New Orleans Pelicans’ Once and Future All-Star

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Published: February 17, 2017

As the Pelicans approach the All-Star break the main focus will be on Anthony Davis, and, to a lesser extent, Buddy Hield. But there is someone else in New Orleans that people should be paying an eye on.

Jrue Holiday.

Over the last 13 games leading into the All-Star break, Holiday has been playing fantastic, smart basketball. And it’s exactly what the Pelicans have needed.

Before diving into the numbers, a theory on what started this run for the Pelicans’ point guard. There is a clear point from where Holiday seemed to step up his play. That was the game January 23rd against the Cavaliers. That night the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans upset the NBA champions. Without Anthony Davis on the court, someone had to step up and be the go-to scorer. Most will remember Terrence Jones, but Holiday posted 33-10-6 that night.

As the Pelicans offense has struggled all season it’s been the AD Show with him maybe getting some marginal help carrying the load. But since that Cavs game, Holiday has stayed in that aggressive mindset, and it has paid off.

Take a look at some of the numbers below:

But look at the USG%. It’s increased less than 2 percent. Yet Holiday is scoring much more while not taking away many opportunities from Davis.It’s an increase of 5.5 points per game, about 1 assist more, and significantly better shooting. For an offensively challenged team that is certainly a huge help. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always translated into wins as the Pelicans are 6-7 during this stretch. But the Pelicans needed a second scorer to play alongside Anthony Davis, and right now Holiday is playing like one.

So, what is Holiday doing? Much better/efficient shot selection. Take a look at his table for the current season:

Now take a look at it since the Cavs game:

More shots at the rim, higher shooting percentage at the rim, and more three-point attempts. That’s ideal efficiency.

Now, what has changed to cause Holiday to play like this? Obviously, the need to step up and carry part of the scoring load has gotten into Holiday’s head—which is great! In this 13 game stretch he has played with much more aggressiveness and decisiveness. Rather than looking to probe the defense and act as a facilitator to others Holiday sees a lane/opportunity and attacks. It’s a bit reminiscent of Tyreke Evans. Just with more control.

Look at it in action:

Holiday gains control of the ball and just goes. No dribbling looking for teammates to move, he’s sees the lane to the basket and attacks. What’s more is how he uses his body to stop Marc Gasol from making a play on the ball. Holiday uses his back to push Gasol a little bit. That creates the separation he needs to score on a reverse layup.

This layup is very similar. Holiday sees the lane and attacks. He keeps his body small—no arm out wide dribbling, full control on the drive. He uses his left shoulder to prevent Mike Conley from being able to make any defensive play, then seals Conley off with his left arm as he gets past him. Look how frustrated Conley is afterwards!

While the Pelicans may or may not be out of the playoffs, the rest of the season will be very decisive for this franchise. While Dell Demps scours the market for an offensive center, the team has another decision looming over them: Holiday will be a free agent and do they offer him the near-max deal it would take to resign him?

If Holiday keeps playing like he has then that’s a no-brainer because sooner rather than later he’ll be back in the All-Star game.

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