Fantasy Basketball Impact: Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo as New Orleans Pelicans Starting Backcourt
After giving point guard Jrue Holiday a five-year, $126 million deal to stay put, the New Orleans Pelicans added Rajon Rondo to be his backup. That would be a pretty good situation, if Rondo accepts the role, but not so fast.
On a local radio show, Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry unveiled his plan to start Holiday and Rondo together going into next season. Holiday would obviously shift to shooting guard in that arrangement, and then be the primary ball handler most of the time when Rondo is not in the game.
For fantasy basketball owners, it’s going to be worth watching how Rondo and Holiday function together.
This would not be the first time Gentry has deployed Holiday this fashion. Tim Frazier started 12 of the final 13 games last season in the same backcourt, and Holiday scored at least 17 points six times with two double-doubles. In his other 55 games last year, Holiday reached that point total 19 times with 13 double-doubles.
Holiday’s minutes shifted back toward the point last year, but Basketball Reference’s estimate put him with 65% percent of his minutes at two-guard in 2015-16.
Holiday only missed three games due to injury last season, and he averaged 15.4 points, 7.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game over 67 games (61 starts). He set a career-high in field goal percentage (45.4 percent) while making 35.6 percent of his three-pointers, but his free-throw percentage fell dramatically (70.8 percent) compared to 2015-16 (84.3 percent). All in all Holiday fills the stat sheet solidly, with shooting percentages that won’t hurt fantasy owners too much.
It’s worth noting, however, that only 9.4 percent of Holiday’s field goal attempts in 2016-17 came off catch and shoot. Off three or more dribbles (h/t to NBA.com), he had 57.7 percent of his field goal attempts last season. That doesn’t seem to fit well with Rondo and two high usage big men in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins over a full season, so Holiday has a transition ahead of him as the ball is sure to be in his hands for less possession time.
Rondo had a down and fairly tumultuous year for the Bulls last year. He averaged 7.8 points, 6.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game while starting 42 of 69 games and playing the fewest minutes (26.7 per game) since his rookie season in 2006-07.
But Rondo’s per-36 minute averages were pretty good though (10.5 points, 9.0 assists, 6.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals), and he’s only one year removed from clearly leading the NBA in assists per game (11.7 in 2015-16). That 2015-16 campaign was his only with the Sacramento Kings, and Cousins was a teammate.
Rondo offers little as a scorer (10.7 points per game for his career), and even less in terms of shooting percentages across the board. But he is capable of big assist totals, and he now has three capable players around him to convert his passes into points.
Davis and Cousins have both added the three-point shot to their arsenals over the last couple years. But beyond that Holiday will bear a significant burden to stretch the floor for the Pelicans, and he is in line to sacrifice a lot of overall control over where and when he gets the ball into his hands.
Holiday is not a star, despite a salary that might now suggest it, but he is a capable across the board fantasy producer. A slight uptick in scoring should come, along with a small decline in assists per game, next season. He carries durability concerns, but Holiday’s missed games last year were mostly due to his wife’s health situation.
Rondo’s fantasy value is going to be driven by playing time, so being back in a starting role is good news. Averaging a double-double (points and assists) per game in 2017-18, with a handful of rebounds per game to go with it, is well within reach. Just be sure to have other roster pieces in place to offset abysmal shooting all-around, and expect only an occasional notable scoring game.
In terms of draft value, a couple months out from that time, Rondo looks like the better pick in a newly-constructed starting backcourt for the Pelicans. I see Holiday as a candidate to be overvalued, with little chance to return that impact when it’s all said and done.