The biggest splash the New Orleans Pelicans made this offseason came on draft night, when they acquired Jrue Holiday from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Nerlens Noel, who New Orleans selected sixth overall. It was quite possibly the biggest move of the night and it made it clear that the Pelicans were determined to become a playoff team, building around Anthony Davis. But one couldn’t help but wonder how much a difference the deal would actually make. Yes, Holiday was a quality player, and he was coming off an All-Star selection (in a weak Eastern field that didn’t include Derrick Rose or Rajon Rondo, but still), but Greivis Vasquez, the Pelicans starting point guard at that point, was coming off a year where he averaged nine assists a game. Was Holiday really that much of an upgrade over Vasquez? And would he be able to replicate his prolific passing?
The answer to both questions has been a resounding yes. Holiday has been excellent for the Pelicans, both as a distributor and a scorer. While his 8.2 assists per game is impressive, what’s really been important is his consistency. When recorded just five assists in Wednesday’s loss to the Timberwolves, it was the first time since Nov. 20 that he had recorded less than six assists in a game. Holiday also had his most impressive performance of this season this week, when he put up 31 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists in the Pelicans’ upset win over the Blazers. As the season has progressed, it’s becoming increasingly clear that replacing Vasquez with Holiday was the right decision.
In moving from Philadelphia to New Orleans, Holiday has seen a remarkable uptick in his efficiency. In his final year with the Sixers, he was trapped on a team that was severely limited offensively, as injuries to Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson plagued their season. After Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young were the only other legit scorers. This forced Holiday to take on a big load; he took 16.5 shots a game while also averaging eight assists. Essentially, the Sixers offense revolved entirely around Holiday last year. This is not the case in New Orleans. Holiday is still in charge of the operation, but he was way scoring options to work with. Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson are averaging a combined 39.3 points per game, while Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans are both averaging in double figures. Even center Jason Smith is a decent mid-range shooter. Holiday has a ton of guys to get the ball to. Because of this, he’s taking fewer shots, down to 13.9 a game this year. Now that Holiday can pick his shots more wisely, his field goal percentage has gone from .431 to .460. The one glaring flaw in Holiday’s All-Star year in Philly was his efficiency. As it turns out, that was simply something that needed to be sacrificed due to the lack of other prominent scorers. With the plethora of scorers in New Orleans, it’s no loner an issue.
The Pelicans have made hue strides this season, going from one of the worst teams in the West to a possible playoff team, and Holiday has been big part of that. He’s proven himself to be an excellent point guard, setting up Anderson and Davis for easy shots while also contributing plenty of buckets of his own. As the Pelicans look to build a contender, Holiday looks to be one of their essential pieces going forward.