July 26, 2019, 11:39 am
Jrue Holiday has been one of my favorite players from the get-go, and the day the Pelicans acquired him is still fresh in my memory. We had a draft party for Bourbon Street Shots that day. I had no idea what I was doing as an analyst yet, but I was a pretty good parrot of people who were good ones. So when it was announced that New Orleans was trading for him, I was amped, but I had no idea what kind of value would be sent out. I waited for the smart people to talk online, and the consensus that I remember was that Dell gave up too much; that Jrue was a very good player but not of the caliber that you should exchange two firsts for.
Years later, a similar discussion emerged: was Jrue Holiday worth a big, multi-year deal in the neighborhood of $25 million per year? The same speculation asked whether it was worth it to pay a point guard that kind of money. And roughly 10-15 games into the subsequent season, I think it would’ve been a fair question to ask if he was worth the MLE.
It was a brief, but ugly part of his career where Jrue was simply not playing well. But he turned it around to have the best year of his career, and showed the NBA who he was as he dismantled Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers. If you asked anyone who has watched Jrue over the last two years, they wouldn’t hesitate to say he is worth his contract.
Today, a different sort of expectation is emerging, and it is coming from David Griffin. In one of the bazillion interviews he has given this offseason (which I love), Griffin put MVP consideration on the table for Jrue. At first glance, this seems like a stretch, honestly, and Griffin recognized that when he said no one expected Steve Nash to make an MVP leap in Phoenix either. So the question remains: what would Jrue Holiday have to do in order to become an MVP level player?
I think it’s most fruitful to start this discuss with who Jrue is as a defender, because that is undoubtedly an elite skill for him. Jrue has unreal core strength, which shows when mismatches take him into the post thinking that they can back him down. Holiday is able to hold his position, resulting in the players trying to back down harder, and he expertly times “pulling the chair” to make some really great players look stupid.
But it doesn’t stop there, as Jrue’s excellent agility and anticipation allow him to check extremely athletic guards, where he is able to defend in isolation and also to navigate the series of screens that are set to get him off of players. There’s a reason he has been 1st/2nd All-Defense the last two years. He is that good, and as good as almost any MVP candidate at defense.
A lot of Griffin’s argument is based on the idea that this was Anthony Davis’s team when he was here, and that Davis’s trade vacated the alpha role on this team. I would argue that this is correct, and that it was a weird role for Jrue to begin with, as Davis, despite being amazing, does not strike me as the emotional leader of a great team. Now that Davis is gone, the mantle of “leader” is Jrue’s to assume. So the role is there for Jrue to grow in, and because it is so clearly defined and publicly expressed, it’s really only a question of whether Jrue is ready. I think he is.
In my mind, this is probably the area in which Holiday is going to have to grow the most to enter the MVP conversation. Because AD’s usage is gone, Jrue is going to have more opportunities to score than he ever has. Last season, with AD off the court, Holiday averaged 23.5 points per-36 on basically identical efficiency. His 3PAr rose, his assists per minute declined, and he took more FTs, but mainly because of the volume increase in his FGA.
23.5 points per 36 is nothing to sneeze at, but he is going to have to beef up his scoring in order to enter the MVP conversation. Stephen Curry won the MVP award at 23.8 PPG, but his team also won 67 games this year. No matter what you think of this year’s Pelicans, sniffing 60 would be difficult, much less getting close to 70. Most of the time, the MVP winner is scoring anywhere in the 27-30 PPG range, and that would require either a substantial increase in efficiency or a substantial increase in volume. The volume may be available.
The other two main considerations for Jrue in his MVP candidacy are team success and passing. Team success is an irreplaceable part of the conversation, and I think it’s pretty clear that the Pelicans won’t be good enough this year for Jrue to be in the top 2-3 MVP spots.
Holiday’s passing is good (but not great) in my opinion, as Jrue is much more of the “make a good pass” variety than “how the hell did he see that?” type. Because of his substantial role in the offense, I would be shocked if his assist rate didn’t rise simply because he’ll have the ball in his hands a lot. It is worth noting that Jrue actually averaged fewer assists per 36 without Davis, as he no longer had access to the insane vertical ability of Davis as a lob threat.
How much Jrue plays with Lonzo Ball will also be a factor, as the Pelicans may opt to put the ball in Ball’s hands for distribution so Jrue can focus on scoring and looking for his own points. I suspect there will be give and take here, as the less he plays with Lonzo, the more he’ll distribute and the less he’ll score; conversely, the more he plays with Lonzo, the less he’ll have to distribute and the more he can score.
Jrue Holiday is a player who has consistently grown as he’s gotten older, similar to a Mike Conley sort of career progression. He’s not the 3-point threat that he probably should be in order to open up his game, but he has greatly improved his ability to get to the rim (tightening up handle, picking spots better) and finish there (lean more on his better left hand) the last few years, in addition to becoming a lethal defender.
He is set to enter an entirely new role with a team full of new, young players, and is going to have an opportunity to put up career-best scoring numbers. The MVP consideration may seem like a stretch right now, but consensus top 10-15 player seems very much to be a possibility.
August 20, 2019, 10:33 pmTyronn LuePG, Los Angeles Clippers
Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting former Cavs championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue has agreed to join the Clippers as their top assistant coach to Doc Rivers.
The Lakers and Clippers rivalry continues to heat up. Lue was very close to a deal with the Lakers in May to become their head coach, but the sides couldn’t reach an agreement. Lue now joins Kawhi Leonard as another person to spurn the Lakers this offseason.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 10:28 pmPJ TuckerSF, Houston Rockets
P.J. Tucker says he is optimistic about signing a contract extension soon.
The 34-year-old 3-and-D wing hopes to extend his deal with the Rockets, but a potential extension wouldn't begin until his age-36 season. Houston has him under contract for two more seasons at this point, so they may not be motivated enough to get something done this offseason. However, a maximum Tucker extension would only have him in the $10 million per year range. Even as a 37-year-old, that could be a great deal if he can keep up his current production. Tucker remains a sneaky source of threes and steals late in fantasy drafts or off the wire.
Source: Kurt Helin on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 6:11 pmJaylen AdamsPG, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks officially announced the signings of guards Jaylen Adams and Rayjon Tucker on Tuesday.
Adams and Tucker have their work cut out for them in their bid to claim a roster with the big club, as the Bucks have a reasonably deep guard rotation. Adams and Tucker are more than likely competing to get playing time in the G-League this season and can be ignored in fantasy.
August 20, 2019, 4:55 pmJeff LedbetterG, San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have offered summer league guard Jeff Ledbetter an Exhibit 10 deal, but he is still mulling over his options which include playing in Europe.
Ledbetter had a productive summer league and now finds himself with a chance to play for the Austin Spurs of the G-League. Ledbetter is sure to be staring at a bigger payday in Europe, so his choice will be an interesting one. We should have a decision soon.
Source: Nicola Lupo on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:49 pmEric MikaC, Sacramento Kings
The Kings announced on Tuesday that they signed summer league standout C Eric Mika to an exhibit 10 contract.
The former BYU big man is now set up to play for the Stockton Kings of the G-League. The Kings have a deep big man rotation, and it's unlikely that we'll see much, if any, of Mika on the roster this season.
Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:44 pmJA MorantPG, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant (right knee) said that he is completely healed from the minor knee surgery earlier this summer, saying he is "100 percent right now."
Morant will look to get back into the swing of things in the coming weeks as he prepares for his rookie season. Morant has the talent and the role on rebuilding team and is undoubtedly going to cost a pretty penny in fantasy drafts.
Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 2:17 pmDerrick AlstonTeam, New York Knicks
The Westchester Knicks have named Derrick Alston as the new head coach, replacing Mike Miller who was promoted to join David Fizdale’s staff.
Alston, a former NBA player, has been an assistant for Westchester for four years. Before that, Alston was a player development coach with the Rockets. This will be Alston’s first head coaching gig as he continues to move up the ladder.
Source: Ian Begley on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 1:21 pmCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Cory Joseph is not expected to play for Team Canada in the FIBA World Cup.
Team Canada has been taking a beating the last few weeks with NBA guys continuing to pull out. This news won't have any effects on Joseph's role heading into the season, but it does create another dent in Team Canada's chances of making noise in the World Cup.
Source: Doug Smith: Raptors on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 1:08 pmMarcus Georges-HuntSG, Free Agent
Jay King of The Athletic is hearing that Marcus Georges-Hunt is in Boston working out with the Celtics for the next few days.
Georges-Hunt last played in the NBA for the Wolves in the 2017-18 season. Last season Georges-Hunt was waived from the Celtics in mid-October and played nine games for the Red Claws. Georges-Hunt is a longshot to make the team and carries no fantasy relevance regardless of the outcome.
Source: Jay King on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 11:55 amDwight HowardC, Memphis Grizzlies
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the Lakers are planning individual workouts to evaluate centers Joakim Noah, Dwight Howard and Mo Speights this week in Los Angeles.
Marcin Gortat is also in the Lakers’ radar as the team is actively looking to sign another big after DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL last week. Speights spent the last season in China after 10 years in the NBA while Gortat remains overseas and it’s unclear whether he will be back to Los Angeles for a workout with the team.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter