Jrue Holiday is unspectacular. He’s not an elite athlete, doesn’t shoot like Steph Curry, or make plays like John Wall. Defense is where he truly excels, but that side of the ball is always overlooked by casual fans – and some league followers even believe its less important for point guards than others.
But the 25-year-old is a very good player nonetheless, one who makes an obviously positive impact on both ends of the floor. The problem for Holiday of late? Health. He’s played just 34 and 40 games, respectively, since being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the New Orleans Pelicans on draft night two summers ago, long-term absences that have made him an afterthought when it comes to his place among the league’s top young floor generals.
And though Holiday is finally healthy as 2015-16 approaches, new coach Alvin Gentry says the Pelicans will be taking a very cautious approach with him to begin this season.
Holiday’s injury woes began in February 2014 when he suffered a stress fracture of his right tibia. He was subsequently shut down for the season’s remainder and underwent successful corrective surgery. After playing the initial months of 2014-15 uninhibited, though, he re-aggravated the injury in January and was sidelined for the season’s remainder until a late April return marked by a brief appearance against the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.
It seems counterintuitive to say that a former All-Star point guard makes a much more tangible impact on his team’s defense as opposed to offense, but that’s certainly the case with Holiday and New Orleans. He’s an All-Defense caliber defender, combining rare size with quick feet and a dogged disposition. While Holiday is no slouch on the other end, either, Tyreke Evans has proven an adept playmaker with the Pelicans’ normal lead ballhandler on the bench.
And that’s the issue for Gentry; his team won’t have any trouble scoring this season. New Orleans ranked ninth in offensive rating a season ago, and stand to improve on that standing with another year of growth from Anthony Davis and by implementing Gentry’s ballyhooed ethos. Defense is what doomed the Pelicans in 2014-15; they allowed 104.7 points per 100 possessions last season, good for the 22nd-best mark in the league.
Gentry recently called Holiday “maybe the second-most important guy on our team,” and that seems an accurate assessment. New Orleans’ success will hinge on Davis more than anyone else, obviously, but the ultimate degree of it could indeed stem from just what Holiday is able to give them in 2015-16. And unfortunately, that apparently won’t be much in the season’s early going.
Here’s hoping that patience pays off with a healthy and effective Holiday come playoff time – should the Pelicans get there, of course.