When it comes to elite players in the NBA, Jrue Holiday has made a name for himself to be in that category in the 2018 calendar year. Holiday’s had a unique career, making his first All-Star game for the pre-process 76ers at 22 years old in 2013 before being traded to the Pelicans that summer.
Over the next 4 seasons, he established himself as a solid starting point guard although struggling with injuries at times (he missed more than half of his first 2 seasons in New Orleans). In 2017-2018 however, a fully healthy Holiday started to quietly establish himself. With Anthony Davis being the main player in the spotlight and continuing to progress into a fully developed superstar, it was Holiday in the background not being noticed on a national level but at the same time having the best season of his career.
In 2017-2018, there were only 5 players to average at least 19 PPG, 6 APG, and 4.5 RPG. These players were: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Jrue Holiday.
But where Holiday really started to finally establish himself was in the playoffs. With the Pelicans making the 2nd round, he averaged 24 PPG and produced multiple clutch plays throughout the playoffs. Although the team fell to the Warriors, I was so impressed that at the end of 2017-2018 I had Holiday ranked as the number 16 overall player in the NBA. This surprised me at first, but the more I watched his game the more I was content with ranking him in this elite category.
This season, his scoring load has increased even more and Holiday has responded to the occasion with 21 PPG and a career-high 8.9 APG.
A few nights ago vs. the Pistons, with AD being held in check by the elite frontcourt of Blake Griffin/Andre Drummond, Holiday produced his best game of the season with a 37 point/5 rebound/5 assist performance. His high basketball IQ clearly shows when watching him on the floor and he took Reggie Jackson to school all night.
With continued performances like this, fans are starting to notice. Although the west is stacked, Holiday will get serious All-Star consideration and I currently have him as the last player left off the Western Conference All-Star team, but that being said with 2 more months until the All-Star break his chances to make his 2nd All-Star game are surprisingly decent.
I currently have Holiday as the number 22 player in the NBA right now. In the 2018 calendar year, he has consistently been in my top 25 which would put him in near elite status despite not being a household name.
My argument is that Jrue Holiday is the most underrated player in the NBA currently, and here are 3 reasons for that:
1. His all-around offensive game at the guard position can only be matched by Russell Westbrook.
Holiday has averages of 21 PPG, 8.9 APG, and 4.4 RPG so far in 2018-2019. Russell Westbrook is the only other player in the NBA who matches these stats. Holiday doesn’t have a flashy game but the man is clearly talented. He made an All-Star game at 22 years old, and then due to a multitude of reasons fell out of the spotlight for the next few seasons.
Now fully healthy and mentally focused for the last couple of seasons, to combine with being paired with a superstar in Anthony Davis, Holiday has been able to focus on his strengths and he is low key an offensive juggernaut. Not only does he have elite court vision, but his scoring has improved over time as well. Although he’s not a force from the 3 point line (only 31% shooting) he makes up for it with a stellar offensive basketball IQ as well as a smooth mid-range game. Holiday is shooting 56% from inside the 2 point line this past season (compared to 45% when he made the All-Star game in 2012-2013).
Holiday’s all-around offensive game is unique to watch, he’s a walking bucket, and one of the smoothest players in all of the NBA.
2. Elite perimeter defense to combine with the offensive game.
A 1st team all defensive player in 2017-2018, Holiday has kept up this level of defensive play this season. He is averaging a career-high 1.7 SPG currently and consistently keeps high-level players in check night in and night out. I would argue that this level of offensive output + defensive intensity is unmatched by any other player in the NBA currently.
3. He’s been able to stay healthy and focused.
Having only missed one game since the start of last season, Holiday has been in a consistent groove that has only gradually increased over time. Although he’s always been considered a solid player, Holiday has raised the bar even more by being a consistent top 25 talent. The element he brings on the floor is absolutely crucial to the Pelicans’ success and he is just as important to how the Pelicans do this year as Anthony Davis is.
Last night’s stellar performance in Detroit could lead to more recognition for Holiday as the season goes forward and potentially could put the spotlight on an elite talent that myself and others have been low key noticing for quite some time now. With consistent play and a deadly combination of offensive smoothness + elite defense, Jrue Holiday has a very good chance at making his first All-Star game in 6 years. I believe he is the most underrated player in the NBA currently, but with how he’s playing I also don’t think it will be long before he starts getting more recognition.