Aaron Holiday goes to Pacers with No. 23 pick

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers saw Aaron Holiday as a perfect fit even before Thursday night's NBA draft.

They liked his scoring potential and his commitment to defense. They were impressed by his basketball wits and his family's athletic successes. And, they figured, he could make a smooth transition from college to the pros by blending into the team's locker room culture.

So when the Pacers finally got a chance to make their first offseason move, they didn't hesitate to pick their potential point guard of the future.

"He's a tough guy, he prides himself on playing on the defensive end of the floor and he comes from a successful basketball family," coach Nate McMillan said after adding Holiday with the No. 23 overall pick. "He was the guy we had at the top of our board."

The only problem was McMillan and president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard never got to see the 6-foot-1, 185-pound UCLA star up close. McMillan said he was didn't know why Holiday didn't make it to Indianapolis for a pre-draft workout.

But the scouts did enough homework to know passing on Holiday so late in the draft probably would have been a mistake for a team in need of more scoring help now with a possible void at point guard next summer.

And the 21-year-old Holiday brings a solid resume to a team he's already familiar with.

Indiana's two draft picks last year, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu, also played at UCLA. So did starting point guard Darren Collison, a college teammate of Jrue Holiday, one of Aaron Holiday's two older brothers who currently play in the NBA. Collison, who will be 32 when next season begins, can become a free agent after next season.

Holiday averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 42.2 percent on 3-pointers last season, becoming the first Bruins player to lead the Pac-12 in scoring since former Pacers star Reggie Miller in 1985-86. Holiday was named first-team all-conference and was chosen to the Pac-12's all-defensive team.

What really sold the Pacers on him, though, was how they believed he would fit into a locker room brimming with confidence and hope after last year's big surprise.

Most analysts thought the Pacers would be a lottery team after trading All-Star Paul George to Oklahoma City for shooting guard Victor Oladipo and backup forward Domantas Sabonis in July.

Instead, Oladipo made his first All-Star appearance, led Indiana to 48 wins and was named one of three finalists for the NBA's Most Improved Player award. The Pacers even pushed eventual Eastern Conference champion Cleveland to a seventh game in the playoffs.

Sabonis also emerged as a valuable piece off the bench in his second NBA season, and they expect 22-year-old center Myles Turner to improve heading into next season.

"We want to try and continue to build off the group we had this season and he fits," McMillan said before the Pacers made their second pick at No. 50 overall. "I just like his toughness."

Adding Holiday could be another key piece for the Pacers future with a potentially intriguing offseason just beginning.

Pritchard can exercise team options on guards Lance Stephenson and Joe Young while backup point guard Cory Joseph reportedly will exercise his option to stay in Indy next season. Starting forward Thaddeus Young, meanwhile, continues to wrestle with a decision to stay with the Pacers for $13.7 million or test free agency.

Indiana also is more than $30 million under the luxury tax cap, giving Pritchard an opportunity to find more help in free agency or through the trade market.

But Pritchard doesn't want to upset the chemistry from last season and has said that will be a key factor in any move he makes this summer.

McMillan concurred after landing Holiday.

"We're getting a solid, a high basketball IQ guy, a two-way player," he said. "He's just a solid guy who we think will fit into this team."