2016-17 Pelicans Season Review: Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday turned in his healthiest season since coming to New Orleans, as well as arguably his most productive, but not long after the final buzzer of 2016-17, the focus shifted to the one-time All-Star’s upcoming free agency. The 6-foot-4 guard has never been an unrestricted free agent during his NBA career, because he was traded by Philadelphia in June 2013, roughly seven months after he signed a four-year contract extension with the 76ers. Holiday enters this summer listed as a consensus top-10 free agent and will have the ability to sign with any team July 1.
“New Orleans is kind of like a second home for me,” Holiday said in early April, when asked about his plans. “Obviously with what I went through this year (taking an early-season personal leave of absence), being able to have the support from the fans and my teammates and all of that, for sure I’d like to see them next year. But obviously I’m still going to do what’s best for me and my family.”
A new father who has been featured prominently in the NBA’s “Lean In” campaign, Holiday didn’t play the first 12 games of the season as he helped care for wife Lauren, who’d been diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer. Jrue eventually rejoined the Pelicans in mid-November, after Lauren’s condition improved and she’d given birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Jrue. New Orleans missed Holiday’s scoring ability significantly, going 2-10 as it tried to incorporate a few new pieces.
The Pelicans eventually fought their way back into playoff contention despite the poor start, winning five of Holiday’s first seven games in uniform, but couldn’t keep pace with red-hot Portland or Denver late in the season. New Orleans finished 32-35 when Holiday played, but just 2-13 when he was not available, underscoring some of his importance. As the Pelicans headed into the ’17 offseason, re-signing Holiday was at the top of the team’s list of priorities.
“Jrue’s been with us for four years,” Dell Demps said in his season wrap-up press conference. “We love Jrue, we love his family. Obviously we’d like to have him back. He’s got a tough decision to make. We’re going to let that process play out. He’s one of my favorite players. He’s a two-way player and a phenomenal person. We really enjoy having him here.”
NBA experience: 8 seasons (four with Pelicans) || Games played/started: 67/61 || Age: 26
For the first time in his eight-year NBA career, Holiday’s overall shooting percentage from the field climbed over 45 percent (45.3), after he’d shot somewhere between 43.1 and 44.7 every previous year. His career-best season in efficiency also featured an effective field-goal percentage of 50.9, the first time he surpassed 50 in that category since his rookie campaign. A closer examination of Holiday’s shooting zones shows that mid-range accuracy was a big reason for that climb, with him connecting on a career-high 50.6 percent of his attempts from a distance of 10 to 16 feet (per Basketball-Reference.com). He also had his second-best rate as a pro in finishing plays around the basket, shooting 59.6 percent from 0 to 3 feet (his only better showing in that category was 60.0 as a second-year player with Philadelphia in 2010-11).
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
97-24: Holiday’s total assists and turnovers, respectively, from March 19 through the end of the regular season, a period in which he played a large chunk of his minutes at shooting guard, with Tim Frazier taking over at the point. Turnovers sometimes plagued Holiday for stretches in ’16-17, but over the final 13 games, he compiled an assist-to-turnover ratio a hair under 4.0. By comparison, in Holiday’s previous 54 games played this season, his ratio was 2.3 (391 assists, 170 turnovers).
AFTER THE TRADE
As he made the adjustment from second to third option in the team’s offense following the acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins, Holiday’s effectiveness mirrored that of his team. It was a big-time struggle in the first three games after the trade, with the UCLA product shooting 11/38 from the field and committing 16 turnovers, but he helped spark the Pelicans to a 10-6 record in March, by far their best month of the season. To open that month, Holiday compiled games of 22, 26 and 20 points, one of two times that he posted 20-plus points in three consecutive appearances. Given his change in role, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that his scoring average went from 16.3 to 13.8 after the All-Star break and trade.
Dec. 15: New Orleans 102, Indiana 95
The Pelicans picked up a much-needed win, after starting December at 1-6 (including three losses in the only three games Holiday missed all season due to injury). Facing the Pacers, Holiday turned in an efficient night, shooting 7/12 from the field to total 16 points, along with a season-high 14 assists. || HIGHLIGHTS
Feb. 6: New Orleans 111, Phoenix 106
Holiday stuffed the stat sheet, approaching a triple-double by piling up 30 points (tied for his second-best scoring night of the season), 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three blocks. Meanwhile, Phoenix catalyst and point guard Eric Bledsoe shot just 3/9 from the field in a 14-point performance. || HIGHLIGHTS
Jan. 23: New Orleans 124, Cleveland 122
A season-high 33 points was only the beginning of the story for Holiday in an upset victory over the defending NBA champion Cavaliers. He shot well (12/19 from the field, 4/7 on treys, 5/5 at the foul line), handed out 10 assists, grabbed six rebounds and made his presence felt defensively, registering three steals and two blocks. || HIGHLIGHTS