A Holiday Weekend – How the Former Allstar Will Immediately Help the Pelicans’ Defense

Published: November 21, 2016

During last week’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the best word David Wesley and Joel Meyers came up with to describe Jrue Holiday’s offense was “smooth.” After the game Alvin Gentry praised the “flow” of the offense throughout and even went on to say it was their most complete performance of the season. Yes, everything went swimmingly in Jrue Holiday’s first game, a 113-101 win.

He poured in 21 points in 23 minutes off the bench and dished out 7 assists (full highlights here). Holiday was noticeably hoarse after the game, which he attributed to a lot of cheering and talking. It was more yelling than talking, but it was on both sides of the ball, directing, asking, moving, it was all smooth.

Anthony Davis had quite the night of his own. He scored 38 on 14-22 shooting and filled up the rest of the boxscore: 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks, 2 steals, +16. All the Pelicans’ other pieces showed up that night in one way or another, but the story was about Holiday and Davis. It looked just as good the next night against the Charlotte Hornets. In 30 minutes Holiday put up 22 on 9-17 shooting to go with 9 assists (and Davis had his 2nd straight 38 point game) to bring the Pelicans back from down 14 in the 4th Q and win in OT 121-116.

It honestly looked like they picked up right where they left off. When Holiday is in the game, the offense is improved for exactly the reasons Jake Madison laid out for us:

Jrue’s ability to use Pick and Rolls to move the defense and get himself and others (Davis) good looks changes everything for this offense.

And his ability to drive and get into the paint is something this team has been sorely lacking.

Holiday’s return won’t be as impactful on the other end of the court, but it will be a big help for a number of reasons. To start, he has all the tools. Holiday walks in the door as the Pelicans’ most athletic and capable perimeter defender. The Pels go from having no point guard over 6’2″ to having one of the biggest and longest in the league.

(you can also see him yelling at Hill to push it after the rebound above, which is awesome)
He has the quickness to help inside and get back out to contest on the perimeter.


He also has good anticipation and positional awareness. I’m not saying he’s 1st team all defense, that he fixes all the Pelicans’ defensive issues, or anything like that, but he is good, and it showed in the last two games. The Pelicans have been in more close games down the stretch than any other team in the NBA so far this season, Holiday could make the difference in a couple of those games.


Mason Ginsberg dug into some of the lineup data last week, and the results were what you’d expect. The most used lineups were competitive, all the rest were horrid. With Holiday back you have a 2-way player (your 2nd best 2-way player) that you can plug in to take minutes away from a worse fit or a worse player. You can trust him to defend on or off ball reliably, so he can play with any of the now growing choices in the backcourt. Last season Holiday made one of the biggest differences in the Pels Defensive Rating, I expect the same will happen this season.

He’s one more guy you can normally expect to be in the right position, and that isn’t a positive limited to him. Team defense is about playing off one another. If he is reliable in his positioning, it makes it easier on everyone else to be where they are supposed to be.

There’s a confidence level that we have when he’s on the floor

-Alvin Gentry on Holiday’s importance to the team

The defense is still a work in progress, and Holiday’s return is just another incremental improvement. Well, hopefully more than incremental.

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