The New Orleans Pelicans couldn’t afford to let Jrue Holiday leave in free agency so they quickly and aggressively sign him to a five-year, $126 million deal that could increase to $150 million if incentives are reached.
With his size and 6’7 wingspan at the point guard position and ability to play on or off the ball, Holiday is an ideal player conceptually for today’s game. Holiday can switch on defense, run the pick-and-roll and space the floor when he doesn’t have the ball.
When he was traded to New Orleans in 2013, Holiday was coming off an All-Star appearance after his 22-year-old season and figured to continue getting better, but he’s only improved marginally. Holiday is almost entirely the same player now as he was in 2013 except his overall efficiency has improved now that he shoots more three-pointers. Holiday became smarter in not settling for as many long mid-range shots.
Holiday had an assist rate of 35.9 last season, which was ninth in the NBA. After the All-Star break when the Pelicans traded for DeMarcus Cousins, that assist rate fell to 31.8.
Holiday has a concerning injury history, but he’s only 27 despite being an unrestricted free agent this offseason after he was a young one-and-done in 2009. Holiday should hold up well throughout the life of the contract and at the very least be one of the NBA’s better defensive players at his position and hit open shots. Holiday’s versatility in defending either backcourt position also gives the Pelicans more flexibility in the types of players they can target since smaller shooters are an option.
The Pelicans could have pursued one of the free agent point guards left without a starting spot after clearing some of their dead salary, but re-signing Holiday even on an overpay was preferable. The options they could have reasonably signed, Jeff Teague and Patty Mills, each signed right at midnight.
The Pelicans are on the clock on re-signing DeMarcus Cousins and figuring out if he’s even a smart fit with Anthony Davis. The Davis clock has already begun even though he can’t become a free agent until 2020 and almost certainly has a Designated Veteran Player Extension awaiting him. No amount of money can convince Davis to stay with the Pelicans if he doesn’t have NBA caliber teammates. Re-signing Holiday was a necessary first step.
Grade for Pelicans: B+
Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson were excited to leave the Pelicans a year ago amid reported culture issues and a frugal operation that is an outlier in the NBA where improving upon the margins of training facilities and medical staff is a competitive advantage. How badly Holiday wanted to stay versus the strength of that offer is unclear, but it was clearly too much money to pass up and pursue a comparable deal on the open market. With Teague quickly agreeing upon a deal with the Wolves, the most probable landing spot was off the table for Holiday.
If the Pelicans are unable to keep Davis and Cousins, Holiday likely will be traded out as part of that complete rebuild, but that’s something to be decided at a later date.
Grade for Jrue Holiday: A