Quick Hits: The Pelicans Aren’t Better Without Jrue

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Published: February 3, 2015

The Pelicans are playing their best basketball of the season. They just beat the hottest team in the NBA, the Hawks, who entered the game on a 19 game winning streak. Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon have been in perpetual attack mode and are setting up others incredibly well. Some of the fans/analysts searching for a reason to explain the resurgence of the Pelicans have pointed out that not much has changed.. save for the absence of Jrue Holiday, who has been sidelined since halftime of the Jan 12 game against Boston. So the question has been raised: are the Pelicans better without Jrue Holiday?

The simple answer: no.  The Pelicans certainly weren’t better when they were outscored by 8 in the 2nd half against Boston.  They weren’t better without Jrue when they lost to the 76ers and the Knicks on the road.  The Pelicans resurgence is better explained by these 2 things:

  1. The Pelicans are in the midst of their longest stretch of home games to date.
  2. Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter are eating up the minutes once occupied by Luke Babbitt and Austin Rivers.

Starting Lineup Comparison (filtered by home games)

Holiday

 

The Jrue-Gordon-Evans-AD-Asik starting lineup demolished its opponents in the 7 home games that it played, outscoring opponents by 22 points per 100 possessions.  The Gordon-Evans-Cunningham-AD-Asik starting lineup employed post-Jrue has also been excellent in its limited time and there has been a negligible dropoff in Net Rating. To be clear, both of these lineup samples are extremely limited.

But it’s not just the starting lineup: Jrue has rated as one of the Pelicans’ best players all year, as Mason Ginsberg pointed out today.

I’m not here to say that the starting lineup of Jrue-Gordon-Evans-AD-Asik optimizes the potential of all players, because Eric Gordon has been a fantastic playmaker since Jrue has gone down, and I do believe that EG getting more opportunities to create for himself/others has played a large role in his increased production. And given how little dropoff there has been in the starting unit, maybe it would be better to bring Jrue, EG, or Reke off of the bench.  But to hypothesize that Jrue’s injury sparked this incredible Pelican run would ignore the evidence that the starting lineup that opened the season was extremely effective in its limited time together. Jrue played in 17 home games and the Pelicans were 12-5 in those home games.There have been 2 major things holding the Pelicans back this year: the depth and the team’s performance on the road. The depth been so much better since adding Pondexter and Cunningham. The road woes? We’ll see.

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