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Jrue Holiday is an elite point guard but there’s good reason why you may never see that version

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A lack of selfishness and poor team performance have undermined Holiday’s place among his peers in the past, and two giants could interfere with his future.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout this season I regularly read or heard comments decrying Jrue Holiday’s offensive abilities and skills. That he’s a really good defender, but his performances on the scoring side of the ball will always hold him or his team back.

I didn’t agree then and I most certainly don’t agree now.

Cole Zwicker published an interesting article earlier this week on The Step Back, pointing out that most top guards in the NBA are among the most feared shooters off the dribble. Among other things, he noted the importance of pull-up field goal attempts for decision makers and their correlation to the Offensive Real Plus Minus stat.

Just missing inclusion on the first chart was Holiday for a lack of shot attempts. As you would expect, the names of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul populated the top of the list, but look how well Jrue compared from an efficiency standpoint with players from the widely considered next tier like John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. Since I recently wrote about potential point guard replacements, I also included Darren Collison, Shaun Livingston, Patty Mills and Jeremy Lin, as well as Mike Conley and Eric Bledsoe, two guys often mentioned in our point guard discussions.

Player MPG PTS FGA FG% 3FGA 3PT% eFG% ORPM
Damian Lillard 35.9 8.3 8.9 37.1% 4.8 34.0% 46.2% 4.62
Kemba Walker 34.7 8.3 8.7 38.1% 4.8 35.5% 47.9% 3.93
John Wall 36.4 6.7 8.2 37.5% 1.7 29.9% 40.6% 3.42
Mike Conley 33.2 7.2 7.0 41.1% 3.6 39.0% 51.2% 4.59
Eric Bledsoe 33.0 5.5 7.0 34.1% 2.6 29.9% 39.5% 2.30
Jrue Holiday 32.7 5.7 6.1 37.8% 2.9 37.6% 46.8% 0.64
Darren Collison 30.3 4.2 4.5 43.8% 0.9 32.8% 46.9% 1.06
Shaun Livingston 17.7 2.1 2.3 46.5% 0.0 0% 46.5% -2.82
Jeremy Lin 24.5 4.4 4.5 40.3% 2.1 35.1% 48.4% 0.50
Patty Mills 21.9 3.3 3.3 40.2% 1.5 42.6% 50.0% 2.70

I’m sure the first question out of many mouths is why does there exist such a disparity in Holiday’s ORPM? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Similar to the PER statistic, a lot of offensive input is incorporated; for instance, volume weighs heavily along with various shooting efficiencies. Additionally, however, teammates are also factored into the Real Plus Minus equation. First, let’s examine Holiday’s numbers from the past three seasons.

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MPG PTS TRB AST TOV 2FGA 2FG% 3FGA 3PT% eFG% ORPM
2014-15 32.6 14.8 3.4 6.9 2.3 10.0 46.9% 3.4 37.8% 49.3% 2.45
2015-16 28.2 16.8 3.0 6.0 2.6 10.4 47.8% 4.0 33.6% 48.5% 2.57
2016-17 32.7 15.4 3.9 7.3 2.9 9.1 49.8% 4.2 35.6% 50.9% 0.64

These numbers all seem rather similar initially, and the raw data suggests Holiday put on the finishing touches on another good season, especially after posting 3-year bests in assists, rebounds and effective field goal percentage. Yet, ORPM doesn’t remotely agree. Remember the Pelicans made the postseason several years ago so his teammate context graded the highest in 2014-15. Last season’s ORPM loved the fact that Holiday averaged close to 4 additional shots per 36 minutes.

So, Holiday’s low ORPM from the 2016-17 season was both a product of mediocre attempts and lousy team performance. Seriously, the only per 36 minute numbers that stick out below are points... which largely trace back to shot attempts.

Player PTS REB AST FGA FG% 3FGA 3PT% eFG%
Jrue Holiday 16.9 4.3 8.0 14.7 45.3% 4.6 35.6% 50.9%
Damian Lillard 27.0 4.9 5.9 19.9 44.4% 7.7 37.0% 51.6%
Kemba Walker 24.1 4.0 5.7 19.1 44.3% 7.9 39.9% 52.6%
John Wall 22.9 4.2 10.5 18.2 45.1% 3.5 32.7% 48.2%

The biggest thing separating Holiday from Lillard, Wall and Walker isn’t individual talent or skill, it’s Anthony Davis. Name the best player(s) on the Trail Blazers , Hornets and Wizards. Then think about the Pelicans. Now, consider that DeMarcus Cousins was recently thrown into the fold, too.

Did you know that without the two All-Star big men on the floor, Holiday’s numbers compared much more favorably to these rivals? That the stepped-up production existed in 2015-16 when Davis sat as well?

PTS REB AST FGA FG% 3FGA 3PT% eFG%
2016-17 21.1 4.5 8.0 17.5 47.7% 5.7 38.0% 53.9%
2015-16 22.9 4.3 6.9 19.5 43.6% 5.1 39.0% 48.7%

This is the prime example of why I roll my eyes when people point out Holiday’s ORPM, his overall scoring average or some other measure and use it to make an end-all-be-all conclusion that Holiday’s offense is somehow deficient. Do you know how many other players in the league scored 21 points a game, dished out 8 assists and posted an eFG% north of 50% last season?

Two: LeBron James and James Harden.

Of course this isn't to say Holiday is directly comparable to these MVP-caliber players, but rather to suggest his combination of efficiency, scoring and playmaking are rare. You’ve heard it before, but I’m going to say it again: context matters. Jrue Holiday has all the offensive ability in the world, but it’s partially been masked in the past due to him making a conscious effort to step aside for others. Plus, don’t be surprised if his leg injury, minutes restriction, and most recently, his family concerns at home, played a role in his output over the last three seasons.

If Holiday re-signs with the Pelicans, though, don’t expect to see the elite level production on a consistent basis, not with Boogie and The Brow calling New Orleans home. Just remember, it’s there, so please stop holding the lack of big numbers against him.

After watching Damian Lillard average the same amount of assists as turnovers against the Warriors and John Wall get stripped by Avery Bradley that ultimately seemed to be the backbreaking play in the Wizards crushing loss last night, I’m more than happy to hear Holiday is looking to defer to Davis and Cousins, two of the best players in the entire league. And you can bet that Lillard and Wall wish they could have the opportunity to do the same when necessary.