Back in 2014, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired the draft rights of Nerlens Noel from the New Orleans Pelicans, along with a first-round-pick, for point guard Jrue Holiday and a second-rounder that would wind up being Pierre Jackson.
Noel hasn’t had a good career, and it looks like he is on a downward spiral, while Holiday is playing like the 2013 all-star that NOLA thought they were getting.
I did already post about Anthony Davis and how he doesn’t have the supporting cast he needs to win in the playoffs; Holiday shut me right up.
Relatively speaking, Holiday has been kind of a disappointment in his Pelicans career, considering they got him when he was coming off an all-star campaign at only 22-years-old, but he has been a solid player. Just nothing special. Although that may be true of Holiday’s performance, his off-the-court life had an effect on his performance.
In 2016, Holiday left basketball to help care for his pregnant wife who was suffering from a brain tumor. And in an interview with Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports, Holiday even said that this time in his life put a lot of pressure and stress on him (for good reason). Fortunately, Holiday’s wife, Lauren, had a successful surgery, and recovered. Some things are bigger than sports and Holiday’s actions reflected that.
Anyway, once Holiday’s wife was healthy again, he was able to focus on basketball. He got back to playing like the 22-year-old all-star, specifically in this postseason.
In the first round of the 2018 NBA playoffs, he and, the already mentioned, Davis led the charge in sweeping the Damian Lillard led Blazers. Holiday shot 56.8% from the field (as a freaking point guard) helping him average about 27.8 points a game in the series. Most impressively, Holiday dropped 41 points in a close out win.
Holiday playing so well at the guard position helps space the floor. Teams can’t just gather around the basket trying to stop Davis anymore. They have to pay attention to what Holiday is doing too. Holiday’s play has given the Pelicans a savvy front and backcourt pair for the 2018 postseason.
Can he keep it up? Maybe. Holiday had a down year in three-point percentage, but he shot 49.4% from the field during the regular season, blowing his previous career high out of the water by 4%, but that doesn’t mean he is going to be shooting nearly 60% throughout the playoffs.
Holiday has all the skills and talent to succeed, as we’ve seen, but he just needs to start being consistent with it. At this moment in time, he has been both consistent and efficient. New Orleans has reaped the benefits by getting past the first round, but round two is right around the corner; let’s see if the former Sixer has what it takes to help push New Orleans to the Western Conference Finals.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)