In the middle of the 2013 NBA Draft, New Orleans Pelicans GM Dell Demps picks up his phone. By the time he hangs up that phone, he believes he has just acquired a legitimate All-star Player who will carry his franchise for the next half decade.That player is Jrue Holiday, and Demps had good reason to believe he has committed highway robbery in acquiring him.
Jrue Holiday was just 22 years old, and had come off an All-Star season for the 76ers.
He averaged 17.0 points, 7.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 turnovers a game shooting 43% from the floor and 36% from three. Those are good numbers, all-star numbers, but a smart person scouting Jrue’s game could have realized that Jrue was in fact even better then those stats indicated.
Prior to the All-Star break, Jrue was in fact averaging 17.9 points, 8.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 turnovers per game on 45% from the field and 35% from deep. In fact, Jrue peaked in January of that season (when the team was still trying to win games) averaging 19.9 points and 8.5 assists on 48% shooting.
Nov 15, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) drives past New York Knicks guard Jose Calderon (3) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Those aren’t All-Star numbers, those are All-NBA numbers. Jrue likely could have improved them even more, but the Sixers more of less “threw in the towel” at that point of the season and Jrue’s role opportunities only decreased.
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Earlier this year I wrote a piece called “Jrue Holiday and the Robert Parish Theory” you can read here. In that piece, I came to the conclusion that there are certain “Robert Parish-types” of players who fit a definition of being great all-around players who also excel defensively at bringing superior opponents down to their level.
At the end of the piece, I also predicted Jrue would emerge THIS season as that player.
This season, Jrue has averaged 19.6 points and 6.8 assists per 36 minutes a game while shooting 44% from the floor and 40% from deep. Lately though, he’s been even better than that.
Here’s his first month of November compared to his second month of December per 36 minutes.
Notice under turnovers and 3pt% where I put the word “WOW” in parenthesis? Those two stuck out the most to me.
Except for assists (which are largely due to him playing with worse bench players rather then AD) Jrue’s stats have increased across the board.
My thesis, and the point of this article, is to suggest that maybe its possible we are finally seeing the Jrue that Dell thought he traded for in 2013.
Oct 23, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps during a press conference prior to a preseason game against the Miami Heat at New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Maybe it’s possible that Dell, or someone else in the organization, knew Jrue could be this good and he simply hasn’t been able to. He’s played just about 70 games over his first two seasons in New Orleans, and they were likely both on a critical injury the 76ers lied to the Pelicans about. It’s very possible that Jrue is now finally healthy, and is the player we thought we got in 2013 (plus a few upgrades).
I think Jrue is better today then he was back then, and here’s why.
In 2013 Jrue took 244 threes (the good zone) and 657 mid range shots (the bad zone). That means the ratio of good to bad long distance shots Jrue was taking that season was 37/63. That’s a terrible rate, and it likely brought down his overall efficiency by a significant margin. Here’s his shot chart from that seasons to illustrate that ratio.
See how Jrue takes more then half his shots in the worst possible area? He takes 628 shots in the paint and behind the arc, while taking 657 from the garbage zone.
Now let’s compare that to this season so far.
To compare, Jrue has taken 158 shots in the paint and behind the arc this season, while taking just 116 from the garbage zone. This Jrue, compared to the Jrue we saw in 2013, is basically the same player outside of being improved from deep and taking better shots.
This further supports my thesis that we are seeing a player today which is every bit as talented as Jrue was in 2013, with improved shooting skill and selection.
As some of you may know though, my favorite part of Jrue’s game has nothing to do with his offensive production.
This is Jrue’s defensive shot chart, meaning this is the shot chart of opposing players he’s guarded on the offensive end.
He’s holding opponents to 33% from three, with an INCREDIBLE 26.8% from the top of the arc.
The reason his rim protection and wing defense looks bad likely has more to do with him over helping to try and cover up how bad his teammates are on defense.
For a Point Guard, those numbers are almost always more related to his teammates than himself.
The place Point Guards need to be tuned in is the top of the key where other Point Guards (Curry, Lillard, Kyrie types) are prone to get hot and start launching threes.
From that area Jrue is absolutely Elite (just a side note, Tyreke Evans is allowing 44% from that area as opposed to 26% from Jrue. He’s basically half the defender Holiday is.).
Imagine for a minute, that for the next three to four years Jrue can be the player he has been through this season.
Imagine if he could be the player we saw in December in fact!
That player would be a guy who averages between 32-34 minutes a game, averages around 18 points a game and around 7 assists while playing elite perimeter defense and hitting threes at around a 40% clip.
Jrue Holiday has been unhealthy the past years, and thus unable to be that guy.
The fact remains though that “that guy” is probably a top 25 NBA player as well as a top 5-7 point guard in the league.
This season has been a disappointment, and it seems most of the players on this roster do not have a future with this team.
Oct 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) talks with guard Tyreke Evans (1) and guard Jrue Holiday (11) during the second half of a preseason game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Thunder 120-86. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Hopefully, Pelicans fans can take solace in this.
Jrue Holiday seems to have secretly entered his prime, and finally has gotten healthy enough to be the player a few of us envisioned he could be in 2013.
Maybe he’s just on a hot streak right now, or maybe the Pelicans are about to see a huge return on an investment they made three years ago………