Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
2017-18 Pelicans Season in Review: Jrue Holiday
Pelicans.com continues its look back at the 2017-18 season with player-by-player analysis of the team
NBA experience: Nine seasons (five with Pelicans)
Games played/started: 81/81
“Jrue Holiday is done flying under the radar.”
An April 19 SI.com headline summed up the rapid rise to prominence of New Orleans’ starting shooting guard, at that point just two games into the postseason. After dealing with a series of obstacles out of his control in previous seasons, Holiday was the NBA’s breakout star of Round 1, helping to lead New Orleans to a sweep over Portland. A case can be made that Holiday received more national admiration over an eight-day period of dominating the Trail Blazers than he had in five years as a member of the Pelicans, but that’s what happens when you outplay the likes of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on such a big stage.
Holiday’s stellar ’17-18 didn’t start in the spring, however – he appeared in 81 regular season games and played perhaps the best basketball of his pro career. Following DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending injury in January, the Pelicans needed a reliable No. 2 option, and Holiday responded at both ends of the floor, including coming up with critical defensive stops. His steal of the ball from Clippers guard Lou Williams on March 6 was one of the biggest plays of NOLA’s regular season; his swat of Trail Blazers guard Pat Connaughton sealed a Game 2 road victory in the playoffs.
As a result, Alvin Gentry began calling Holiday one of the best two-way players in the league. Sure, Holiday may still be underrated by some, but he’s definitely not underappreciated in the Big Easy.
VOICE OF THE FAN
As part of our look back at the season, we checked in with Pelicans fans to get their feedback on 2017-18. Second up: Jrue Holiday enjoyed his best season since coming to New Orleans. How much of the way he played was a surprise to you? Or did you always know he was capable of it? Some of the responses were mentioned in the podcast portion of this season review, but here are a few others:
I don’t think many people saw this coming from Jrue. We were all hoping he would step up because of that major contract he received last offseason, but I’d be lying if I said I saw this coming. Hopefully it’s not a one-time thing and he builds on this season. What really shocked me is how Jrue started to come out of his shell on the court and talk trash. Lol I hope to see more of that next year.
Even Holiday’s Pelicans teammates were stunned to see him exchanging pleasantries with Portland fans in Game 2 of that series, or thumping his chest in celebration of several big second-half plays he made.
Expected him to improve and be more reliable on both ends, but not to the degree we saw in the playoffs.
Holiday averaged 23.7 points in his nine playoff games, after a career-best average of 19.0 during the regular season. His 41-point eruption in Game 4 vs. Portland would’ve been a New Orleans franchise record – except Anthony Davis poured in 47 points in the same game.
Jrue put the league on notice!
Davis registered career highs in shooting percentage on two-pointers (55.8) and three-pointers (34.0). In a statistical oddity, he still came a sliver shy of his best field-goal percentage, at 53.4, because he took 28 more Other than maybe a few rising young stars in Boston uniforms, no NBA player did more to up their stock and respect level this spring than Holiday.