How Jrue Holiday Will Immediately Help the Pelicans’ Offense

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Published: November 18, 2016

There is a lot of excitement on Jrue Holiday’s return to the New Orleans Pelicans tonight. While the focus has been should he start or come off the bench, the real talk should be about how he will specifically help this team.

And help he will.

Holiday is an excellent player, despite injuries and a minutes restriction he posted a PER of 19.7—a career high. And while Holiday is sorely needed his timing will be off, and he will not fix everything himself. But there is one area he can improve the Pelicans’ offense right away.

The pick and roll.

Take a look at the table below:

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Last season the Pelicans ranked as the 9th and 7th best roll man and ball handler team respectively. This season you can see their points per play with the roll man (read: Anthony Davis) is up significantly, and their ranking has jumped all the way to 6th best in the league. It’s one part of the offense that’s working.

The problem rests with the ball handler. The Pelicans’ efficiency with the ball handler has dropped from 0.85 points per play to 0.72 points per play. It ranks the Pelicans 4th worst in the league. Not ideal.

I’d pose a rhetorical question of What’s changed? But everyone already knows. Jrue Holiday hasn’t been with the team. While Tim Frazier has filled in admirably for Holiday for these first 12 games, he is just not an attacking threat as a lead guard. Holiday on the other hand is someone defenses need to fear. The numbers back it up:

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When Frazier is the ball handling guard, teams go under screens and hedge on Anthony Davis, to take away a drive to the rim. Frazier isn’t a good enough shooter to force teams to go over screens. When going under, defenders are able to take passing lanes away from Frazier. If Frazier makes a pass to Davis, there are multiple sets of arms trying to poke the ball away. If he drives because Davis is covered, Frazier runs into two defenders. That’s the reason he turns the ball over more than a quarter of the team as the pick and roll ball handler.

With Holiday returning the Pelicans’ pick and roll game should become a dual threat. Holiday is a capable shooter and dangerous with the ball in his hands. Defenders who go under screens risk giving him enough room to take an open three. Hedge against Davis and Holiday can drive to the rim and finish better than any other (healthy) Pelican guard. He’ll be rusty to start and his timing will be off, but with Holiday back the Pelicans won’t rank 4th worst anymore.

This isn’t meant to just rag on Frazier. He’s a solid backup guard who showed he can excel in the right situation. But as teams have gotten more film of him the ways to defend him have become obvious. But you don’t rank 6th in the league in assists per game with 7.9 without having talent. Frazier does, and when he’s not being defended by starting NBA guards, he’ll have a chance to show why he belongs in this league.

The Pelicans need some help to pull them out of being the 5th worst offensive team. Jrue Holiday, by himself, won’t drag this team into the top 10 in the league, but he can hopefully take them close to the top half by dramatically improving the Pelicans’ pick and roll game.

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