There may be 88 regular “seeding” games remaining in the 2019-20 season, but the NBA has announced those contests will not count towards the annual performance awards, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
There’s a fair argument for this decision considering eight teams won’t be participating in Disney’s Campus tournament.
“The decision to exclude seeding games from awards voting ensures a fair process in which players and coaches from all 30 teams will have the same opportunity to be honored,” Shams tweeted.
On Saturday night, I laid out why Brandon Ingram should be a heavy favorite for the NBA’s Most Improved Award, but what are the odds of someone else taking home hardware?
New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin may garner a few votes thanks in part to the rich return from the Anthony Davis trade in addition to the acquisitions of JJ Redick and Derrick Favors.
Zion Williamson may even garner a few votes for Rookie of the Year after becoming the first NBA rookie to ever score 23.6 points with 6.8 rebounds while shooting above 58 percent from the field. The number one overall pick also finished 12th in ESPN’s Real Plus Minus tool. The likely winner, Ja Morant, finished 159th.
These are all worthy candidates. However, Jrue Holiday’s case for a third consecutive finish on an NBA All-Defensive team might be the best chance for recognition outside of Ingram.
"You are the best one-on-one defender I have ever seen in my entire life," JJ Redick to Jrue Holiday@Jrue_Holiday11 is the latest guest on The JJ Redick Podcast!— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) February 27, 2020
via @Ringer | #WontBowDown pic.twitter.com/CdEe60evPB
The greatest case against Jrue Holiday may be his defensive real plus minus. While Jrue finished fourth among shooting guards and 21st in the NBA in overall real plus minus, he finished just 106th in the NBA in DRPM and 35th among guards.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to all the good stuff.
Jrue Holiday is one of the most versatile and savage backcourt defenders in the league, regularly taking on opponent best perimeter and even low-post scorers.
Let’s break out the numbers:
Holiday finished second in deflections (4.1 per game) and ninth in steals. In addition, he finished third in defensive loose balls recovered, fourth in blocks per game and 14th in contested shots among guards.
Laying out Jrue Holiday's case for a third consecutive All-Defensive Team.— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) July 19, 2020
He defended All-NBA and All-Star type players on 15.2 and 21.9 percent of possessions. placing him in the 99th percentile according to @The_BBall_Index pic.twitter.com/bhN7OlIhqI
While LeBron James was able to take advantage of Holiday with his sheer size and the coaching staff’s willingness to match the two 1-on-1 without sending any help, Holiday shut down plenty of All-NBA players in dramatic fashion.
Damian Lillard scored eight points in nearly 15 minutes matched up against Jrue while shooting just above 21 percent. James Harden managed just 33 percent shooting in ten minutes while Jamal Murray and Paul George COMBINED to go 1 for 18 against Holiday. Anthony Davis went 3 for 10. Jimmy Butler 2 of 6. Kyle Lowry 1 of 6. Kendrick Nunn 2 of 9.
All in all, Holiday defended All-NBA and All-Star type players on 15.2 and 21.9 percent of possessions with each placing him in the 99th percentile according to BBall Index. He defended those deemed primary and mega creators on nearly 50 percent of defensive possessions, which put him in the 99th percentile. Better still, whomever he guarded wasn’t getting to the rim. He finished in the 95th percentile in rim deterrence.
Think about that. In addition to being one of just eight players to finish with 19.6 points and 6.9 assists, Jrue did so while defending primary initiators on half of opponent offensive possessions!
Per result, Holiday finished sixth in miles per game (2.66), 33rd in total distance overall despite missing 10 games!
In an anonymous poll taken by coaches and assistant coaches, votes cast Ben Simmons, Marcus Smart, Patrick Beverley and Eric Bledsoe into the four roles.
Simmons and Smart are locks in my humble opinion.
Here is a comparison of how Jrue Holiday and Eric Bledsoe are asked to team defend. Bledsoe principally defends point guards. His impact is limited to that as he grades them and shooting guards on 81 percent of possessions.
Now look at what Jrue is asked to do. He defends guards nearly 17 percent less than Bledsoe and he still grades better as a perimeter and interior defender.
This one stat is telling. Holiday grades in the 95th percentile at deterring opponents from getting to the rim. Bledsoe grades out at a 36th percentile as he funnels opponents toward Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the paint.
There can be no comparison between the two.
Jrue's relentless energy graded him in the 95th percentile in rim deterrence according to @The_BBall_Index. Put simply, if he was matched up against you, the best you could hope for was a contested shot...if you were lucky. pic.twitter.com/hcRLxHLlxa— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) July 19, 2020
What about Wins and Losses and Team Defense?
This could be another popular case against Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans finished just 20th in defensive rating despite closing as the eighth-best over the last 36 games. However, this isn’t his fault.
The Pelicans failed to invest in a backup big who could provide rim protection in Derrick Favors’ absence. During his 13-game absence, the Pelicans were 25th in defensive rating (114.9), with heavy minutes going to rookie Jaxson Hayes and Jahlil Okafor. During this period, opponents averaged over 117 points per game, shot 47.7% from the field and 38.8% from behind the three-point line, and found themselves at the free throw line almost 20 times a game.
The 28-36 record looms large as well. Why not give the nod to Bledsoe? The Milwaukee Bucks finished with by far the best defensive net rating across the league. Giannis will reap the benefits of that, but Bledsoe may be the only other candidate.
But the NBA All-Defensive Team shouldn’t be based on the merits of one’s team. It should reflect individual effort on a night-in, night-out basis. And no one worked harder on that end than Jrue Holiday.
Thanks for reading!