Point guard is the deepest position in the entire NBA. The closest thing to an easy night your typical point guard sees in the league is against a young and developing athlete who has yet to breakout (the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, and Atlanta Hawks apply here) an aged star (Derrick Rose with the Knicks, Rajon Rondo with the Bulls, and Deron Williams with the Mavericks) or a dream date with the Sacramento Kings who are a disaster at point guard. There are few, if any (thanks Kings) breaks in the schedule.
It is fairly easy to break the current crop of point guards into tiers. The top group, consisting of eight players, all have posted a total PER of almost 20 or above in the past two seasons (past two seasons part is important when looking at the upcoming charts) and racked up every single All-NBA Team appearance and all but one All-Star selection. Those eight players are not realistically obtainable for the New Orleans Pelicans.
The next group, of nine players who posted a PER of 16 or better in the past two seasons combined, span a wide range of ages and styles of play. Jrue Holiday finds himself very near the head of the class in this group despite being the second youngest player.
Elite Point Guard Group
Second Point Guard Group
|Jrue Holiday Rank||2||2||2||3||6||3||4||5||4||4||6|
Jrue Holiday is not without weaknesses in this group of nine players. Most pointedly his lack of contributions on the defensive glass (where he ranks 6th out of nine players) and low true shooting percentage (also 6th) stick out. On the whole Holiday is a more well rounded contributor on the floor; a superior scorer compared to the few who assist more frequently (Teague and Rubio) and a superior passer to those who score more often (Walker and Jackson).
Researching this group what stood out to me was Holiday’s relative age among NBA point guards. The only players younger than Holiday in the top 17 are Damian Lillard (about a month younger), John Wall (three months younger), Ricky Rubio (four months younger), and Kyrie Irving (a couple years younger). 1990 was clearly a good year for point guards. Reggie Jackson (April), Kemba Walker (May), Holiday (June), Lillard (July), Wall (September), and Rubio (October) were all born within six months of each other.
Ranking second or third among the second group of nine point guards is great for Holiday’s impending free agency. However, those numbers did not even account for his defensive versatility where he is easily the largest player at 6’4” and possibly the best defender in the group. Mike Conley has the best argument but is the least versatile of the bunch and has regularly been surrounded by superb defenders with the Memphis Grizzlies. Ricky Rubio might be better defensively, but he comes with significant questions around his shot. Eric Bledsoe plays far larger than his listed height of 6’1” but even the Phoenix Suns celebrated medical staff is having difficulty keeping him on the court.
Health is apparently the big question surrounding Jrue Holiday at this point, and I find many of those concerns misguided now. Holiday last underwent a procedure on his balky right leg in May 2015. Since that time he has missed, as part of a maintenance program at the beginning of the season, a total of six games to avoid playing on back to back nights. He has missed zero games due to a reported set back, pain, soreness, or re-injury. Zero. Games. In the span of an entire season.
The only other injuries he suffered were a blister to his left toe in March (two games missed) and a freak fractured orbital wall thanks to an errant and accidental elbow by Kristaps Porzingis on March 28th. Holiday would have played 74 games had it not been for that elbow many of the injury concerns would have been long forgotten.
On the whole it is a good thing Holiday missed those additional nine games to wrap up the season. An additional couple victories or more could have slid the Pelicans all the way to 10th in the draft.
Statistically Jrue Holiday appears on the cusp of the top 10 at his position, the deepest in the NBA. Another healthy season with continued improvement (his PER has increased in four straight seasons, his TS% in three straight) along with some hoped improvement in the defense around Holiday and he could cement his place in the top 10 at point guard.
If Holiday finds a way to make that happen? Prepare to open up the checkbook Mr. Benson.