Injury problems continue to persist for the New Orleans Pelicans. First, it was Ryan Anderson, then Tyreke Evans, then Anthony Davis, then Ryan Anderson again (Anderson is still out of the lineup). Now, the Pelicans have lost another one of their best players, as point guard Jrue Holiday is out indefinitely with a stress fracture and is expected to miss more than a month. The Pelicans have done a solid job of adjusting to injury troubles this season, but the loss of Holiday will be difficult to recover from.
For one thing, point guard isn’t the deepest position on the Pelicans roster. Holiday’s primary backup is Brian Roberts, who is a decent backup, but when thrust into the starting role, it seems unlikely that he’ll be much more than spot starter. Even if Roberts does a capable job and distributes the ball to the likes of Evans, Davis and Eric Gordon, he’s not the scorer that Holiday is and the offense will become significantly less potent. Before the injury, Holiday was also averaging 7.9 assists, so Roberts will be called on for a lot in terms of both scoring and distribution.
Now, suppose Roberts struggles in the starting role — his limitations are all too obvious — and the Pelicans fall into a deep funk without their All-Star point guard around. What do they do then? That’s where Tyreke Evans enters the fray. Evans has played point guard quite a bit in the past, in fact it was the position he played when he won Rookie of the Year honors with the Sacramento Kings in 2009-10. The problem is, after his rookie year, Evans struggled at the point, and it became known throughout the league that Tyreke Evans was not a “true point guard,” and that he was more at home playing the 2 or the 3. So far this year, Evans has been quite effective as the Pelicans sixth man/backup shooting guard, and moving him to the starting point could disturb the balance within the Pelicans offense. That’s why Monty Williams is more likely to move Roberts into the starting lineup than play Evans out of position But if Roberts struggles in the starting lineup, Williams may not have any other options.
The Pelicans have stayed strong throughout their various injury issues this year, but this may finally be the loss that sends him out of contention. Losing Anderson (again) was bad enough – he was their best shooter, and amazing floor spacer. Now, they lose a dynamic point guard in Holiday and are forced to count on Brian Roberts – who has never been a starter — to carry a rather heavy load in his place. They’ll still have the ‘Brow, who is quickly becoming one of the most dominating power forwards around, but he might not be able to put the team on his back just yet. In order to survive without Holiday, the Pelicans will need consistent production from Evans, Gordon, Roberts, and maybe even Austin Rivers. And even if they get all of that, they’re still going to have an extremely tough time fighting their way into the playoffs. There’s no way around it; this was a devastating injury for the Pelicans.