For many fans, NBA Summer League is merely an excuse to visit Las Vegas … while taking in some quasi-NBA games. Games featuring a bevy of names most casual fans have never heard of before, names that will be long forgotten at the conclusion of the tournament style play.
For those donning the Warriors’ blue and gold jerseys, however, it’s an opportunity to impress the likes of Bob Myers and Steve Kerr with two roster spots open. One of those players making such an impact is Justin Holiday.
The older brother of New Orleans Pelicans point-guard Jrue Holiday, Justin spent the past season in Hungary with Szolnoki Olajbanyasz. In 17 games with the Euro squad, Holiday averaged a modest 10.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting just 35% from the field (34-0f-97). For what it’s worth, 81 of those shots came from beyond the three-point arc.
The Warriors have had their sights on Holiday for quite some time as the Santa Cruz team traded Scott Machado to the Idaho Stampede for Holiday’s D-League player rights in February. Despite not playing in the D-League last season, a player’s rights are valid until they miss two consecutive NBADL seasons.
During his last stint in the D-League, the 6′ 6″ guard from the University of Washington averaged 17 points and nearly six rebounds. He earned a call-up (not by coincidence, perhaps) to the Philadelphia 76ers — which included Jrue at the time — at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season. In nine games the elder Holiday averaged four points and less than two rebounds.
Having played overseas for a season has done wonders for Holiday, who has been the true standout for Golden State’s squad and will likely earn a training camp invite if his improved play continues.
After scoring just two points in the opening LVSL game, Holiday has put together some star-worthy performances with outputs of 26 and 29 points, respectively. In those two games Justin has shot 54% from the field and just under 50% from 3-point range (6-of-13). He’s currently averaging 19 points and six rebounds a game.
Here he is nailing a jumper last night against the Lakers.
— NBA (@NBA) July 15, 2014
It’s crazy to think just a few games could provide such an opportunity for a player, but that’s what the Summer League is all about: finding those end-of-the-bench players to take some quality minutes when needed.
Meanwhile, Nemanja Nedovic has struggled to put together a solid performance. After forgoing LVSL before his rookie season, Nedo is shooting a worrisome 38% from the field in three games while playing over 25 minutes per contest. He scored 17 points in his Summer League debut, but has combined for 12 in the last two games for Golden State.
Nemanja at times has looked lost on the court and unsure of himself while playing in Vegas. The Warriors want a player that can assert himself on the court and run the offense, given the need for point guard depth (even though the team signed Livingston, Nedovic will only help the team at that position).
Nedovic spent most of last season on assignment in Santa Cruz while rehabbing from multiple injuries. It’s entirely possible that he’s still not 100% and is just trying to get back into basketball shape with some of his first competitive games since April.
While Holiday thrives and Nedo struggles, it’s unlikely the Warriors will make any major roster additions before the regular season (unless a certain Love interest manages to move, though highly unlikely at this point). The Warriors won’t max out their roster and hinder flexibility in case a trade needs to be made and so they aren’t locked into deals permanently.
That’s where the D-League comes into play.
I see Holiday taking a similar path to that of Hilton Armstrong. Armstrong was called up by Golden State and then eventually signed through the 2014-15 season after playing and thriving in Santa Cruz. Since Santa Cruz owns Holiday’s NBDL rights, it’s entirely possible he could be used as an insurance policy in case one of their perimeter players gets injured.
Is that ideal for a player? No, but when trying to get back to the NBA sometimes it’s best just to get a foot in the door in hopes of it swinging wide open.