Accepting the Jrue Holiday Era

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In bringing Jrue Holiday to New Orleans, the Pelicans have changed their strategic approach.

Instead of continuing to build through the draft and largely focus on the development of young but unproven players, the organization has decidedly changed gears. Holiday's acquisition is similar to the Ryan Anderson addition last summer, but in adding an established player who has not yet reached his prime, Dell Demps' method of attaining this commodity was markedly different this time around.

For some -- see Rohan's piece -- this may have seemed rather bold and impatient. For others, perhaps the right player wasn't acquired for the organization to suddenly shift course. Whatever your stance, remember there always exist other factors at play.

It's More Than Just Personnel Moves

1) While many of us aren't personally concerned about attendance, I assure you it is one of the top priorities of any organization. Last year, the Hornets ranked 29th in overall attendance, averaging a hair over 13,800 people per home game. The year before, 25th (15,109). and 2 years prior, 26th (14,709). Noticeably, our attendance figures plummeted last year, despite the acquisition of our franchise player, Anthony Davis.

What is more frightening is the fact that over 12,000 season tickets were sold last year. In comparison, for the 2011-12 season, the Hornets were only around the 10,000 mark. Simple mathematics dictates the non-season ticket holders dramatically lost interest. Now what if season ticket holders decide to follow suit? For any front office, this is a big red alarm.

Consequently, one has to believe Tom Benson and his group were dubious Nerlens Noel, nor any realistic free agent option, would suddenly save the attendance figures. Noel, at his earliest, is purported to return around Christmas of next year. However, it is prudent to remember players who rely on athleticism often take longer in returning from ACL injuries.

In addition, Noel is all kinds of raw, both from a physical standpoint and a number of parts of his game. Missing training camp, the inability to work on his game and body and having Monty feel comfortable enough playing Noel will largely be lost. Pragmatically, the 2014-15 season will also act as Noel's rookie season.

2) To change the fortunes at the box office, a significant roster shakeup was required. Preferably bringing in a player young enough to fit with our existing core, but at the same time, the ability to immediately improve the performance of the team. Specifically true of small market teams, acquiring impressive talent comes at a cost. For young promising talent, even more so. To pry away Jrue Holiday, Philadephia's best young marketable asset, the Pelicans needed to pony up.

Obviously, we were spoiled as fans a season ago when the team stole Ryan Anderson from the Orlando Magic. That was a unique situation that comes around once in a blue moon. On the other hand, watch this off-season how Brandon Jennings likely commands a hefty extension. I'll wager it will make Holiday's contract much more palatable. This, before we even delve into which point guard is an exceptional fit, let alone a better player.

3) If it's one thing fans learned all too well last season, the Pelicans need an Eric Gordon back-up plan. Davis, a budding superstar, needs at least one solid sidekick with All-Star potential to grow alongside him. Gordon still may end up filling this role, but during his short term stay with the team, there have been numerous instances signaling the Pelicans need to stop counting on him. Between the injuries and all the rumors, either he wants out or Dell Demps is shopping him, it doesn't bode well trusting Gordon to remain a member of our long-term inner core.

Considering Davis is a front court player, it's obvious the sidekick needed to be a player who handled the ball a fair amount of time but could also get him the ball as much as possible. It would have been even more ideal if this player were to possess a personality similar to that of Davis so that perhaps a special bond could be cultivated -- one that would not only induce each player to bring out the best of one another, but additionally, give Davis something to think about the next time he sits down and contemplates his next contract.

4) Beware the lure of future NBA draft picks. Yes, giving up a 2014 first round pick is a lot to give up, in a draft class that is hyped to be deep and brimming with potential stars. However, I urge you, don't dismiss all accompanying pitfalls. usnfish, among others, has already mentioned the smallish odds of hitting on a star after say the top 6 picks. Moreover, these chances drop further if you consider the Hornets should be an improved team. Dell Demps can't, nor shouldn't, surmise our guys continue to be ravaged by injury nor fail to improve as they mature and gain experience.

Remember how fantastic it was when New Orleans received Minnesota's 2012 first round pick in the Chris Paul trade? Year after year, Minnesota was almost a given to finish among the five worst teams in the league. However, as fate would have it, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Coach Adelmann propelled them to 9 more wins than the previous season, this despite it being a strike shortened season. As we all know, this 10th overall pick materialized into Austin Rivers.

5) Grade Holiday's recent statistics carefully. Countless of articles have been written disparaging Doug Collins offensive philosophy, and rightfully so. In 2011-12:

Sixers had all the hallmarks of a terrible, antiquated NBA offense. Only one team attempted fewer shots in the restricted area, per NBA.com. Only five attempted fewer 3-pointers, and just three tried fewer of those juicy corner 3s. Philly led the league in midrange 2-pointers, the least efficient shot in the league, and set an all-time NBA record for futility in getting to the foul line.

Last season was quite similar for the Sixers: another all-time NBA record for charity stripe futility, the highest percentage of midrange 2-pointers and a ranking in the bottom tier of three point attempts/shots in the restricted area.

Now consider the 2011-12 Sixer team had Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Jodie Meeks and Nikola Vucevic. Then replace that with Nick Young, less than half a season of Jason Richardson and boost the minutes of players like Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. Is it really inconceivable to think Holiday didn't have the deck stacked against him?

In spite of this, Holiday still managed to get off to a strong start last year. During the All-Star break, he was sitting in Houston with these averages: 19.0 PPG, 8.9 ASTS, 4.2 REB and a shooting line of 45.1/35.3/77.5. Yes, the turnovers (4.0) were high, but shouldn't have been too surprising considering the usage jump, surrounding questionable talent and Doug Collin's horrific offensive strategy. Additionally, his second half swoon can probably at least be partly attributed to burnout for a number of these reasons, but that isn't really the issue.

Rather, the biggest thing to take away is Holiday's real improvement that didn't show well in his advanced statistics. Rob Mahoney of SI.com did a wonderful job breaking this down:

This season has provided an immediately discernible contrast. With no Andre Iguodala around to pick up stray possessions or facilitate plays in progress, much of the offense begins with Holiday. That in itself makes him a more valuable player, but it’s the way that Holiday has adjusted his game that warrants an award like this one. His game is still informed by the same steady rhythm, but this year that patience breeds greater opportunity because of his widened field of vision. He’s not looking to make a certain pass to a certain teammate, but actually reading the court — and reading back-line defenders — to set up teammates in the best possible spots.

Though he may not have the speed of some of the NBA’s most explosive ball handlers, Holiday has dramatically improved his ability to navigate traffic in the lane (a valuable skill in a pack-the-paint league) and has learned to use his length and size more effectively as a scorer. He’s making roughly three percent more of his shot attempts around the basket, according to NBA.com, and increasing the pressure on the defense with his assertiveness off the dribble. A physically overmatched guard is no longer enough to contain him; opponents have to dedicate their full attention to Holiday as he slinks through the paint and deal with every twist and turn of his drives as he courses toward the rim.

That’s a dramatic turn for a guard who played it surprisingly safe with his drives a season ago, and it’s enabled Holiday to attract extra defensive attention and set up teammates for easy scores. According to Hoopdata, he has assisted on a career-high three baskets per game at the rim this season (a higher mark than that of Tony Parker and LeBron James, among many, many others) despite the Sixers’ bogged-down style. He is also setting up an even more impressive 2.1 three-pointers for a team that ranks 24th in three-point attempts. Both marks put Holiday well near the top of the league, making it all the more unfortunate that the Sixers didn’t have better luck with injuries (and more help for Holiday).

Right or wrong, the Jrue Holiday trade might be debated for years to come; however, for practical purposes, it's irrelevant now. Next season, he will be wearing a New Orleans Pelican jersey and starting an important new chapter in our history.

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