In a March 13, 2015 roundtable discussion Oleh posed a series of questions to the Bird Writes’ staff — one of them was pretty difficult to answer — "What do we do with Jrue Holiday?" I’ll preface my deeper exploration of this query with the fact that I really like Jrue Holiday. Also, his mom sits across the aisle from me in the arena and I don’t want to piss her off. That being said, it’s time to start exploring the future — a future that is harder to predict than A Choose Your Own Adventure book with key pages torn out. We’ll have to try our best to piece together the rest of the supporting cast going forward and predict who will be calling or not calling the timeouts.
Jrue Holiday — Fitting Well-Rounded Pegs into Extremely Square A-Holes
A couple of weeks into the season I wrote the following about Holiday:
"If he can make the slight statistical jump to 17PPG, 7APG, 4RPG, with a 37-39% 3pt avg, 1.8-2SPG and limit his TOPG to 2 or below he will be playing his role perfectly. He’s not really a fiery floor general, which is why I don’t think he’ll ever actually move into the upper-level of PGs in the league. I just don’t think he has the personality for it, which is ok. We don’t need that from him. AD has taken over as the leader and Tyreke provides the nastiness and attitude. He can be a great third wheel to those two because he isn’t going to demand to ever be the man, but has the ability to take over if injuries or slumps dictate it. He came in with the nickname, "the Jruth" which is clever and rolls off the tongue, but I’m not really sure his style of play equals the weight of that nickname yet. He’s more of an, "Anonymous Donor" to me. A guy with a wealth of skills who uses those skills to make everyone around him better quietly in a way that can be overlooked if you just look at box scores."
Currently, Holiday is averaging 15.2PPG, 7.1APG, 3.5RPG, 1.6SPG, 2.4TOPG and is shooting 44% from the floor while going 37% from beyond the arc with an 18.71PER. He’s really close to the ideal stat line I had laid out for him in November. The biggest problem with Holiday has been injuries. He’s only played every game one year out of his six year career, and it looks like he’ll play less than half of the season for two straight years. While he’s been reliable on the court, we are having to ask if we can rely on him being on the court. I mean, when Eric Gordon is becoming more available than you are — there’s a problem. Is he Mr. Glass to Russell Westbrook’s David Dunn? Let’s hope not.
However, the bigger issue may be fit. I’m not ready to completely give up on our three guard lineup, but if Monty Williams is guiding that lineup, it will never work. We mainly run a stand still and watch one guy with the ball iso his way into a bad shot offense. When we run a pick and roll it's usually after 14 seconds have come off of the shot clock and comes with very little movement off the ball. It’s like those horribly mediocre Larry Drew coached Hawks teams with Josh Smith and Joe Johnson over-dribbling and stagnating the offense.
This scheme does not take advantage of the personnel on the floor. When you have a glut of athletic ball handlers that can all penetrate, finish, ditch and perform well in catch and shoot situations (Eric Gordon has become an elite catch and shoot guy. I’m so happy to have to swallow all of the vomit I spewed about his demise.), it’s borderline clinically insane that you don’t create an offense built around movement.
Lately, we are starting to see a little more movement and extra passing in our offensive sets and even an occasional 2 for 1, but it’s hard for me to give credit to and have faith in a coach that has taken five years to almost figure things out that every greasy-fingered-stadium-seat-coach in line at the Fowl Line figured out years ago. Moving the ball vs isolation is an easier choice than BBQ or honey mustard (honestly, I mostly go smoothie or coffee, but that’s just me). Praising Monty for these gradual improvements remind me of that Louis CK bit about turning 40. You don’t deserve a pat on the back for doing the routine things you are expected to do.
Unfortunately, with the Pelicans playing well since the All Star break and for a time controlling our own destiny as the 8th seed in the playoff race, Dell’s roster has likely saved Monty’s job. It’s a weird position to be in. I love it and hate it all at the same time. In Monty’s system, we have one too many starting guards. Eric Gordon is tough to trade because of his contract and injury history. Also, he has found the fountain of Clippers’ years and is a very good two guard once again. Tyreke Evans is Ol’ Dirty Bastard and I’ll ride with him till one of us dies. Also, he’s in uniform. Sure, he may miss a game here and there, but he never goes for really long stretches and plays through illness and injury. In a more creative offense he’d shine, but he’s doing a really nice job of manning the point in (what is the equivalent of the wishbone) vanilla offense we run. It’s also clear that Anthony Davis really likes playing with Tyreke. So fanboy stuff aside, his availability, toughness, skillset and bond with our superstar gives him an advantage over Holiday. However, I’m nervous about advocating trading a quality player because our coach can’t figure out how to create a system that has his best players on the floor together. I look at what Denver has done and worry that we may be doing the same thing.
The Denver Nuggets were the original 2014-2015 Atlanta Hawks. They were a team with no stars that played great team basketball. They won 50 games and then fired their coach of the year winner (George Karl) while also letting their Executive Vice President in charge of basketball operations (who also won Executive of the Year), Masai Ujiri leave to build the Toronto Raptors’ third place roster. The parallel falls a little flat when it comes to coaching. George Karl and Monty Williams are far from being similar, but Brian Shaw and Monty Williams may be mirror images of each other.
Shaw took Ujiri’s roster and mismanaged it into the ground. The Nuggets decided to tank by trading away assets that under the right guidance could have (and had been) a playoff team. Consider that they received two first round picks for Mozgov and another first round pick from Portland for Arron Afflalo along with former 5th overall pick, Thomas Robinson. You don’t give up that much for lackluster players. Then look at the rest of their roster — Wilson Chandler could have fetched a first rounder and Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried likely would have garnered more than a first each. We haven’t even discussed the emergence of Jusuf Nurkic and the re-emergence of Danilo Gallinari. This team had five starters that are good enough to fetch first round picks and two bench players that may have as well — that’s a talented roster. Interim coach, Melvin Hunt has taken over even after it has shed two of it’s best players) and has it playing like a potential playoff team — going 6-3. Hence I’m scared to dump a quality player because of a bad coach, but due to AD and crew being good enough to overcome Monty’s missteps, let’s consider what we could get for him.
The Donor Gets Donated
It’s really hard to judge Holiday’s current value. I try not to overvalue our players when fiddling around on the Trade Machine, but on this one, I was all over the place. Here are some things we need to consider when factoring Jrue’s value:
- We are in a point guard rich era of the NBA. Not many teams need a starting point, and a decent one can be found on the cheap in free agency or the draft.
- Injury concerns. Are these stress reactions/fractures going to become chronic? Will rest and rehab solve them? Is he an injury prone player?
- When healthy he’s a young rangy veteran with playoff experience and an All Star appearance under his belt. He will fill the box score by affecting the game in multiple ways. He has great instincts when it comes to gambling in passing lanes and going for blocks.
- He’s on a great contract that will look even better once the cap dramatically increases this offseason.
- He makes the players around him better.
- He will rarely takeover a game.
Another thing that I had to factor in was the spike in the cap. The exact number is not known yet, but it is rumored to be between $85-90 million. I’m playing it safe and setting it at $85 million to make sure these moves work under the cap. Ok, so onto this wormhole that lead to another sleepless night:
Trade 1: Comparing Scars, Healing Wounds and Snuffing Out Flames with Smothering D
The Pelicans: Taj Gibson and Tony Snell
The Bulls: 1st round pick from The Kings and Jrue Holiday
The Kings: Ryan Anderson and a 2nd round pick from both teams
Why It Gets Done
The Pelicans solidify the bench with two solid reserves with playoff experience. Taj Gibson comes in as a more traditional reserve four that can also play some small ball five. Our bench post play improves both offensively and defensively. We lose the floor spacing provided by Anderson, but we’ve missed it a large part of the last two seasons anyway. Also, Luke Babbitt —if he is retained— can be used to fill that role. Tony Snell is an exciting young SF that can also play SG. With Holiday gone, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon are your starting backcourt. I don’t see Fredette coming back, but Norris Cole has shown enough to earn a contract or at least have his option picked up. Cole gives the Pels the reserve PG they need and Snell can fill the two spot when Evans and Gordon rest. In addition, Snell can spell Pondexter or even replace him in the starting lineup at the three. The Pelicans also save some money that can be spent on our starting center or put in the bank for Anthony Davis’ extension.
For the Bulls, this gives them Rose insurance, but it doesn’t come without a gamble. Holiday is another PG with lower leg issues. However, if he and Rose are healthy, I can see them co-existing in a backcourt with Jimmy Butler sliding to the three spot. Holiday is surely an upgrade over Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks. If Rose or Holiday are injured, Butler moves back to the two and the Bulls can play either Mike Dunleavy, Nikola Mirotic or Doug McDermott at the three. This moves also clears some of the big man clutter they are currently facing. Sacramento sends them a protected first round pick so they can add another low-cost piece through the draft.
The Kings finally get a player to pair with DeMarcus Cousins. Ryan Anderson returns home, which may be the best thing for him after these last two extremely difficult years. Anderson’s floor spacing ability will probably be overvalued by Kings’ owner, Vivek Ranadivé. It’s a sexy skillset and Ranadivé seems to value flash.
Trade 2: Flushing First Rounders for a New Direction
The Pelicans: Greg Monroe and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
The Pistons: Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson
Why It Gets Done
What do we do about Omer Asik? He’s such a polarizing player. Like Wolverine, he’s one of the best there is at what he does, but what he does best isn't very nice — nor is it sexy. He plays great interior defense in a way that isn’t highlight worthy. It’s hard to say that he rebounds at an elite level even though the numbers say he does. He pulls in a ton, but his hands are so bad that several seemingly easy boards get fumbled away each game. Unfortunately, his inability to catch any sort of cute pass makes these fumbles stand out more with the eye test than the staggering amount of rebounds he actually does gulp in.
The other great skill he provides is setting solid screens. We all love Anthony Davis and I’ve always said if Alexis Ajinca can learn to avoid cheap fouls he’d be a very good roleplayer, but both of them are horrible at setting screens. They set screens like Subway puts meat on sandwiches. Subway just passes meat over the bread so that the bread gets meat scented, but there really isn’t any substance there. Davis and Ajinca are so thin that they already have trouble getting enough body on a defender to really impede his path. That being said, they also don’t put their full effort into it. Asik, gives us that solid screen we need to free up the ball handler.
While Omer sets picks like a dumptruck he has the hands of a partially developed fetus. This affects his game in numerous ways. One of which is his infuriating and also head-scratching inability to finish at the rim. Seriously, I have two training techniques for him to try — 1) put him in a small room full of jugs machines that launch basketballs at him from all angles until he can secure an entry pass and then 2) create a pulley system of foam arms like running backs run through at the combine that rotate around under the basket and have Asik launch from underneath and dunk with both hands through the contact. If he can fix those two issues, he’d be one of the top centers in the league. Dell or whatever GM is running the team needs to make a tough decision on what to do with him this offseason. In this sign-and-trade, we decide he isn’t the answer at the five. Lets compare their stat lines:
26 MPG, 7.4 PPG, 10 RPG, 0.8 BLK, 52 FG5, 60FT%, 0.9 APG and 16 PER
31.1 MPG, 16 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 0.5 BLK, 49.6 FG%, 74 FT%, 2.0 APG and 21.12 PER
Monroe is better suited to play the center position than the power forward spot he is currently occupying in Detroit. He’s 6’-11" and 250lbs and lacks the lateral quickness to cover the more athletic fours in the league, but he’s a solid defender when filling the lane. Just off reputation and the eyeball test, it seems Omer is the better defender of the two, but when you look at the advanced stats you see that Monroe actually has the slight edge in Defensive Rating (Asik: 104, Monroe: 103) and Defensive Win Shares (Asik: 1.9, Monroe: 2.5). Now these things can be skewed as Monroe is backed up by Andre Drummond and plays on a team with a better opponents points defensive rating, but to say we’d lose a lot on the defensive end by replacing Asik with Monroe seems to be an invalid argument.
Clearly Monroe is the better offensive player. His FG% is lower, but keep in mind that he’s taking 12’-15’ jumpers that Asik isn’t. If he was playing the center position -- hence closer to the rim -- those numbers would improve. Greg Monroe has the body and will to set effective screens that we’d lose if we let Asik walk, he passes well out of the post (which would be useful if we start running more of a motion offense) and effectively defends his position. He’s probably an upgrade at the five, but at worst he’s an even trade albeit through a change in skills. Also, he’s from Gretna so there’s a local angle to all of this as well, not that I put a lot of value in that (but if the player is also good, it becomes a bonus).
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the other piece coming back to the Pels, would provide more youth and athleticism, but mainly gives us a very solid perimeter defender. He’s not a great offensive threat at this point in his career, but he has shown improvement. He could be crucial coming off of the bench to slow down an opposing two or three that has caught fire. In this move we are giving up on two guys that we gave up three first round picks for — which is hard to swallow — but with KCP we are in a way getting one of those back and filling a big need.
For the Pistons, they get a stretch four that Stan Van has a lot of experience with. This will help him shape this Pistons team into the 2010 Magic team he took to the Eastern Conference Finals with Drummond playing the Howard role and Anderson creating space. The Pistons have gotten a look at Reggie Jackson and it hasn’t been very pretty (of course just after I typed this, Jackson had a 20/20 game). Jrue Holiday comes in at likely a lower salary than Jackson will ask for this offseason. He’ll help replace the perimeter defense that the Pistons lose with KCP and provide a much more consistent offensive game than Jackson has been able to provide. Also, Jrue and Brandon Jennings are a better backcourt fit than Jackson and Jennings as Jrue is much more of a willing passer. Detroit won’t have to overpay Jackson or pay Monroe and will still have room to try to land hometown kid, Draymond Green (Anderson and Holiday’s salaries combined will likely just be a hair over what Jackson will seek). Green is what Josh Smith thought he was, and a frontline of Drummond, Green and Anderson will be hard to match for anyone.
Trade 3: Potential and Cap Space, PG to Set Pace and a Grumpy Gus Visits Disneyland
The Pelicans: Maurice Harkless
The Pacers: Jrue Holiday and Channing Frye
The Magic: David West
Why It Gets Done
This is one of my undervaluing Holiday trades, but it’s all about injury concerns. We are getting back a player with a 9.29 PER for a guy we gave up two first rounders for and is posting an 18.7 PER, but we are saving $8 million in salary and gambling on potential. We are also seeking more consistency in availability. Harkless is 6’9" 215 lbs with a 7’2" wingspan. He’s extremely athletic and should translate into a solid perimeter defender. Since Jacque Vaughn was fired, Harkless has seen his minutes increase in Orlando and while he hasn’t been very consistent offensively, he’s shown some flashes. Harkless is only 21 years-old and can hopefully be polished into a solid contributor. If he isn’t, he comes at a low cost financially and we have an extra $8 million to throw at another hole in the roster.
Who was the last memorable Pacers point guard? George Hill has done a decent job there, but he’s more of a two than a lead guard (he only averages 4.4APG). The Pacers need a playmaker to pull their offense out of the college ranks; Holiday gives them the initiator they have so desperately needed. Channing Frye gives them a spot up shooter to create space and feed off of the penetration created by Holiday, Paul George, Hill and whatever wings they keep/add to the roster. He takes David West’s beautiful 18’ jumper and stretches it out past the arc.
Orlando gets a veteran to anchor their team. If they can convince Tobias Harris to stay, they’d have a very solid starting 5. Even without Harris adding West to Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Elfrid Payton (who has recently posted two triple doubles) is a pretty good score. Also, who doesn’t want to see David West scowling at people in Disney World?
Trade 4: Ginobili Holidays in the Retirement Home
The Pelicans: a 1st round pick from the Spurs
The Spurs: Jrue Holiday
Why It Gets Done
The Spurs likely lose Ginobili and Duncan to white leather shoes and early bird specials. This move gives them a Ginobili replacement at a cost that will allow them to afford to be able to make a run at Duncan replacements Draymond Green, Marc Gasol or Greg Monroe. The Pelicans get some cap relief to make a run at Monroe or resign Asik and recoup a first that they sent away for Asik.
Trade 5: Double Davi (is That the Plural of Davis)
The Pelicans: Ed Davis
The Lakers: Jrue Holiday
Why It Gets Done
Ed Davis is the most underappreciated big man in the league. He is posting a 20.1 PER and making Jimmer money. That’s absurd. He is sure to opt out of his contract this offseason, but this could be a sign and trade move or an opt-in with promise of an extension deal. Davis has been a productive reserve big in Toronto, Memphis and now LA. I’d be very comfortable in bringing him off the bench in a Taj Gibson-like role here in NO. This move allows us to let a big walk or even trade Ryan Anderson for another part — making our main bench big a more traditional post player.
The Lakers do this because Ed Davis is going to opt out anyway and they need a point guard. Holiday is a hometown guy that will be the perfect unselfish point to suit up next to Kobe. He’s on a good contract that will provide enough cap flexibility for the Lakers to make a hard run at Kevin Love or DeAndre Jordan. Holiday would be a much better fit than the rumored target, Rajon Rondo, and it would come at a lower cost.
Trade 6: McLemore and Ryan Anderson
The Pelicans: Ben McLemore
The Kings: Jrue Holiday
Why It Gets Done
Darren Collison may be the Ed Davis of point guards, he doesn’t get much respect. He’s not an amazing player, but he’s very decent. He posts a 17.66 PER and averages 16 and 6. That isn’t shabby, but every team always tries to replace him. Rumor has it the Kings are looking to do the same. George Karl will likely try to land Ty Lawson, but I could see him settling for Jrue Holiday as it is more cost effective. Jrue also gives them more length and defense in the backcourt. The Kings find themselves in the lottery again, and the last thing they should do is give up that 1st round pick for PG that can be acquired through other moves.
McLemore has flashed potential, but he hasn’t developed into a dominating player. In Sacramento, he’s asked to start on a team that is constantly in flux. He’d be a pretty interesting piece to plug into the Pelicans’ rotation. The Pels could have a bench unit that features Norris Cole, Ben McLemore, Ryan Anderson, Alexis Ajinca and whichever wing (Pondexter, Babbitt or Cunningham) sticks with the team and doesn’t make it to the starting lineup. If Cole is retained, it solidifies the backcourt rotation with a legitimate reserve two. Once Eric Gordon's contract is up, McLemore could step right in at the starting SG spot.
Trade 7: The Baby Doesn’t Fall Too Far from the Adam’s Apple
The Pelicans: Wilson Chandler and Ed Davis
The Nuggets: Jrue Holiday and a Lakers’ 1st Round pick and a Pelicans’ 2nd round pick
The Lakers: Ty Lawson and Ryan Anderson
Why It Gets Done
This is a really good get for the Pels. Wilson Chandler is a lot better than his 13.7 PER rating says he is. He’s an athletic 3 and D guy that won’t demand the ball and provides a bit of Dante Cunningham styled dirty work. He’s a true three that can finally fill out that rotation splitting minutes with Pondexter. He also has a baby tattooed on his throat, which kind of makes him look like he’s a mecha from Robotech and I love it. We also land Ed Davis whom you can read about in the, "Double Davi" trade above. Remember, Luke Babbitt can be had on the cheap to fill the stretch four position we lose in the Anderson trade.
We don’t know who will be the Nuggets’ coach next year so it’s hard to predict what they want out of their point guard. Often coaches make changes for the sake of making changes so the Nuggets get a newer, longer, cheaper PG and a few more assets to aid the rebuild.
The Lakers get a speedy young PG who could flirt with an All Star appearance if he finds himself in the right system. They also get floor spacing and a cheaper Kevin Love should they strike out on him. Although, Byron Scott isn’t a big fan of the longball.
Trade 8: Just Say No to Rondo
The Pelicans: a future 1st round pick from Dallas
The Mavericks: Jrue Holiday
Why It Gets Done
Rondo isn’t going to work out long term in Dallas — everyone sees it. In this move, the Mavericks get a better fit who still provides solid perimeter defense. He can also shoot the ball. The Pelicans sell low for a future pick just to save cap space and clear out some clutter.
Trade 9: If the Lottery Ticket I Gave You as a Gift is a Winner, I’ll Give You Something Else
The Pelicans: Terrence Jones and our 2015 1st round pick back from Houston
The Rockets: Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson
Why It Gets Done
The Rockets have never seemed satisfied with their lead guard. Jrue Holiday gives them a complete player who won’t demand the ball allowing Harden to be the primary handler. They also get a stretch four to open lanes for Harden to drive and one of the few players that actually seems to like Dwight Howard.
The Pelicans reclaim the pick we sent out for Omer Asik and a reserve PF that is really starting to develop into a solid player and was Anthony Davis’ teammate at Kentucky. We also open up a lot of cap space for further moves.
Trade 10: Deng Bruh, That’s a Real Block Party
The Pelicans: Hassan Whiteside and Luol Deng
The Heat: Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson a future 1st and an option to swap picks
Why It Gets Done
It doesn’t, but we can dream. We would need Whiteside to become a super distraction in their locker room and a headcase on the court. He’s a very good player on the best contract in the league. He has a 26.3 PER and his cap hit is less than Jimmer’s. His athleticism, rebounding and shot blocking when combined with Anthony Davis’ same skillset would make us the most feared lane to drive into. We also get Luol Deng who is a veteran with playoff experience that has been one of the best 3 and D guys at the SF spot in recent years when healthy. Asik walks and we save a lot of cap space.
The Heat need a real PG (sorry Dragic) and Jrue Holiday would fix. Chris Bosh returns to center spot when healthy and Ryan Anderson stretches the floor.
Trade 12: Hair Club for Pels
The Pelicans: Wilson Chandler and Evan Fournier
The Warriors: Channing Frye and Maurice Harkless
The Nuggets: Jrue Holiday and a 1st round pick from Orlando
The Magic: David Lee and Harrison Barnes
Why It Gets Done
This is another solid move for the Pels. We’ve already discussed what Chandler can bring to this team, but we also acquire a serviceable reserve two who has the potential to have a few really hot games. Also, Fournier gets to join the subculture hair club with Babbitt, Withey and Cole. Fournier is rocking more of a, "I play guitar in Into the Sun — we’re a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band" cut.
The Warriors can’t pay everyone and dumping David Lee’s contract and the looming Barnes extension frees up some money for Draymond. Also, they get another 3pt marksmen and Harkless who could be a longer Iguodala.
The Magic don’t have to overpay to keep Tobias Harris (and can sign and trade him for other assets) and replace him with a legit four to put next to Vucevic and another nice young small forward.
The Nuggets add length and D to their backcourt and pick up another 1st rounder to aid the rebuild.
Giving Some RnR to Holiday
Again, I’m not sure that trading Jrue is the right way to go, but it’s something we need to at least explore. As far as the rest of this season goes, we need to let him rest and get healthy. He’s had two years cut short by the same injury — whether his future is with the Pels or somewhere else — I want him to have a long, healthy and productive career. It’s going to be very hard for the Pelicans to reach the playoffs this year with these late season injuries anyway, so rushing Jrue back isn’t beneficial to anyone. Let him bounce back as a key cog in our rotation or as a healthy asset to further bolster our squad. In any sense, I wish him the best and have been very happy to watch him lead our squad during his tenure.