Jrue Holiday – Is It Really That Bad?

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Published: November 7, 2017

When the Pelicans signed Jrue Holiday to a 5-year, $126 million contract, they figured they would be getting their third key All-Star. He would help bolster the Pelicans roster with scoring from the guard position and play gritty and athletic defense.

At the Pelicans press conference in early July, Demps made it clear that Jrue was at the top of their priorities in free agency. “We’re excited to have Jrue back in New Orleans,” the General Manager said. “Since the outset of free agency, he’s been our number one priority … On the court we feel Jrue defines the two-way player. We believe his best years are in front of him.”

Plenty of optimism was present on that day from the organisation. People were far more sceptical outside, with many poking fun at the Pelicans for committing so much money to such an unproven commodity.

New Orleans currently sits at 5-5 with many fans and pundits having been disheartened at Holiday’s performance thus far. Currently he’s averaging 13.5 points and is shooting 26% from three, both well under his career averages.

But, are things really as bad as they seem? Is Jrue Holiday performing as it seems?

Digging into the numbers

It’s clear that when you look at the numbers that Holiday isn’t playing well. He’s shooting 42% from the field, the worst mark of his career. Same with his PPG (13.5) and 3-point mark (26%). Of guards that are averaging at least 30 minutes a game, Jrue has the 4th worst TS% (48%). The only guards that are worse are Lonzo Ball, Justin Holiday and Austin Rivers.

 

Holiday has never been known to draw many fouls, but his current Free-Throw rate is dismal at .112, the lowest of his career. His outside game isn’t much more impressive, he’s yet to hit a three pointer in November (0 for 13 currently). Among those qualifying guards (30 mins/g) Jrue has the worst three-point percentage outside of Ben Simmons who hasn’t hit a three all season. It’s that bad.

The Pelicans offensive rating goes from 89.7 to 107.7 with him off the court, a jump of 18 points per 100 possessions. That is massive.

OK, so is there anything that we can deem positive or innately promising?

Jrue ranks 9th in the league for guards in FG% within 10 feet of the basket at 65.5%. It seems that he’s doing a far better job of converting around the basket as he was converting 56.5% last season for the same distance.

However, despite his invigorated and much improved ability to hit closer to the basket, he isn’t drawing more fouls. Remember, his FTr is the worst it’s ever been in his career.

Since the Boogie trade Jrue has averaged 13.6 points, shot 42% from the field and 28% from three all with less than 1.5 FTA’s per game. His True Shooting percentage ~50% would be one of the worst for guards over that period.

Whether it’s been the addition of Boogie or something else, Jrue hasn’t seemed as aggressive for long periods of time. The only game where he seemed to be more determined to get his shot was against Cleveland. Holiday’s usage rate this season is the lowest it’s ever been since his rookie season.

Turnovers have been a seemingly repeated issue for Holiday. His TOV% is at 16.6% though, not really all that abnormal for him (16.3% for career). However, he’s not creating for his team-mates as well as he needs to. Though he’s averaging 6.2 assists per-game, his assist % (25.3%) is very poor for a guard that the Pelicans need him to be.

That actually puts the turnover rate into perspective. Even though it’s not that ridiculously high, he’s not at all taking the risks he should to create for his team-mates.

Holiday’s defense is the key skill and attribute which makes him such a valuable player on the team. Often he’ll be tasked at taking the opponents best guard or even small-forward. For the most part Holiday is a fantastic defender. His lateral movement is excellent and he’s very good at anticipating his opponents moves.

But this season there are a few things that are off the mark somewhat. First, his steal % is the lowest it’s ever been at 1.6%. His defensive Box-Plus-Minus is also not fantastic at 0.1 and isn’t at all off-setting his woeful offensive start to the season.

That’s the important nugget to take from this, his defensive output isn’t covering up his offensive deficiencies to give the team the net-positive it requires for such a large investment.

What to make of all this

It’s been a truly awful start to the season for Jrue Holiday. He’s not shooting nearly as well as he usually does. I would expect that to return to normal once Rondo gets into the line-up. He just won’t stay at the same mark he’s currently on.

However, the same issues that Pelican fans have been witness to over the last few years remain. Holiday can’t get to the foul line, an important trait for NBA guards. He’s not a terrific ball handler with numerous spurts of turnovers in key situations where he’s been asked to initiate the offense.

Jrue is off to a rough start. Because his jump shoot isn’t falling as it usually does, his negative impact is made bigger and bigger. He’s not being aggressive, which isn’t all that unusual. But even for him he’s not taking the risks he normally does and will often just disappear for long stretches.

He’ll be better, but it’s not entirely certain that he’ll be what the Pelicans need him to be – a top 10 player at his position. In no category is Jrue a top-10 guard (outside of FG% within 10 feet). Not in assists, free-throw rate, scoring or any category you can think of.

His style of play doesn’t show any real developments, he’s not doing anything drastically different from a style point of view. This season he’s playing the same type of game, he’s just not performing to his career standards. Eventually numbers will work their way back towards the mean.

But in the long run that’s not why the Pelicans gave him the $126 million contract. They need him to improve and develop, not be behind his career numbers hoping to work his way back to the average. They need their 3rd All-Star.

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