Don’t Forget about Jrue

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Published: December 20, 2014

Jrue Holiday is having the best season of his career. Yes, he is playing better than when he was an eastern conference all-star in 2012-13. In fact, I don’t think it is even close. Despite having a career best year, there are still some fans who aren’t crazy about Holiday. I am not one of them. He is easily my favorite player on this team not named Anthony Davis. Let’s take a look at how good he has been this year.

  • There are 8 guards this year averaging 15 or more points and 7 or more assists. The ones not named Jrue Holiday are Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowery, Jeff Teauge, John Wall, Ty Lawson, and Michael Carter-Williams. That’s pretty good company.
  • Holiday is posting career bests in PER (19.1), true shooting percentage (.528), WS/48 (.124), and turnover percentage (11.9). Those are just the advanced stats. His field goal percentage and his free throw percentage have also never been higher.
  • When Jrue is on the court, the Pelicans offensive rating goes up 11.4 points. The team’s total rebounding percentage, assist percentage, block percentage, steal percentage, and turnover percentage also improve. In short, this team is better when he is on the floor than when he is on the bench.
  • Let’s talk turnovers for a second. That was always the knock on Holiday. He was a good player, but he turned the ball over way too much. When I praise Holiday on twitter, it is almost guaranteed that I will get a comment about his turnover “problem”. His turnovers have gotten a bit worse as the team has instituted more ball movement on offense over the last month. Fine. But he is only averaging 2.0 turnovers per game this season. In case you were wondering, that is tied for the lowest turnover mark in that set of point guards we mentioned in the first bullet point. Chris Paul is actually the other point guard averaging only 2 per game. We’ll talk more about him later.
  • Talking defense is tricky. The problem is with our data. Statistics don’t provide a lot of help when assessing a player’s ability on defense. The best way to measure a player’s ability on defense is to watch the games. If you have been watching, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen what a beast Jrue can be on the defensive end. He has great footwork, and his length makes it difficult for even the most explosive point guards to get around him. He also plays with a ton of heart. Holiday is not afraid of stepping in front of the biggest guys in the league. You don’t have to like his game, but you have to respect his passion.
  • Measuring defense may be hard, but the NBA is trying to change that with their new tracking data. I’m not totally sure how helpful the new data is, but here is what it says about Jrue. A shooter going against Jrue will shoot 1.2% worse than his typical field goal percentage. If we break it down by zone, we see that Jrue is a defensive juggernaut inside. He drops guys shooting percentage by over 7% inside of 10 feet from the rim. That’s impressive. He does struggle to defend outside shooters, though. However, I’m not sure how much of that is Jrue’s inabilities or just a product of the entire team’s weaknesses. Frankly, I tend to lean towards the latter.
  • Do  you know how old Jrue is? He is 24. In fact, he just turned 24. If we go back to our 15 and 7 group of point guards, we will see that Jrue is tied for the second youngest in that group. MCW is the youngest at 23. Don’t forget how young Jrue is and how much room there is for him to grow.
  • Do you know how many games Jrue has played as a Pelican? 59. That’s right. He has only played 59 games as a Pelican. That’s less than 75% of one typical regular season. It is obvious why that number is so low. He was hurt for most of last year. But, why don’t we bring that up more often? Holiday has spent less than a full season on the court with this team. Doesn’t that suggest that he is still learning our system? Or that the chemistry he has with his teammates is still forming? Jrue has been better in December than he was in November. Part of me thinks that the added time on the floor has been a big factor in that improvement. All I’m trying to say is that all signs say he is going to continue to get better.

Let me say a couple of things before wrapping this up. If you want to talk about Jrue, it feels like the discussion ultimately goes back to the trade we made to acquire him. I’m not going to talk about that here, except to make the following comments. I’m tired of talking about that trade. It is over. At this point, it is a sunk and realized cost. Now, I’ve said before and I’ll say again that I think it was a good trade, but it doesn’t matter. There will be people who disagree with me on that no matter what. Let’s just talk about what Jrue is actually doing on the floor.

The other thing I want to address is the negativity about Jrue from some fans. Some people have gone as far as to suggest that he should be benched. Honestly, I didn’t understand where this was coming from, until another Pelicans fan said this to me, “I guess you’re right. Jrue is good, but I’m just used to Chris Paul. I want a Chris Paul type player next to Anthony Davis.” Hmm…

First, there are no Chris Paul type players. There is just a single Chris Paul. Second, not many teams can combine that much talent with two players. If you think there are a lot of teams with that much talent between two players, then I think you are underrating either Paul or Davis. At any rate, Jrue doesn’t need to be Chris for the Pelicans to be successful. Jrue can be himself, and that can help make the Pelicans a winning team. If you don’t believe me, go back and look at those numbers.

My point is simple. Jrue Holiday is great, and he is good for this team. He has shown that he has the potential to be the 3rd, possibly even 2nd, best player on a championship team. It doesn’t matter who he isn’t. What matters is that he is an exceptional player on both ends of the floor, and we can build a team around him and Davis. Jrue and his game are quiet. They can get lost in the shuffle. Regardless, we need to take a minute an appreciate the fact that we are watching a young talented player come into his own. I don’t know about you, but watching Jrue play the best basketball of his career has made this season really fun for me. Let’s just stop and enjoy it.

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