The long underrated Jrue Holiday has been one of the NBA’s best guards during his last few seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans. So why doesn’t he get the credit he deserves?
As a New Orleans Pelicans‘ fan, you hear year after year that Jrue Holiday is one of the most underrated players in the league today. That his combination of offensive ability and work as a defensive maestro makes him one of the most valuable players in today’s game. So why is he still not thought of as All-NBA caliber by fans around the country?
A two-time member of the All-Defense team in 2017-18 and 2018-19 as well as a single All-Star selection back in 2012-13, Holiday is usually left off the preseason lists of NBA honors or in the honorable mentions section of those lists.
Holiday has been ranked in the bottom half of the top ten shooting guards in the league for most of his career but many of the guards ranked above him are not the same level of all-around contributor that Jrue Holiday is.
Many other shooting guards can carry their team from game to game offensively but Holiday has been tasked as the lead ball-handler for seasons on end with the New Orleans Pelicans. And, let’s not forget that very few guards are as good defensively as Holiday, even when Jrue was the “point guard” he would still guard the opponent’s best perimeter player on defense.
This includes everyone from Stephen Curry to LeBron James. Holiday puts in the work on the defensive end, often at the expense of his own offense.
When looking at the top shooting guards in the league for the 2019-20 season, the top players are scorers, James Harden, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, and CJ McCollum. While Holiday isn’t the same level of scorer as those guys, he is just as capable of leading an offense as all but Harden (his ball-dominance is nearly untouched).
Holiday ranks eighteenth in scoring among all guards in the NBA but only LeBron James and Kyle Lowry come close to providing the same level of defense among guards who score more than Holiday. In the 2018-19 season when Holiday was asked to handle more of the scoring burden, he averaged 21.2 points with a higher field goal percentage (47.2%) and nearly one more assist (7.7) than this season.
Because of his ability to float between leading the team’s offense and taking on a secondary role, spotting up off-ball and providing a relief valve as a possession gets bogged down, Holiday is the perfect teammate for any team, something fans often say about Beal as well.
Jrue Holiday’s defense for the New Orleans Pelicans is what sets him apart.
But unlike Beal, Jrue is one of the best defenders in the NBA. According to FiveThirtyEight’s Raptor player rating metric, only nine guards have a higher overall defensive rating than Holiday. That defensive ability is the key to Holiday’s value, as none of those nine guards have a higher total rating than Holiday.
The guards that are similar to Holiday are Paul George, Marcus Smart, and Victor Oladipo. Those four are all plus defenders who can carry their teams for stretches and play great second fiddles next to a more ball-dominant player. Klay Thompson fits the bill as the same type of player as those listed above but because of his injury this year I left him out of this analysis.
I think it’s fair to say that during awards season this year Jrue Holiday should be on the second-team All-Defense as well as third-team All-NBA. The All-NBA teams are typically skewed towards players who provide more offensive value than all-around ability but if you want to truly recognize the six best guards in the NBA, a player’s two-way ability needs to be taken into account.
Jrue Holiday probably won’t get the recognition he deserves, but he is one of the best all-around players in the NBA and possibly the most underrated player in the league today.