Season in Review: Jrue Holiday

Published: May 28, 2014

The Acquisition

It would be hard to start a Jrue Holiday season recap without first mentioning how he was acquired.  On the night of the 2014 NBA Draft, the Pelicans traded the #6 pick (Nerlens Noel) and next year’s pick (which became the 10th pick after the lottery) for Jrue Holiday and the rights to Pierre Jackson.

Critics immediately questioned the deal, speculating that the Pelicans gave up too many assets and too much financial flexibility for Jrue, who was considered a fine piece but not worthy of the haul the 76ers poached from the Pelicans. It has been a widely discussed topic in NBA circles this season and will likely remain a heavily trafficked topic until the Pelicans make a splash in the playoffs. Anthony Davis’s presence will force the team’s decisions under a microscope for as long as he is here.

But discussing the ramifications of the Jrue trade is another piece for another time. For now, I’d like to focus on Jrue the player: where he was, where he is, and where he is going.

The Story of Past Seasons

Special thanks to Kyle Neubeck of Liberty Ballers and Crab Dribbles for the information below, which describes Jrue’s time in Philadelphia.

Jrue Holiday’s time in Philadelphia was more about the idea of what he could become rather than who he was as a player. With the Sixers still stuck in a cycle of mediocrity, he was tasked with running a team and readjusting to playing the point after being moved off the ball at UCLA. He was able to squeeze assists out of a roster devoid of shooters / scorers, but that was offset by a bit of a turnover problem. His pick and roll proficiency was (and likely is) still a bit of a mystery due to a lack of athletic bigs alongside him, which made the Bynum saga especially crushing. Holiday’s biggest offensive issue was his aversion to contact, which kept his free throw attempts low and put way too much pressure on him to knock down shots. On nights when they weren’t falling, his value plummeted.

Defensively is where Holiday has probably received the most adulation, and rightfully so. When he was engaged, he showed the length and the quickness to corral even the best ball-handlers, an important skill given the amount of quality guards currently in the league. His main issue was something that afflicts many young players: being too aggressive. Whether that manifested itself in overzealous isolation defense or jumping into passing lanes, Holiday was still figuring out when and when not to gamble defensively. It’s a small complaint given his proficiency on D, but not an unnoticeable one.

The most important thing to note is Holiday is 23 and still learning, and hasn’t necessarily had the proper tools around him to develop. Assuming health — his injury in New Orleans is the first major time he has ever missed — he projected as a great secondary piece on a good team, or capable of being the primary option for a middling team. With a big man like Anthony Davis, I think you’ll see what he’s really capable of within the next couple seasons.

The Story of this Season

Preseason/Beginning of the season

First 8 Games


Jrue Holiday’s assimilation into the New Orleans Pelicans lineup was hardly smooth. He struggled in the preseason with turnovers and appeared to have trouble finding his niche in the Pelicans offense.  Ryan Anderson’s absence due to injury only exacerbated Jrue’s struggles.  To start the season, Pelicans fans were treated to a steady diet of midrange jumpers and stagnant offense. The Pelicans were failing to capitalize on a favorable early schedule and Jrue’s difficult transition only compounded the damage.

Rest of Season

Final 26 Games

Jrue 2

But Jrue soon adapted to the team and became exactly what optimistic fans had envisioned for the budding 23 year old point guard. His assists per game spiked, his turnovers went down, and he began to find his role within the Pelicans squad; that role varied by night. In some games, it was the role of Jrue the defender, and in others it was Jrue the facilitator. Sometimes he just chose to take over, as he did in the game versus Portland (video below). And though I will complain about Jrue’s hesitance to attack in certain situations later in this article, he has a very good feel of when to find others and when to take it himself.

The Injury

On Friday, January 10th, it was announced that Jrue Holiday would be out indefinitely from a stress fracture in his tibia. Whatever slim chance the Pelicans had of making the playoffs was all but eliminated, and the announcement was especially crushing because it occurred just a few days after Ryan Anderson suffered a serious injury.

Career Statistics Evolution

Advanced Statistics 

2009-10 19 73 12.3 .526 .502 .165 .306 3.7 9.1 6.4 24.4 2.3 21.9 18.4
2010-11 20 82 15.4 .525 .487 .209 .222 2.7 10.5 6.6 29.0 2.2 16.7 20.8
2011-12 21 65 14.7 .496 .471 .144 .205 2.9 7.9 5.4 21.6 2.5 13.2 21.8
2012-13 ★ 22 78 16.7 .496 .466 .188 .192 3.3 9.5 6.4 36.5 2.2 17.3 26.6
2013-14 23 34 17.1 .505 .480 .139 .170 2.8 11.8 7.2 38.9 2.6 17.9 23.3
Career 332 15.3 .508 .478 .176 .214 3.1 9.6 6.3 29.8 2.3 17.0 22.4
4 seasons 298 15.1 .508 .478 .180 .219 3.1 9.4 6.2 28.8 2.3 16.9 22.3
1 season 34 17.1 .505 .480 .139 .170 2.8 11.8 7.2 38.9 2.6 17.9 23.3
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/27/2014.


It feels strange to say this, but I believe Jrue Holiday is TOO patient running the pick and roll. There is a possibility that Jrue is being asked to run too much offense and that he is being less aggressive by necessity, but there are many times where I think Jrue misses an opening in the defense and pulls the ball back out. I wouldn’t consider this a weakness if I didn’t think Jrue was capable of getting to the rim more, and therein lies the problem: I think he can do more.

Turning the Corner

Jrue struggles to beat hedges from mobile bigs and his inability to penetrate sometimes results in a stagnant possession. Opponents concentrated on taking away Anthony Davis’s rolls to the rim this season, and the lack of shooters on the weak side of the floor basically prevented the Pelicans from making them pay for cheating on the roll. Opponents could take away AD’s roll and Jrue’s penetration simultaneously without much concern for the consequences.


Jrue has never been a player who took great care of the ball and this season was no different. Though he is not reckless, Jrue is prone to leaving his feet when passing and also losing the ball while dribbling. According to, Jrue had 57 bad passes, 42 ball-handling turnovers, and 6 offensive fouls. His 2.17 assist/turnover ratio is slightly below average for a point guard and may validate the notion that he is being asked to do too much on offense. Anthony Davis’s progression as a primary offensive threat moving forward may alleviate some of the concern and an increase in AD’s usage may have a positive effect on Jrue’s turnover rate.

Struggles Versus Elite Defenders

This video is hardly a representative sample of Jrue’s season, but it highlights one of his main issues: he struggles to get into the offense versus elite defenders. Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets hounded him (see above) for the entire game and Jrue also struggled versus Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns. Aggressive, athletic guards can give him trouble sometimes, and that’s one of the reasons I do not want him to be a dominant ball-handler in the Pelicans offense.

Finishing at the Rim

Despite his athleticism and size, Jrue has never been a great finisher at the rim, and actually posted a very poor conversion rate at the basket this season. He highly prefers driving and finishing with his left hand, where he is probably close to an average finisher at the rim. However, his finishing at the rim with his right hand leaves much to be desired. His struggles to create a high level of separation from defenders undoubtedly factor into his finishing woes.



There was some question before the season as to how the players in the Pelican guard trio would react to having a smaller piece of the pie. That issue was immediately put to rest with Jrue, who displayed no hesitance to share the ball with any and every teammate. His defensive effort had no correlation with how many shots he was getting or how often the ball was in his hands. Jrue was someone the Pelicans could count on to make the right plays for his teammates.


As Kyle mentioned earlier, Jrue’s defense was his hallmark skill as a 76er, and his defensive abilities were on full display this season. Jrue’s length, athleticism, and IQ on defense were a welcome change after 2012-13’s Greivis Vasquez treated seemingly every NBA point guard to a 25 point dinner. Jrue is not quite the “I’m going to hound you end to end all game” type like Avery Bradley or Patrick Beverley, but he pressures at the point of attack, bothers passing lanes, fights around screens, and has an acute awareness of defensive responsibilities. I will wager that he sometimes helps too far off of shooters, but I am not sure whether it is a function of Monty Williams’s scheme or a lapse of judgment. Either way, the occasional defensive gamble is a small price to pay for what is typically excellent defense.

Jrue is also capable of switching onto bigger assignments due to his strength and savvy, which is something I could see helping tremendously once the Pelicans start playing in the playoffs. If Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday are the backcourt of the future, you can virtually switch everything without much consequence.

Spot Up Shooting

It’s hard to foster a reputation as a knockdown spot up threat when your team heavily relies on your ability as a playmaker, and Jrue’s position as a primary ball-handler helped hide one of Jrue’s greatest skills: spot-up shooting. Although Jrue still hasn’t been able to showcase this skill to the level that I would like him to, there were undoubtedly glimpses of what is an excellent spot up game.  Jrue can flat-out shoot.

Pull Up Jumper

The midrange jumper is typically an inefficient shot, but Jrue consistently drilled his midrange looks, knocking down 44.4% of his shots in the area. I don’t have a problem with Jrue taking this shot, because Jrue does an excellent job taking his jumper in rhythm, often using a step back to create separation from his defender. It is a smooth motion and he is almost always completely balanced.. there is nothing rushed about it. I believe that there’s a huge difference between forcing a “cool” contested fadeaway J from midrange and taking space a defender shouldn’t give you and rising up for a relatively uncontested jumper. Jrue’s is the latter and I am fine with it, so long as he is at least looking to penetrate first.


Jrue’s total rebounding rate of 7.2% surpassed the 2012-13 positional averages for both shooting guards (6.4%) and point guards (5.2%). **Note: HoopData is the only place I know to get this information and they shut down at the beginning of last season** The Pelicans guards assume a good bit of rebounding duty and his career high could be influenced by a different role, but nevertheless, his rebounding was unequivocally a positive on a Pelicans team that struggled to deny opponents second-chance opportunities.


Though Jrue is not be the ball-controlling point guard that Monty may want him to be, he is unmistakably a good passer and one who has a good feel for the abilities of his teammates.  Again, it took him some time to get accustomed to a new system and new players, but you could see signs of emerging rapport with teammates before a stress fracture ended his season. His passes are crisp and he finds shooters in rhythm, particularly Ryan Anderson. He is also capable of dumping off to bigs on drives if a shot-blocker leaves his man open to contest Jrue.

Ability to Make an Impact without Scoring

Anthony Davis is often referred to as a unique superstar because he is able to make an impact on the game without scoring a point.  Jrue is similar, though clearly to a much lesser extent.  Jrue’s versatility allows him to make an impact as a scorer, facilitator, rebounder, or defender. Very few NBA players are immune to poor scoring nights, and it is of paramount importance to be able to make an impact elsewhere. Jrue can.

Other Notes

  • Many of Jrue’s assists in transition came from hitting a streaking Anthony Davis or from giving the ball up early to Eric Gordon or Tyreke Evans. As athletic as Jrue is, he is not wired to run end to end like Ty Lawson or Russell Westbrook. In fact, he is a very poor transition scorer.
  • Aside from Davis, the Pelicans had a shortage of players who knew when/where to cut to the basket, but Jrue was good at recognizing the rare moments where someone made a smart cut. And I do mean rare.
  • Jrue is capable of hitting shooters on the opposite wing with a skip pass, but also leaves his feet to pass, which is a factor in many of his turnovers. Aggressive defenses can capitalize on this bad habit.
  • We didn’t see a lot of it this year, but Jrue appears to be comfortable posting up smaller defenders. MySynergySports has him down for only 19 possessions, so it’s hard to derive anything conclusive from the video. However, it appears that Jrue is strong enough to establish position and is comfortable working on either block.. but again, you just can’t draw sweeping conclusions from 19 possessions.
  • Ideally, Tyreke and Jrue will take turns initiating the offense next year, and Jrue’s ability to play off the ball should help a lot in this regard.  We saw it some with team USA.. Jrue is capable of coming off a curl, receiving the ball, and making a play. In fact, it is very effective because it gives him a step on his man and there is often an easy decision following the curl, which he is more than capable of making.
  • I have lamented Jrue’s inability to be aggressive in the pick and roll, but he registered excellent stats in isolation, scoring 1.03 PPP, good for 10th best in the league. Despite this encouraging statistic, isolation is not a big part of his game, and it’s hard to believe that he is truly one of the best isolation players in the NBA. However, the way he attacks in isolation is markedly different from how he attacks in the pick and roll. There is a gear that he can access in isolation that he doesn’t tap into much otherwise, and his hesitations and fakes are effective at the 1 v 1 level. As I mentioned earlier, I would like Jrue to have less responsibility creating for others. I think he is at his best when the offense doesn’t depend on him assuming a majority share of the playmaking duty.


The Outlook


**I apologize for the font size of this table.. click on the table to enlarge

The 4 man lineup of Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, and Ryan Anderson was wildly successful in a small sample of games, so there is no evidence to suggest that this combination of players couldn’t be very successful moving forward. Clearly, there are plenty of defensive issues to address with this 4 man combination (107.9 is, um, bad), but the offense is scintillating when these players are on the court together. And for the throngs of Pelicans fans screaming for pace- this unit runs a pretty quick one. But I am far less concerned with pace and more concerned with units outscoring opponents.. which they did.

I am very happy moving forward with Jrue Holiday as one of the building blocks of the Pelicans franchise. The Pelicans already have their foundational piece in Anthony Davis and must find players who can fit as secondary options around him; Jrue fits that bill. He can defend, rebound, score, pass, and is a steadying force and consummate professional. He doesn’t complain about not getting the ball enough or dog it on defense, and most importantly, he is cognizant that this is Anthony Davis’s franchise to carry.

Oh yeah, one more thing. You play for the Pelicans now, Jrue!!


For a look at all the Season in Review pieces, click here.



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