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.
November 13, 2019, 2:39 amDonovan MitchellSG, Utah Jazz
Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 30 points (13-for-26 FGs, 4-for-4 FTs) in a home win on Tuesday, adding six boards, two dimes and a steal in 38 minutes.
Mitchell is looking great so far this season. The main improvement in his stats is in his field goal percentage. If he can keep that up, Mitchell should be able to return top-25 value.
November 13, 2019, 2:33 amMike ConleyPG, Utah Jazz
Mike Conley scored 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting and added four rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes in Tuesday's win over the Nets.
Conley's numbers are down in every category this season, which is a little scary for drafters of the 32-year-old. There's plenty of time for him to get more acquainted to his new team and continue to turn this around, but Conley doesn't appear likely to return to his Memphis numbers that often had him in the top-30.
November 13, 2019, 2:22 amRudy GobertC, Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert had another strong game in a 119-114 win over the Nets on Tuesday, putting up 18 points (8-for-10 FGs, 2-for-4 FTs), 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 38 minutes.
Gobert is off to a bit of a slow start this season, mainly in the blocks category where he's dropped from 2.3 to 1.3. There's plenty of time for that to come back, but there's also a chance that the 27-year-old might not have two blocks per game left in him. If the team with Gobert in your league is worried, make an offer. It's a great time to try to buy low.
November 13, 2019, 2:06 amSpencer DinwiddiePG, Brooklyn Nets
Spencer Dinwiddie had a nice game off the bench with 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting, one board, four dimes and two treys in 24 minutes in a losing effort on Tuesday vs. the Jazz.
Dinwiddie has been good enough to give him a chance on your roster. And with the oft-injured Kyrie Irving and currenty-injured Caris LeVert as the two ball-handlers ahead of him, Dinwiddie could easily find himself in a position to take on enough minutes to get into the top-100.
November 13, 2019, 1:59 amKyrie IrvingPG, Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving hit just 10-of-30 shots from the field (2-of-12 from three), scoring 27 points to go with three rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block in 37 minutes in a 114-119 loss to the Jazz on Tuesday.
It was a tough night for Irving, though he did hit all five of his free throws, offsetting a bit of the damage to his field goal percentage. With Caris LeVert (right thumb sprain) missing tonight's game, Garrett Temple got the start next to Irving and produced 10 points, one rebound, two assists, one 3-pointer and one block in 30 minutes.
November 13, 2019, 1:52 amDeAndre JordanC, Brooklyn Nets
DeAndre Jordan exploded for a throwback double-double in a loss to the Jazz on Tuesday as he put up 15 points (6-for-8 FGs, 3-for-4 FTs), 17 rebounds, four assists, two steal and two blocks in 30 minutes.
That's the kind of line he used to put up regularly, but the only category in which you can expect him to consistently produce now is rebounds. This center rotation is frustratingly inconsistent, but Jordan and Jarrett Allen are both worth rostering. Allen fouled out tonight, finishing with four points, seven rebounds, one assist and two blocks in 18 minutes.
November 13, 2019, 1:38 amBuddy HieldSG, Sacramento Kings
Buddy Hield struggled to get shots to fall on Tuesday as he went 7-for-21 from the floor including 2-for-11 from deep on his way to 20 points, four rebounds and one assist in 37 minutes.
Hield did sink all four of his free throws to help offset some of the 3-point misses. His 37 minutes were his second highest amount of the season and he may be in line for some extra minutes and shots while De'Aaron Fox is out.
November 13, 2019, 1:24 amNemanja BjelicaPF, Sacramento Kings
Nemanja Bjelica double-doubled in a win over the Blazers on Tuesday, putting up 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, 12 rebounds, four assists and three triples in 36 minutes.
Bjelica can really fill up a box score when he gets a heavy workload. While the Kings are banged up in the frontcourt, Bjelica could potentially provide mid-round value as he did for much of last season, so make sure he's not a free agent in your leagues. Richaun Holmes had a good night tonight as well with 11 points, 10 rebounds, an assist, a steal and two blocks in 31 minutes.
November 13, 2019, 1:14 amBogdan BogdanovicSG, Sacramento Kings
Bogdan Bogdanovic went off for 25 points (8-for-19 FGs, 6-for-7 FTs), 10 assists, three rebounds, four steals and three treys in 32 minutes off the bench in a 107-99 win over the Blazers on Tuesday.
Bogdanovic has a chance to thrive while De'Aaron Fox (left ankle sprain) misses time. He was already heating up before Fox went down, and now he could easily put up mid-round value while Fox and Marvin Bagley are out. Make sure he's not sitting on your waiver wire.
November 13, 2019, 1:06 amCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Cory Joseph had just three points on 1-of-6 shooting but added four rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks and a three in 38 minutes as he started in De'Aaron Fox's place on Tuesday.
Joseph gave us the reminder that he just doesn't put up many offensive stats even when he gets a lot of minutes. He might be worth streaming for steals and assists, but he's not your typical backup point guard when it comes to replacement fantasy value.