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INDIANAPOLIS – In today’s NBA, it’s not often a team spends both of their draft picks on guys that have spent at least 3 years in college.

But the Pacers did that in 2018 with UCLA junior Aaron Holiday (Round 1, Pick 23) and Missouri State senior Alize Johnson (Round 2, Pick 50).

Let’s take a closer look at why the Pacers settled on Holiday and Johnson:

-UCLA PG-Aaron Holiday: The Pacers went into this draft believing they needed a point guard in the system with Cory Joseph and Darren Collison entering contract years. In drafting Holiday, the Pacers feel like they are getting a younger Collison.

Holiday was a tremendous shooter at UCLA, knocking home at least 40 percent of his threes in each of his three seasons there. He led the Pac-12 in scoring at 20.8 points per game this past season. The Pacers like that Holiday has played on and off the ball, with his ability to shoot even more efficiently off the ball a welcomed sign coming to a team with Victor Oladipo often handling things. Yes, Holiday needs to clean up his decision-making in regards to turnovers, but the Pacers see a guy who excels in the pick and roll and can push the pace.

Defensively, the Pacers call Holiday a ‘bulldog’ and love his ability to get underneath the ball due to his smaller height at 6-1. Holiday earned first-team All-Pac 12 defensive team thanks to a 6-7 wingspan and a pesky nature of play.

In 2018-19, Holiday will enter the season as the team’s third point guard, but Pritchard thinks the first-round pick will push for playing time. Why do the Pacers feel like Holiday can defy the odds of most picks in the 20s not turning into full-time starters? Because he’s an elite shooter, who can also more than hold his own on the defensive end of the floor.

Kevin Pritchard Quote to Note: “He goes into the season behind Cory and Darren, but I see him competing for minutes…I would be shocked if he didn’t play some this year. When we look to the future and see Cory on a one-year contract, Darren on a one-year contract, we felt like we really needed to have a point guard in the pipeline that can maybe step into the backup role in the future. When you are picking 23, it’s hard to project a starter because the elite players are usually gone, but he has some characteristics of a starter. He’s tough, little undersized, but he’s willing to compete and that’s what we really wanted.”

 

-Missouri State F-Alize Johnson: When the second round rolls around in the NBA, a smart approach for teams is to find a specialty player. Well Johnson has a clear specialty. That is his elite ability to rebound the basketball.

This is a guy who had 20 double-doubles last season in the Missouri Valley Conference and averaged a double-double in each of his 2 seasons at Missouri State. Currently, the Pacers don’t really have a tenacious/willing/consistent rebounder on their roster. Johnson is that, even though he does it without freakish athletic ability. Indiana could use some depth at power forward, particularly with a player of Johnson’s skillset. Every roster should have a such a player because you never know when that attribute can change a game (i.e. Tristan Thompson in Game 7 of the Pacers/Cavs series).

Now, Johnson definitely has to improve his shot. His shooting numbers plummeted to 28 percent from behind the arc as a senior. The Pacers have noticed a mechanical flaw in Johnson’s shot that must be corrected. Offensively, Johnson is a bit of a rare player at 6-9. He entered high school as a point guard, so Johnson is a very capable dribbler and initiator of the offense.

Until Johnson’s offensive game comes around, he’s not likely to see major minutes. But over the course of an 82-game season, he could make an impact here or three. Depending on the Thad Young decision and how the Pacers potentially fill that 4-spot, Johnson might be competing for a back-end rotational spot this season. But it’s more likely Johnson observes for the vast majority of his rookie campaign.

Kevin Pritchard Quote to Note: “He’s a guy that if you said, ‘Go eat some glass and we are going to win the game.’ He’s probably saying, ‘Do you want salt or pepper?’ With that position, I wanted to have a guy that Nate (McMillan) could throw out into a game and go guard somebody in February. That says, ‘I don’t care about anything. Just put me on the floor in February where everybody is tired and I’m going to do something.’ He’s okay physically gifted. There’s just some guys that are always around the ball. He has an amazing ability to find rebounds outside of his position. If you draw a circle around some people and say this is his rebounding area, his is a big, big rebounding area. I think he can be a guy who is a junkyard defender.”