Pacers free agency: What is the price to retain Justin Holiday?

Justin Holiday’s versatility will be worth the price this summer for the Pacers

Justin Holiday, Indiana Pacers

Justin Holiday, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

For the Indiana Pacers this year, Justin Holiday has proven his worth by taking on any role that he’s asked to fill night in and night out.

In various situations, Holiday has played positions one-through-four on the offensive end, and has the length and awareness to do the same on defense.

Add on his 42.4 percent 3-point shooting which comes second on the Pacers only to Doug McDermott, and the Pacers should have everything they need to justify signing him to another contract this summer.

The problem, however, is that 20+ other teams could use a player like Holiday this offseason, too, which might drive his cost right out of the Pacers budget.

After going undrafted in the 2012 NBA Draft, Holiday made his debut late in the 2013 season for the Philadelphia 76ers and has had a lengthy growth process throughout his career. He’s seen minutes with seven NBA teams and only just started seeing regular rotation time over the last few years.

Indiana was able to secure his services and pair him with his brother Aaron this summer for $4.7 million on a one-year deal. In retrospect, maybe securing him for two might have been the better move, but no one really saw him taking such a leap this year.

Looking at his counting stats, you can’t see the entire impact Holiday has. He is averaging just 8.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game, certainly numbers that feel replaceable with a bargain-bin contract.

Holiday, though, has been huge. He has the team’s second-best value over replacement player at 1.5, third-best box plus/minus, and best defensive box plus/minus of players that have played 100 minutes or more on the Pacers.

Holiday has the team’s fourth-best win share rate per 48 minutes as well, showing his impact on Pacers victories.

His length has allowed him to get hands in passing lanes and disrupt the flow of the game. Playing plenty of minutes with the undersized T.J. McConnell, his defensive awareness and physical attributes help the second unit.

He’s not a defensive anchor by any means, but he can guard the perimeter and is more than sufficient for assigning to the opposition’s best player.

As a free agent this summer, the Pacers will need to decide whether or not they want to attempt to bring him back.

Prior to this season, FiveThirtyEight predicted Holiday would sit at 2.5 wins above replacement and decline to 2.1 next year. Based on this, the five-year value they put on him was $26.3 million which works out to about $5.26 million per year.

Holiday’s actual WAR has clocked in at 4.5, 80 percent better than the projection placed on him.

That won’t necessarily equate to that five-year valuation on his contract going up by 80 percent, as his five-year projection may still trend downward.

I think a five-year value on Holiday in the ballpark of $30 million seems fair based on what he’s done this season, though he hasn’t proven he’s consistent enough for a team to take a five-year gamble on him.

Since Holiday is unlikely to get a five-year deal, it’s important to focus on yearly annual cost. A valuation of $30 million would translate to an average value of $6 million per season, about $1.3 million more than he made this year.

That actually seems quite fair.

Holiday is certainly due for a pay raise after his energetic and positive play this year for the Pacers. Given that Indiana has their core secured on the books for next season, they’ll be making marginal moves in free agency this summer. Holiday qualifies to be a potential impact signing in that regard.

If the Pacers can secure Justin Holiday for $7 million or less on a one-year deal or $10 million or less on a two-year deal, they should pull the trigger.