Before this season started Pelicans fans expected big things out of Jrue Holiday. He was supposed to be the savior of this team. From day 1 he was supposed to be the Robin to Anthony Davis' Batman, but injuries have held him back for years. Well, we were finally going to get to see him healthy, and after a stellar season last year we thought big things were coming.
And big things had come. After starting the season 2-10 without Jrue, the Pelicans won 4 in a row when Jrue returned. He put up a stat line of 17-3-6 off the bench in his first seven games back to go along with stellar defense. We all thought things were finally coming together. But then something changed. Jrue stopped coming off the bench and was moved into the starting lineup. And the numbers show exactly why that was a mistake.
In the 20 games that Jrue Holiday has started, he is averaging 13-4-7. That matches up with his season averages. So those are decent numbers, right? Well, his shooting splits during this stretch are 39-33-72. That's a true shooting percentage of 50.5%. That's 4.5% lower than the league average. Absolutely atrocious. The team's offensive rating is sitting at 99.3 when he is in the game. That's worse than 10 other players on the team over this stretch, including backup point guard Tim Frazier (who has started 4 games in this time frame). Jrue's defense is good, but the team's defense as a whole is fantastic. They don't need defense right now. They need offense.
The Pelicans are sitting at 8th overall in defensive rating this season. They are sitting at 6th since Jrue began starting. And they are sitting at first overall in the NBA since Anthony Davis became the full-time center. But none of that matters when your offense is a bad as the Pelicans offense. Overall they have the 4th worst offense (second worst since Jrue began starting; fourth worst since moving AD to full-time center). And Jrue isn't cutting it currently on offense.
He has shown time and time again over the last two seasons that he is just plain better when coming off the bench (as most starters would be since they are playing against worse defenders). His terrible turnover habits destroy any run the Pelicans try to make. His atrocious shot IQ causes the Pelicans to sometimes go 4 or 5 straight possessions without scoring (he's currently taking 14.3% of his shots from 16 feet to the three points line while only shooting 22.9% from that range). And his defense just plain isn't enough to make up for it, especially when he gets torched by every decent point guard he faces up against (Jeff Teague: 16-8-10; Chris Paul 17-8-13 and 21-8-6; Isaiah Thomas 38-3-0.)
People are going to point to our record with Jrue (13-13 since his return; 9-11 as a starter) and say "Who cares if his numbers stink if he helps us win games?" And I would say to those people, literally any average point guard would help us win games. Tyreke Evans just won us a game all by himself a couple of days ago. Tim Frazier has helped us win a few games this year. We aren't even winning right now because of Jrue. We're winning because Buddy Hield and Langston Galloway decided to stop sucking. We're winning because Tyreke has been the perfect bolt of energy off the bench for us. And we're winning because we finally have a little bit of talent to put on the court rather than sticking D-League rejects like Anthony Brown and Archie Goodwin on the court.
At this point you have to think Jrue is a lost cause for the Pelicans. He's going to ask for a lot of money this offseason, and he isn't going to be worth it. He's incredibly injury prone, and when he plays he just isn't that good. Our best bet would obviously be to just tank and try to get someone like Lonzo Ball in this upcoming draft, but with so many people in the organization trying to save their jobs (looking at you two Alvin and Dell) I doubt we'll see a tank job anytime soon. So we'll have to look at free agency options, and there are plenty of point guards who give us just as much win potential as Jrue for half the money. We'll still have Tim Frazier on our roster next year. Jeff Teague is going to be a free agent. And of course our old friend Chris Paul is an upcoming free agent (please come home, Chris). It's just time for a change in the Big Easy. We can't keep waiting around hoping everything is going to miraculously come together. We need to start over.