One of the things I, and many scouts, look for in NBA Draft prospects is how they look in their worst statistical games. For this exercise, I wanted to dissect the number one player on my board, Ron Holland, in the game December 29 against Rio Grande Valley (Houston Rockets G League affiliate). In this matchup, Holland’s stat line was: 6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 3 turnovers on 3-9 shooting. Before conducting a play-by-play breakdown of the 8 plays that stood out, for context the 3 makes Holland had in this game were from 2 transition scores and a cut behind a screen for a finish over a smaller defender at the rim.
Starting light for the first play, I don’t mind this play much, but some scouts may have an issue with him passing up the cutter in transition. However, Holland is talented enough that down the road he should not only be able to take this, but make this shot if he is being projected as the top pick in the draft. Stars get more of a ‘pass’ on plays like this, since they are more adept at finishing tough plays. This pass would have had a slim margin for error, and could have been telegraphed by number 66 if not executed properly.
Holland’s jump shot was off in this game, highlighting his questionable shooting consistency. In this play, not only does he lose his legs in the middle of his shot, but he also panics from the closeout, forcing a short airball. This was the most alarming shot of the game, because the NBA is full of hard contests with much more intimidating closeouts than this.
Another play with an inconsistent release, this one with a focus at the top of the shot. I had to watch this in half-speed and zoomed in to notice this, but his follow-through doesn’t go straight down like it should. Instead, his follow-through flicks down, turns left, then back down. This ultimately gets reflected in the lack of a shooter’s bounce on the shot, and is something he must work on getting 100% of the time to improve his 3 point shot.
Finally, ending with a more positive play, Holland’s timing of when he releases is early here, resulting in the long miss. However, this isn’t an entirely negative play given his space creation out of the isolation and how the defender cannot get a contest. However, mastering his timing, which seems inconsistent between off the dribble jumpers and catch & shoot jumpers, is essential for him in improving his jumper.
The finale of the shot attempts, this was the only play that really had me scratching my head. This was an extremely weird play, with Holland picking up the loose ball, navigating through a couple of defenders to find a path to the rim, but forgets the second defender that was behind him. Even more frustrating, Holland goes back up without any hesitation after the first block, which leads to a second block. Ideally, he should be looking out for the open teammate as soon as he recognizes the first double team, knowing the numbers favor the offense. This same kind of play also happened against Santa Cruz earlier in the season, meaning these types of decisions are a must-fix near the rim. While it is good to be aggressive in going back up on the offensive rebound, this type of play has a time and place. Instead, he is better off using his court vision to find one of his teammates open calling for the ball on the perimeter.
In this play, Holland is so fixated on losing his on-ball defender that he again doesn’t notice the trailing defender. This is an awareness issue that has plagued him all year with turnovers, which he has more of than assists. Seeing the second defender better up the court will go a long way not only in improving his assist-to-ratio, a coveted stat for draft prospects, but it will also likely help his overall court efficiency.
Moving to playmaking, both of Holland’s assists were impressive. The first was an isolation drive, spinning away from the trap defender in the corner and into empty space, and not only snatching the ball as the reach from his right comes, but also during his spin he keeps himself ready to find the open teammate through the defensive breakdown.
The second assist for Holland in this game, he does a great job of not only doing it in this play, but all throughout the season, of changing direction and going into traffic at the rim. In this play, unlike the first play of this film breakdown, he manipulates the defense and immediately recognizes that his teammate has an open layup if he passes the ball. Holland’s ability to draw in defenders on drives is a key strength to his game. Maximizing that skill to make his teammates better on a more constant basis will go a long way for him as a playmaker.
While this game was a low for him in the G League season, there were fixable mistakes that should improve as he matures. Ultimately, he still found ways to get to his spots and make the right plays, and he never got out of control or created bad habits on the floor. Outside of two shots (the two that got blocked in a row), he took good shots and his turnovers weren’t detrimental mistakes, but rather were growing pains.
Holland has been inconsistent as a shooter all year, but his free throw percentage is where he can separate himself. Right now in the regular season of the G League, he has been phenomenal at the free throw line, shooting over 80% in a handful of games. Remember, his free throw sample size will likely always be less than his college peers, since the G League only gives one free throw as a do-or-die attempt. Mastering his timing and continuing to make sure he gets a full and correct follow-through on jumpers is key. Additionally, synchronizing his shooting mechanics and release on spot-up and off the dribble attempts will be a major factor in how successful he becomes as an NBA shooter.
Additionally, if he can have better awareness as a ball-handler, both at the rim off of rebounds and as a ball-handler going into traffic and near traps, he will easily unlock his high offensive upside that make him an ideal modern wing at the top of the 2024 NBA Draft.