Discover more from Fieldhouse Files with Scott Agness
Pacers exercise options on rookie deals of Aaron Holiday, Goga Bitadze
Both moves were expected, guaranteeing their contracts through the 2021-22 season.
The Pacers’ last two first-round picks received good news on the eve of opening night. The team exercised contract options of both Aaron Holiday and Goga Bitadze for the 2021-22 season, as expected. That’s worth $3.9 million and $3.1 million, respectively.
Holiday averaged 9.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game during his sophomore campaign, starting in 33 of 66 games when Malcolm Brogdon and others missed time due to injury. He’s entering a season where he could produce even more, especially under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren.
Holiday, 24, wants to play fast, likes getting out in the open floor and shot 39.4 percent from range last season. He hasn't complained about his role, but it’s clear he would benefit from a more predictable schedule.
“I don’t think we really talked about a role yet,” Holiday said earlier this month, “but he expects for me to come out and play hard, get up and down. We’re going to play at a faster pace this year so that should help me out a lot — making plays for my teammates, getting to the basket, driving and kicking, pressuring up on defense.”
Meanwhile, Bitadze appeared in 52 games last season and averaged 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. But the 2019 draft pick is on a run of bad luck. First, he sat out of the first two preseason games due to an ankle sprain. Now, the 21-year-old center is out indefinitely to start the season after suffering a Grade 2 right ankle sprain in practice.
“He had a bad ankle in the preseason game that he played on that he had hurt earlier, but he was full and cleared to play,” Bjorkgren said. “But he actually hurt it again in practice. He’s getting better every day. He wants to play so bad and he’s a good, young player who just wants to be on the floor.”
The Pacers now have eight players under contract through the 2021-21 season. Notable unrestricted free agents this upcoming summer include Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, T.J. McConnell and JaKarr Sampson.