLeague at just 19 years old.

The biggest concerns will be his lack of elite athleticism and a somewhat inconsistent jumper. His lack of athleticism shows on drives to the basket and when he’s asked to guard smaller, quicker players. That could be an issue with the Sixers, who switch on everything. The jumper is there (80 percent free throw shooter as a pro), he just needs to show more consistency with it.

It’d be interesting to see what Doncic can do with a big man like Embiid and a point guard with Simmons’ vision. Doncic’s ability in the pick-and-roll could be lethal when paired with a player like Embiid. His overall offensive feel should help take some pressure off Simmons as a ball handler. If Markelle Fultz develops into the player the Sixers hoped, there’s no reason to think Doncic can’t play alongside the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. 

It’s also worth noting Doncic’s draft stock has slipped every-so-slightly recently — he was projected to go No. 1 or 2 when the process started — over fears of his ability to adjust to NBA athletes. The Sixers could be gauging to see where he slips and pounce. If I were a betting man — I’m not — my money would be on Doncic as the player they’re targeting.

Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri, (6-10/211)
Like Doncic, Porter Jr. is a bit of an enigma but for a different reason. Porter Jr., considered by many to be the top recruit coming out of high school, suffered a back injury that required a microdiscectomy on his L3-L4 spinal discs. He was only able to play in three games at Missouri and clearly lacked explosiveness.

Porter Jr. may be a better fit than Doncic from a basketball standpoint. Porter Jr. has a smooth shooting stroke, which is his most translatable NBA skill. He’s good both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot opportunities. He’s also a good cutter and is better at playing off the ball. With his length, quickness and athleticism, he’d fit with what the Sixers do defensively with the ability to guard multiple positions.

While his shot should be there at the next level, he still has work to do on the rest of his offensive game. He doesn’t have great vision or feel and his handle will need to tighten up. Defensively, he lacks grit and physicality. He’s a poor rebounder for his size as well. There have also been questions about his maturity and whether he’s a good teammate.

With news that Porter Jr. had to cancel a pre-draft workout because of hip spasms, the injury history is a little scary. With that said, reports say his medical records are fairly clean. Given the Sixers’ recent history with injured draft picks, they’re kind of uniquely qualified to handle the situation. On the court, he should provide spacing for Embiid and Simmons with potential to grow on both ends of the floor. 

Marvin Bagley, F/C, Duke (6-11/234)
Bagley is sort of the dark horse here. Before the college season began, it was either Porter Jr. or Bagley that most considered to be the best player out of high school. Bagley is probably the safest bet of these three players after finishing an outstanding freshman season at Duke, winning ACC Player of the Year with a clean bill of health. He may also be the oddest fit for the Sixers.

Bagley is an outstanding athlete with great basketball instincts. He has the potential to have a strong jumper, shooting well from three (40 percent), but with a small sample size (58 attempts). He’s an outstanding rebounder (11.1) and plays hard and aggressively on defense. He excels in the pick and roll. He has a quick first step and has the potential to be a strong driver and finisher at the next level.

Bagley’s biggest issue is that he’s kind of a tweener. He lacks the length and girth to play the five and may not be a strong enough shooter to be a modern NBA four. He’s a little too left-hand dependent with his drives and finishes. He’s more a strong team defender than an on-the-ball one.

The Sixers are already set at center and arguably at the four with Dario Saric coming off a strong sophomore campaign and Jonah Bolden possibly coming from overseas. But Bagley could help in a few different scenarios. If the roster stays as is, Bagley could fight Bolden for minutes as a backup four and five. Saric is also a very attractive trade piece. If he’s moved in any type of deal, Bagley could be his replacement. Although it’s worth noting that if Saric is moved for a veteran piece, the Sixers will likely include the No. 10 pick in that deal and not move up. Bagley seems like the most unrealistic player to move up for, but you never know.

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Sixers should draft Michael Porter Jr. if he slips because of injury history

Sixers should draft Michael Porter Jr. if he slips because of injury history

The Sixers have become quite familiar with drafting players with injury issues.

There was Nerlens Noel’s knee and Joel Embiid’s foot, both of which the team had knowledge of beforehand. Then there was Ben Simmons’ foot and Markelle Fultz’s shoulder, both of which occurred after those players were selected.

With what the Sixers have dealt with, they’re uniquely qualified to deal with injured young players. So if Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. slips to 10, the team shouldn’t be able to get the pick to the podium fast enough.

News broke Thursday that Porter Jr., the No. 1 or 2 recruit coming into the 2017-18 college season, cancelled a pre-draft workout because of hip spasms. This is on the heels of the 6-foot-10 wing missing all but three games of his one-and-done season with the Tigers because of a back injury that caused him to undergo a microdiscectomy on his L3-L4 spinal discs.

However, Porter reversed course on Friday, as his agency informed teams that his workout was back on. Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania reported that Porter had a clean MRI of his hip on Thursday with “‘an even more positive review’ compared to a recent examination.” Teams will have the opportunity to evaluate him and assess his health in person at Friday’s workout.

Chances are teams won’t let Porter fall all the way to the Sixers, but if he does, the team needs to seriously consider drafting the 19-year-old. This is a player that was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game. He’s long, athletic and armed with a silky smooth shooting stroke. If he’d been healthy and had even a decent year at Missouri, he likely wouldn’t get out of the top five.

There’s still a chance he won’t. Thursday, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony put out an extensive report on Porter Jr.’s cancelled workout and what it might do for his draft position. His stock was actually on the rise as teams began reviewing his medical records, and that was before Porter's decision Friday to hold the workout. Even with this news, a team like the Mavericks, who could gamble on a player like Porter Jr. at five, could be a good landing spot. As one NBA executive said in the story, “No one wants to miss out on another Joel Embiid."

And it all comes full circle. There may have been bumps along the road, but look how far the organization and the player have come in the Embiid situation. In missing his first two years, Embiid dealt with the stories about his love for Shirley Temples and media members speculating that he’d never play a game. Now he’s coming off an impressive second season and has flashed moments of sheer dominance.

Simmons missed an entire season, but thanks to Brett Brown and the team’s veterans, Simmons was kept in the loop with everything going on with the team and was able to step right in this year. Simmons showed off how great he may become in tandem with Embiid during a stellar rookie season.

The Fultz situation was flat out weird. We’ll never get a square answer to what exactly happened with Fultz’s shoulder and shot but we know this: Brown will stop at nothing to make Fultz maximize his potential. He just turned 20 – only about a month older than Porter Jr. – so the sky is still the limit.

So do the Sixers make a “safe” pick like Villanova’s Mikal Bridges or Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, or if Porter Jr. falls, do they make the bold pick? Both Bridges look like they’ll be fine players that should contribute immediately. But Porter Jr. has a chance to be a star. Do the Sixers need another star? Maybe not, but could having four young players on their way to NBA stardom be a bad thing?

The whole “Process” has been bold and gotten the team this far. If Porter Jr. slips, roll the dice again.

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