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Jrue Holiday Season Preview: Getting the injury monkey off his back

Holiday is much better than many give him credit for, if he could only stay on the court.

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Jrue Holiday was supposed to be the second star to Anthony Davis. The gaping maw between that expectation and what has actually come to pass during the last two seasons is a vast source of discontentment among fans of the New Orleans Pelicans. Lost in the angst on Holiday's injuries is that he's actually been very good when he's on the court and many of the concerns people had about him in Philadelphia have been addressed to some degree.

But first, let's talk about the injury and how it affects the Pelicans and Jrue Holiday this season. At the 3-point Club Alvin Gentry said that Holiday will start at a 10 minute restriction in the preseason and a 15 minute restriction during the regular season. The expectation for some was that Holiday would be limited to 15 minutes until January. Assuming that Holiday's minute restriction would remain at 10 during the preseason or at 15 in the regular season is proving to be incorrect.

Some might say, based on their own assumptions, that the Pelicans are already going off the rails with the plan. Holiday played 15 minutes on Monday night and again on Wednesday night for preseason action. Thanks to the follow up question by Brett Dawson back in September we can see that assumption was incorrect. He went on to elaborate on that again this week for those who have concerns. Oleh has already gone into depth on the plan with Holiday's trainer.

What does this all mean? It appears the plan remains for Holiday to begin the regular season at a 15 minute restriction. That limit will increase incrementally over time until it is eliminated in January if everything goes as planned. Holiday could be playing 20 minutes a game by the middle of November. 25 minutes a game as the calendar flips to December. Adding in participation in back-to-backs later that month. I even wrote back in September that a gradual increase in workload was probably on tap for Holiday as the season progressed.

It will also be interesting to see how Jrue Holiday's situation evolves. If things go as planned I expect the Pelicans would prefer to gradually increase his minutes load from opening night until January. Some have interpreted Alvin Gentry's remarks to mean that Holiday is on a firm 15 minute cap until January. Instead I see it that Holiday will begin at 15 minutes and over time slowly add on more minutes while likely avoiding back-to-backs. New Orleans plays eight back-to-backs in October, November, and December. By January Holiday could regularly play 25-30 minutes while also participating in back-to-backs.

On the court

Jrue Holiday remains the second best two-way player on the Pelicans roster. Full stop. No questions asked. Pick an advanced metric and Holiday is not just good now but on an upward trajectory. Worried that his turnover rate was high in Philadelphia? His assist-to-turnover ratio has increased from 2.14 to 3.01. Did he take too many long twos? That's come down from 22.4% of his shots his last year in a Sixers uniform to just 13.5% in 2014-15. Did I mention his PER has gone up from 16.7 to 18.8?

As I mentioned in his player review Jrue Holiday's career trajectory hews closely to Michael Conley. In fact last year Holiday had a superior PER (18.8 to 18.6) and RPM (3.15 to 2.13) despite Conley being three years his senior. Comparing them at the same age is almost comical.

If there is one area that remains a concern it is Holiday's inability to get to the foul line as often as most other point guards. Pelicans guards, especially Eric Gordon, have gotten to the charity stripe with much greater frequency during the preseason. Holiday even got into the act on Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic and attempted eight of his own in just fifteen minutes. Is that a sign of things to come? I wouldn't put too much stock in that carrying over just yet.

The defense is almost a given at this point. This is defense as an art against one of the most athletic human beings on planet earth with the game on the line. (GIF thanks to Kumar)

You can't draw it up better than that. The number of players who can pull that off in the league are few. The ones who can do that and operate on offense at Holiday's level? Maybe a handful.

Defining Success

For Jrue Holiday it feels like success is going to come with health. The question at this point is much less "is Jrue Holiday good enough to be the second banana" and more "is Jrue Holiday going to play tonight?" A point guard who could realistically post a 20+ PER while providing excellent defense is an extremely valuable commodity in the league where talent is spread so richly at the position.

Mike Conley, after posting a worse PER and RPM than Holiday, ranked 20th in NBA Rank yesterday. Conley's RPM for this season is projected at 3.75. Holiday? 4.47. The talent is there for Jrue Holiday. It is all about the durability of his right leg.

Do the Pelicans have a good plan in place? Holiday, his personal trainer out of The Factory, and head coach Alvin Gentry all seem to be on board with a gradual approach. Will it work? The proof there, as they say, will be in the pudding.