• 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?

    Defense

    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.

    Role

    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.

    Scoring

    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.

    Other Considerations

    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.

     

Fantasy News

  • Dennis Smith Jr.
    PG, New York Knicks

    Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that with new leadership in place for the Knicks, the team is likely to shop Dennis Smith Jr. this offseason.

    Knicks President Leon Rose has no attachment to Smith, and with head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart no longer around to justify his retention, there is little reason for the Knicks to continue relying upon DSJ's services. He struggled all season, from a back injury, to the loss of his stepmother, to an obscure oblique injury, and a concussion in February. Smith will be worth a flyer for another team to roll the dice on, but it is unlikely he gets a real chance to be the Knicks point guard of the future again. It will be difficult for Smith to become a standard league option no matter where he is playing next season. He is simply too lousy a shooter from the field and free-throw line. His turnover rate also remains an issue in 9-CAT formats.

    Source: NY Post

  • Ashton Hagans
    PG, College

    Sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans announced his intention to leave Kentucky and enter the 2020 NBA Draft.

    Hagans is projected to be a late second-round target for the draft and is unlikely to make noise as a rookie in the NBA. One has to hope he lands on a team devoid of point guard options to let Hagans emerge with much fantasy value as a rookie. He averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while serving as the starting point guard throughout this season with the Wildcats.

    Source: UK Athletics

  • Theo Maledon
    PG, International

    French point guard Theo Maledon has completed all of the required paperwork to make himself eligible to be selected in the 2020 NBA Draft.

    Maledon is an up-and-coming prospect who will be only 18 years young on draft day. He was a contender to take home the Rising Star award based upon his play in the Euroleague this season before the action was cut short due to the coronavirus. He's been in the French system since he was 14 and is considered a pick just outside the NBA lottery on many draft boards. He was averaging 7.1 points and 2.3 assists in 17 minutes of action.

    Source: ESPN.com

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Pacers GM Chad Buchanan declined to interview for the Bulls' top basketball operations position.

    Buchanan said he and his family are happy in Indianapolis and he is not interested in leaving. The Bulls are clearly moving fast with building their new front office after the announcement that GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson are expected to move to different roles in the organization. A change in the front office and coaching staff could only be positive for fantasy purposes as the Bulls rank 29th in offensive rating this season. Hopefully a change would bring a more fantasy-friendly system with an emphasis on developing the younger talent on the roster.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The NBA and ESPN are working together to televise a H-O-R-S-E competition with several high-profile players.

    Woj reported that the details of this competition are still being finalized, but it sounds like players will shoot in isolation, most likely in their home gyms. This would be a much needed source of entertainment for everyone who loves the NBA and, with bragging rights on the line, we would likely see some stellar performances from the NBA's best players.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Lauri Markkanen had been unhappy with the direction of the Bulls organization even before the league went on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Markkanen was so displeased, in fact, that he went on to state that if the situation were to remain unchanged, he'd prefer to be elsewhere. The Bulls power forward was a fantasy mess in 2019-20 and some of that could be attributed to the coach and some of it, to his injuries. Still, his statements put the team in a rough spot. considering Markkanen has been widely regarded as a core piece of their future plans. The Bulls are already shaking things up though, making moves towards freshening things up in the front office. The Markkanen-Bulls relationship is a must-watch storyline, especially given his potential in fantasy hoops.

    Source: Chicago Sun-Times.

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Speaking on ESPN on Friday, Brian Windhorst said that there has been increasing pessimism about the NBA season resuming.

    Windhorst noted that the league has begun to discuss the financial ramifications of shutting the league down, and we've seen reports about the league looking for players to take paycuts as a result of the season's uncertain future. The fact that the CBA in China was set to resume and then delayed again is an ominous sign with NBA markets nowhere near the apex of COVID-19.

    Source: ESPN

  • Kobe Bryant
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will be inducted into the 2020 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Formal announcements will be made on Saturday, but it appears to be a done deal. The three aforementioned players helped define and then redefine the sport during their primes, making the 2020 class one of the most star-studded since Michael Jordan was inducted. Bryant, especially, who was often compared to his "Airness" will be a bittersweet entrant as the NBA and the world is still dealing with his sudden passing.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Bulls have begun their search for a top executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions.

    Interviews will begin next week, with Toronto GM Bobby Webster and Denver GM Arturas Karnisovas on Chicago's wish list. Ownership will have discussions with current GM Gar Forman about his place in the organization moving forward, whlie VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson is expected to move to an advisory role with the franchise. The Bulls have been lost in the wilderness for some time now, and it's mildly surprising that it's taken them this long to hunt for someone to take the power out of GarPax's collective hands.

    Source: ESPN

  • Michael Porter Jr.
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Michael Porter Jr. said that his right ankle is now properly healed.

    Porter missed six games with a right ankle injury, and though he was able to play in nine of Denver's last 10 games (the absence was a DNP-CD) before the hiatus, he admitted that his ankle was still bothering him and he was playing through pain. MPJ flashed tremendous potential when given the appropriate minutes but it's going to be hard for him to hold fantasy value outside of deeper formats when the Nuggets are fully healthy — he topped 15 minutes just three times in those nine games. The silver lining of the league's suspension is that hurt and injured players are getting the chance to heal up, Porter included.

    Source: Denver Post