What’s Justin Holiday’s Role on a Contender?

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19: Justin Holiday
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19: Justin Holiday /

Through three games, Chicago Bulls SG Justin Holiday has been a viewing pleasure, including his 25-point scoring burst against Cleveland. Considering Holiday is the second-oldest Bull, does he have a role when the team starts to compete?

When Justin Holiday signed his $9 million, two-year deal with the Bulls this offseason, the 28-year-old guard was an anchor to a team spinning out of control. Holiday, who originally departed in the Rose-to-NYC deal, is a clear veteran among a cluster of kids (and Robin Lopez).

Since assuming a starting role on the 2017-2018 Bulls, the guard has been incredibly effective. Holiday is playing some of the best basketball on the roster, averaging a team-high 18.3 points per contest.

It’s also worth noting that Holiday is leading the team in minutes so far, as he’s on the court about 36 minutes a night.

Where the guard/forward finds trouble is his unimpressive shooting percentages. Holiday converts 35.3-percent of his shots, with a 37.9-percent clip from three. He’s shooting 88.9-percent from the free-throw stripe, so that’s something to fix an otherwise messy stat line.

Now, Holiday is a part of this messy wing rotation, where he’ll struggle to guard more athletic scorers. Mainly, this will become a problem if either Paul Zipser or Denzel Valentine don’t play well as the season progresses. If Holiday is getting a lot of touches in a small forward role, teams like Cleveland will roll the Bulls, no problem.

When we’re talking about Justin Holiday, we better start talking about the impending return of Zach LaVine. Both are natural two-guards, but one is a prized prospect and the other played EuroBall for a time. EuroBallers aren’t hot prospects; guys who went No. 13 in the NBA Draft with crazy athleticism are, indeed, hot prospects. 

So, when the time comes, what becomes of Justin Holiday?

FiveThirtyEight is an interesting website if you’re interested in data. On this website, there’s a system called the CARMELO NBA Projections. They evaluate the future of players based on past and present data, and they categorize Holiday as a scrub.

Holiday was a *meh* 1.3 wins-above-replacement last season and he’s projected to be around 0.5 this season; not invigorating. Meanwhile, LaVine is given the vague “project” tag. He’s projected to be around 0.5 this season as well, but his projections go vertical, where as Holiday’s sink.

Gar Forman stated the team’s intent to keep LaVine on-board into the foreseeable future. You can count on that. 

If Holiday’s performance stays where it is, you’d expect the guard sees a big paycheck after his contract expires in 2019. However, it’s not inconceivable that the Bulls are the team to make that cash commitment.

Maybe, just maybe, Holiday works as a sixth-man in the form of Jamal Crawford. 

Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated recently published a story in discussion of the 37-year-old Crawford. His 6-foot-5, 185 lbs measurements gives Holiday an extra inch on an otherwise parallel frame (at 6-foot-6).

Crawford found success earlier in career than Holiday, that’s indisputable. It took Holiday until his age 26 season to really find an NBA role, but since, it’s been a pretty solid run.

Since joining the Bulls in 2015 (including time with Atlanta in early 2015 and spending a season with the Knicks in 2016-2017), Holiday averages about 6.7 points in 18.3 minutes of action, while shooting 45.5-percent from the field.

Maybe he’s not much of a niche player, which might be bad in today’s niche NBA. However, having a six-man who can play some basketball is a great thing (in my perspective, at least).

While I watched the Bulls play the Cavaliers last night, I couldn’t help but notice Holiday’s ability to just flat-out hoop.  He gives a ton of effort, though he might have the physical gifts of his counterparts.

Next: A good loss for the Chicago Bulls against the Cavs

Establishing Holiday as the sixth man could be an important landmark, if it’s something they’ll give a look. This, of course, assumes Holiday beats Nikola Mirotic, Denzel Valentine, etc., for the job. Mirotic is the favorite, just based on contract, but I’m team Holiday for those keeping track at home.

Obviously, this is a way down the road, but this team might have pieces to start winning sooner than expected; they’ll finish high in the draft this year, but man-oh-man, it could be a quick fix after that point. If their top pick works well with Lauri Markkanen and LaVine, then this team booms.