In Aaron Holiday, did Wizards find a second Neto?


Raul Neto was such a successful free agent signing for the Wizards last offseason, that no one could fault them for trying to replicate the move. This summer, they decided to not only re-sign Neto, who had a career year in his first season in Washington, but also bring in a guy in Aaron Holiday who is statistically the same player.

Really, the similarities between the two players are kind of eerie. Holiday, who arrived in a trade from the Pacers, is listed by Basketball Reference at 6-feet tall and 185 pounds. Neto is listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds.

Both have served as backup point guards in different-sized roles. But their career per-36 numbers match up almost identically with Neto standing out for shooting a higher percentage from the field:

Holiday (2019-21)
182 G, 14.6 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 spg, 2.0 to/g, 3.0 pf, 40.3 FG%/37.2 3PT%/83.2 FT%

Neto (2016-21)
317 G, 13.2 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 spg, 2.2 to/g, 3.1 pf, 45.2 FG%/38.2 3PT%/81.7 FT%

They are the statistical equivalent of the Spiderman meme. But it's not just traditional numbers that show parallels, there is also defensive real plus-minus which general manager Tommy Sheppard cited after the Wizards signed Neto last offseason. Sure enough, Holiday also shows up well in the stat, ranking seventh among point guards in 2019-20 and 23rd the year before while serving in a backup role.

Like Neto, Holiday has a reputation for tough defense despite being undersized for his position. He often punches above his weight and, also like Neto, is a threat from long range.

Sheppard sees a likeness in their intangibles.

"Yes, [Holiday's] defensive metrics are awesome. But his grit that he displayed in our workouts... it’s something we saw throughout his college career and that he displayed when he was in our building. It’s something we’ve seen when he’s had opportunities to play. It’s just finding that right niche. Raul, it was the same deal. I watched Raul play with the Brazilian national team. I traveled with their international team when they were in Spain and I saw it in Raul when he was a young man when he was playing in international games. Those things just kind of replay themselves," Sheppard said.

The Wizards noticed those elements in Neto's game and felt he presented upside if given a larger, different role than he had played for other NBA teams in the past. That bet paid off tremendously, as he became one of the most reliable players on the 2020-21 Wizards, who made the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Neto set career-highs in scoring (8.7 ppg), rebounding (2.4 rpg), steals (1.1 spg) and field goal percentage (46.8%). He did so while playing a variety of positions and roles for the Wizards, including starting games at the three.

Perhaps something similar could happen for Holiday, who saw his minutes and also his production drop last season in a reduced role with the Indiana Pacers. He's coming over to Washington in a contract year (like it was for Neto last season) with a fairly defined role as one of the top-three point guards on the roster, along with Neto and starter Spencer Dinwiddie. Whether he ends up as the No. 2 or the No. 3, there should be plenty of minutes offered.

The three of them, including Dinwiddie, are known for being able to defend. Though Holiday and Neto are of similar size, Dinwiddie brings a different element at 6-foot-5, even taller than starting shooting guard Bradley Beal.

With three point guards who can defend, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. can rely on that position to consistently set a tone at the top of their defense. There will be no weak link between them on that end of the floor, while each will bring different skillsets to the offensive end.

Last season, as Neto was thriving, the Wizards could have used more players just like him. Now, they may have two.

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