With just a few months of NBA front office experience, the new regime in LA is going to have their hands full this summer with free agency. As we can tell by the few roster moves the Lakers have made under Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, they want to as much cap space in 2018 as possible.
Although they got their “face of the franchise” player in the draft with Lonzo Ball the team still needs a better balance on the roster. This is where another California native comes into play: Justin Holiday.
Justin is the older brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard, Jrue Holiday, who is a free agent himself. The former is a 6-foot-7 athletic wing player that would fit the mold of the “3-and-D” player the Lakers so desperately need. The Lakers find themselves with a plethora of players that are primarily suited to play the forward spot and very little proven talent at guard/wing so Holiday would be a helpful addition.
Last season with the New York Knicks, Holiday played all 82 games and was a key contributor off the bench averaging 20 minutes a night. In his time on the floor, he showed the capability to be a pestering defender due to his length, athleticism, and defensive instincts. In a reserve role Holiday was able to contest 5.2 shots per game; for reference, Klay Thompson contested 7.1 shots per game in 34 minutes a night and Andre Iguodala contested 5.1 shots per game in just a little more action than Holiday at 26 minutes per game. I’m not implying that Justin Holiday is as good of a defender as either of those two, but his numbers do stack up pretty well with some of the elite wing defenders in that category. As a team that struggled mightily defensively, the Lakers should start to think about players that will impact that side of the floor.
The second area that the 27-year-old would be of valuable use is his ability to shoot the ball from deep and score in transition. Now, if you look at his percentage overall, 35.5 percent doesn’t sound much better than average, but the Lakers don’t currently have a player on their roster who shot higher than that last season. They are in absolute dire need of someone who can consistently be a solid shooter. Of course, guys like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, or Jordan Clarkson could help the Lakers improve in that area if they shoot well this year but that has yet to be seen. One thing is for sure about those guys though, they can run and they will push the ball and Holiday’s athleticism and dunking ability would make him a prime target for those guys on the break.
Holiday was especially efficient in shooting from both the corners and saw the majority of his opportunities come in catch-and-shoot situations. The Lakers offense thrives around these plays where they can give their guy a chance to come off screens and hit an open shot off of an assist. The best part about Holiday’s fit with the purple and gold offensively is that he already ran a similar system when he was with Luke Walton and Golden State in 2015. He understands what Walton would want from a coaching standpoint and can help playmakers like Ball, Ingram, and Julius Randle out by being in the right spots and hitting open shots.
While it seems like it would be a home-run signing, it is going to be tough to read what Magic and Pelinka will do as they try to avoid putting any dents into their cap space for next summer. With the D’Angelo Russell trade to clear up salary, it is clear these guys will chase max-level free agents, but Holiday would be a worthwhile addition as a role player for this upcoming season.