Why Justin Holiday is the most important bench player for the Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers, Justin Holiday - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Justin Holiday - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers, at full strength (miracles are real), have an incredibly deep roster, with more or less 12 players capable of contributing on a nightly basis. While most of their depth has been sapped and negated by—drum roll please—injuries, one player stands as the most important off the bench for the Blue and Gold: the ever-so-reliable Justin Holiday.

Holiday, the nine-year veteran, has stuck around the league with his sneaky, yet effective, 3-and-D acumen from the wing position. Since arriving at the Circle City in 2019, he has been one of the Pacers’ go-to options off the bench to assume heavy minutes whether injuries arise or not. This season, with TJ Warren and Caris LeVert sidelined, the latter until just recently, the lanky swingman has once again been playing a healthy serving of minutes.

Now playing off the bench with LeVert’s return, Holiday’s impact will be arguably even more felt, as he’s primed for a more prominent role on offense with the second unit compared to his ancillary starting role. This is the reason why he is the most important bench player for Indiana.

Justin Holiday will be pivotal for the Indiana Pacers bench moving forward

Doug McDermott‘s exit from the Indiana Pacers in free agency automated concerns about the team’s perimeter offense, particularly off the bench. After all, not only was he their best three-point shooter in recent years, but he also was a seamless fit with the Pacers’ change of pace in the second unit. Despite coaching turnovers, the bench retained its up-tempo style synchronized through ball movement and player movement.

Justin Holiday, the Pacers’ remaining motion shooter, inherited that role. As a testament, he’s averaging a career-high in three-point attempts with 6.8 tries in 30 minutes per contest so far through eight games. However, he has been average at this juncture, shooting just 35.2 percent from downtown.

While not as proficient as McDermott, Holiday’s off-ball movement has been nearly similar in both frequency and effectivity. His stale conversion rate obscures that a tad, but his ability to curl off screens and move without the ball has been a welcome retainer from the previous seasons’ themes.

Look at this sleek misdirection, where Holiday fakes a screen seemingly meant for Chris Duarte, only to slip through another screen to free himself up for a clean look:

Or this sequence, where Holiday splices through the motions to set himself up as a recipient of a screen assist from Domantas Sabonis, a very common play for McDermott before:

Plays like these aren’t only catalysts for increased perimeter output, but they also open up opportunities for others by deceiving the defense for easier shots, a particular area where McDermott excelled at. Off the bench, this will be even more critical, especially with the Pacers bench averaging just 32 points per game, good for 20th in the league.

With the Indiana Pacers still testing out the waters as they struggle in the early going, Justin Holiday’s play off the bench as arguably their most important piece in the second unit will be pivotal for the team moving forward as a consistent option to design plays for in times of offensive slumps, which have derailed the team in recent losses.

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