Jrue Holiday is Primed for a Breakout Season in New Orleans

Since coming to New Orleans, Jrue Holiday has struggled to stay on the floor.

Leg injuries took most of his first two seasons for the Pelicans, but his 2016 campaign should give Pelicans fans cautious optimism for the upcoming season.

New Orleans made offseason splashes in 2013, first executing a sign and trade for Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans, and then trading the rights to Nerlens Noel to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday. Holiday was coming off his first ever All-Star game appearance, after posting a stat line of 17.7 points and 8 assists a game.

In his four seasons in Philadelphia, Holiday played in an average of 74.5 games a year. In his first two seasons in New Orleans, he combined for 74 games. Right-leg surgery for a tibia stress fracture ended his 2013-14 season. The injury flared up again and ended his 2014-15 season, after just 40 games.

Rightfully so, people began to question if Holiday could ever be healthy enough to be worth the four-year, 41 million dollar extension he received from Philadelphia before being traded.

But then, in 2015-16, Holiday produced the second-best year of his career. Beginning the season on a minutes restriction, Holiday started only 23 games. The biggest thing, though, was that he played in 65 games. The most since 2013, his final year in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, his season was cut short once again by injury. Holiday missed the final nine games after fracturing his eye socket during a collision with New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis.

Once the minute restriction was lifted, it was quite easy to see why Holiday was worth giving up two first round picks.

Jrue Holiday Points Rebounds Assists Free Throw %
Pre All-Star Break 15.0 2.9 5.5 79.9
Post All-Star Break 21.2 3.3 7.3 92.2

Being healthy for the most part last year was huge for his game. In a season filled with injuries for the Pelicans, Holiday played more games than Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans.

Just looking at Holiday’s game, he needs to have his legs under him to be his best. This sounds typical for any athlete, but the way Holiday makes an impact for the Pelicans is with his ability to get to the rim.

This past season, Holiday was 11th in the NBA for drives per game. NBA Player Tracking defines a drive as “any touch that starts at least 20 feet from the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop and excludes fast breaks.”

Holiday averaged 9.8 drives per game, right among the league’s elite basket attackers such as Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard. Not only did he get to the rim, though, he finished when he got there. Nearly seven of his 17 points a game came on drives. That’s good for eighth in the league, right behind Westbrook, James Harden, and LeBron James.

 

Without a minutes restriction in 2016-17, it only makes sense that those numbers will increase. Holiday played six minutes less than the three players above him on the points on drives rankings.

Another six points a game came from Holiday’s pull-up game, or “any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player took one or more dribbles before shooting.” This was good for top 20 in the league. Holiday’s ability to get to rim compliments his ability to stop and shoot before getting challenged by interior defenders. He is not a catch and shoot guy, and in Alvin Gentry’s offense, probably won’t be. Catch and shoot shots were only responsible for 7.8% of his field goals attempted.

 

This is why Holiday needs to have his legs under him. People tend to forget about the talent level that Jrue Holiday has. And that very well could be fair, given the serious amount of games he has missed since playing for New Orleans. Playing only 74 games over two years isn’t exactly a recipe for getting noticed.

Injuries always change plans, but a healthy Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis can be as deadly as pick and roll tandem gets in the league. Nearly a quarter of all of Holiday’s passes this past season were to Davis, and Holiday was 6th in the NBA in plays as the ball handler in pick and roll.

Expectations for Holiday shouldn’t be to make the all-star team. It shouldn’t be to put up a certain stat line or contribute a certain amount of points.

For Holiday, it has to be about games played.


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