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2016-17 Player Preview: Jrue Holiday’s uncertain future and present puts Pelicans in precarious predicament

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Holiday has matters much more important than sports to tend to, but where does it leave the team in the interim?

NBA: New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans will be without starting point guard Jrue Holiday for the start of the 2016-17 NBA season, and they have no idea when they will be getting him back. Holiday’s reason for his absenteeism is pure. His wife, USA soccer star Lauren Holiday, was both pregnant and facing brain surgery to remove a tumor. She has since had the baby and now awaits surgery which is scheduled for this coming Thursday. Jrue is going to be away from basketball as long as necessary, and the team, according to an “edict coming directly from owners Tom and Gayle Benson,” is perfectly okay with that.

Beyond the obvious health concerns and issues for his family, this situation is a poor one for New Orleans because the team really needs Holiday. Coach Alvin Gentry was quoted as saying, “There is absolutely no pressure on him to come back to this team until he feels like his family is where it needs to be for him to be away and everything is fine,” which is exactly true. However, Holiday remains the team’s best guard and the one most capable of being Anthony Davis’ running mate in an effective offensive attack. There is no pressure for him to return even though the team, from a basketball standpoint, really needs him to.

Holiday is a quick-twitch penetrator who averaged 18 points and 8 assists per game at his peak in Philadelphia. He creates turnovers on the defensive end, shoots a bit from the outside, is reliable from the line and controls the pace of a game when he is in there. He has the size at 6’-4’’ to hold down the top of the key on both ends while also possessing the speed to beat smaller players off the dribble. In his three seasons with New Orleans, he has been in much less often than fans and management would wish because of injuries. But when he has been on the court for the Pelicans, Holiday has still been a 16 and 7 player with .443/.357/.839 shooting splits. That isn’t quite an All-Star-level point guard, but it is pretty close.

Outside of Anthony Davis and Holiday, the Pelicans don’t really have any other players primed to compete for All-Star spots year to year. They may have pieces to overcome the loss of Holiday, but no one player will fill the hole. Defensively on the perimeter, New Orleans brought in E'Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway. Both have proven themselves capable-to-good defenders. The Pelicans could actually be better off on defense with some combination of Moore and Galloway in there. Offensively, it will be trickier to make up for what Holiday is capable of doing on the basketball court. The team took a flier on Lance Stephenson, who possesses the playmaking ability a team would want... if he’s engaged and playing within himself. Tyreke Evans would be responsible for some of the scoring load, but he is also out for the start of the season.

Because of Holiday’s absence, the Pellies will have to be far more interior-oriented than they may have wished. Davis already takes on a huge responsibility on this roster on both ends. Unless someone like rookie Buddy Hield breaks out, Davis will shoulder as much as when Holiday has been sidelined in the past.

The player tasked with starting at point guard for game one could be Tim Frazier. Frazier was a member of the Pelicans for 16 games last season, and he played pretty well. He shot well from the floor, including behind the arc, though he wasn’t gifted with many opportunities. In fact, he hasn’t been given much playing time at any of his three stops in the league thus far, but the misfortune surrounding Holiday could be his opportunity.

New Orleans has been saying all the right things. There is no reason Holiday needs to concern himself with basketball at this point. However, the season goes on and the Pelicans are certainly concerned about their basketball team. Relying on or waiting for Holiday would be a mistake. Even when he decides to get back on the court, there is no telling how long he would need to get into game shape or how the team’s offense would look at that juncture. A weird juxtaposition has developed. New Orleans needs Holiday, but at the same time, cannot worry about his return.

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