Players and fans alike took to Twitter yesterday after Jrue Holiday was conspicuously absent from both NBA All-Defensive Teams.
Holiday was arguably a lock to make one of the rosters after having secured a place on the First and Second team (respectively) over the past two seasons.
Though the Pelicans struggled as a team in 2019-20, the unit’s defensive rating still slightly improved from the previous season to the next. The group’s overall production fell off a cliff without its anchor, Derrick Favors. 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.
In 51 games with Favors, the Pelicans 107.9 defensive rating would have ranked them seventh in the NBA.
The group finished as 10th in the NBA over its last 44 games but I digress...
Back to Holiday.
Ben Simmons and Marcus Smart deserve no debate. Each earned their standing and are worthy of the honor.
Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Beverley each had strong campaigns as well. However, neither worked as hard or as effectively as Jrue Holiday. Let me tell you why.
NBA award voters: "Eric Bledsoe over Jrue Holiday for All Defense!"— flightsnofeelns (@flightsnofeelns) September 8, 2020
Actual NBA players: pic.twitter.com/u2HfLMCU0z
Dame: “To me, he (Jrue Holiday) is the best defender in the league, among the guards.” https://t.co/YJ1bcfJRgN— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) September 9, 2020
“We ask him to guard opposing team’s best perimeter players every night” — Alvin Gentry. To put it bluntly, Beverley and Bledsoe weren’t tasked with nearly the same workload as Jrue Holiday.
Bledsoe guarded opposing team’s point guards on 49.3 percent of his possessions and shooting guards on 30.7 percent according to BBall Index. That’s nearly four out of five possessions on backcourt playmakers. Jrue? Only 63 percent.
In Defensive Positional Versatility, Jrue graded in the 88th percentile while Bledsoe graded near the bottom at 12th.
Defensive RPM? Jrue graded in the 83rd percentile with Bledsoe in the 48th.
In rim contests, Jrue graded in the 66th percentile to Bledsoe’s 12th.
Raw stats were fans of Holiday, too. In steals, Jrue finished 12th to Bledsoe’s 107th. In blocks, Bledsoe finished 177th while Jrue was 69th. In deflections, Jrue was second while Bledsoe didn’t crack the top 100.
That Jrue’s D-PIPM graded in the 84th percentile with Jaxson Hayes and Brandon Ingram as primary rim protectors for a large portion of the season should speak volumes about his play, what he was asked to do and how well he executed it.
It should be noted Bledsoe’s workload was decreased per result of having the league’s best Defensive Player alongside him in Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as Brook Lopez, who earned another finish on an All-Defensive Team.
Beverley was asked to do considerably more than Bledsoe this season but still far less than Jrue. Jrue guarded opposing team’s All-Stars and All-NBA players on 37.2 percent of possessions while Beverley did so on 30.6. Jrue played 40 percent more minutes than Beverley and badly bested him in rim contests, deflections and steals (where Jrue finished second overall, 12th overall and in the 71st percentile to Beverley’s 53rd overall, 74th overall and 17th percentile).
Beverley played alongside two of the best wing defenders in the NBA in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
There is simply no comparison.
Holiday finished second in deflections, 12th in loose balls recovered and 13th in steals overall in the NBA and sixth in blocks among guards — badly besting Beverley and Bledsoe in each category. In a league where injuries have become all too commonplace, Jrue was seventh in distance travelled last season while Beverley and Bledsoe did not break the top-100.
He simply did a lot more.
"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 individual matchup data also loves on Holiday.
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.
And we all remember Jrue’s savage defense against Ja Morant in the bubble.
Nikola Jokic would've kept on the weight if he had known Jrue was going to be defending him. pic.twitter.com/hbXUcKSZTn— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) July 26, 2020
Reminder: The All-Defensive Team was not designed to recognize a team or a player’s role within its system. It’s meant to recognize individual performance. All of these players had strong seasons but none did what Holiday was asked to do.
It isn’t only criminal that these two defenders beat out Holiday but that he only received 18 votes — well behind Kyle Lowry and Kris Dunn in the guard category.
The voters got it wrong.
Here's a bonus of Jrue stripping and then blocking LeBron James. You're welcome. pic.twitter.com/P5bX33gKx3— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) July 20, 2020
Players Speak Out
Let’s go through a list of some notable players who refer to Jrue Holiday as one of the game’s best three defenders or as the league’s most underrated players:
Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Trae Young, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Joe Ingles, JJ Redick.
“Like 95 percent of the people we ask say Jrue Holiday,” Matt Barnes on the league’s most underrated player.
.@Andre Iguodala on Jrue Holiday:— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) September 9, 2020
"I've seen this guy guard Steph better than anybody. I've seen him guard Durant for 40 minutes. He should have been DPOY 2-3 times, First-Team D every year. He'll never get that household name credit."
How y'all pick Bledsoe? https://t.co/1GxOcqx5kB pic.twitter.com/nHwTpowAPI
As Redick professed when this many of Holiday’s peers speak out, it becomes readily apparent that the media got this one wrong.
Holiday’s back-to-back finishes on the defensive team may have come to an end, but his standing as one of the game’s very best defenders continues among both his teammates and opponents.