For any team in the NBA the health of a starting point guard can make or break a season, and drastically change where an organization could hope to go as a team. In Chicago the Bulls went from potential title contender to tough playoff out for two straight seasons based just on an injury to Derrick Rose. In New Orleans the impact of a point guard injury was noticed as well last season when Jrue Holiday missed most of the season due to injury and the Pelicans crumbled on both ends of the court.
When Holiday went out of the lineup due to the stress fracture it left Brian Roberts in charge of stepping up to the plate and filling in the starting point guard role. While Roberts wasn’t ever going to be able to fill all of the minutes Holiday could provide, which was part of the problem posed by the injury, he was a reliable asset for the Pelicans to end the season.
The biggest weakness to Roberts game was his defense, something that Holiday will immediately upgrade next season at the point guard spot. Last season in his 34 games played, including multiple which were played without starting power forward Anthony Davis, Holiday posted a defensive rating of 110. While it wasn’t a great number it was an upgrade over Roberts and his 114 rating over 72 games, most of which were played with Davis on the court, showing the stark difference in defensive quality the team received at the point guard position with and without Holiday.
Holiday is also a much better facilitator of the ball, and commander of the offense than Roberts. One of the easiest ways to take a look at this is via each individuals assist numbers. Holiday last season in his limited playing time was able to put up 7.9 apg, and had an assist percentage of 38.9. Roberts on the hand, much less capable of a passer, averaged only 3.3 apg, while having an assist percentage of 22.1. Holiday was responsible for helping his teammates score four more baskets per game, and assisted on 17% more of teammates field goals when he was on the court than Roberts did.
Adding to the stack of things that point to Jrue Holiday and the Pelican’s improving next season is that fact that Holiday is only 23 years old. Despite being 28 Roberts had three less years of NBA experience than Holiday, who has been in the league since he was 19, and already has an All-Star appearance to his name.
While Roberts will be missed as a backup for the Pelicans at the point guard spot after signing with the Hornets, the hope of Russ Smith being able to play in that role in the NBA is ever increasing. While we have yet to see much from Jrue Holiday with the entire Pelicans roster, there is hope, and a mountain of evidence, that what he brings to the table can help lead this team to competing for a playoff spot next year in the difficult Western Conference.