Jrue Holiday turned in his healthiest season since coming to New Orleans, as well as arguably his most productive, but not long after the final buzzer of 2016-17, the focus shifted to the one-time All-Star’s upcoming free agency. The 6-foot-4 guard has never been an unrestricted free agent during his NBA career, because he was traded by Philadelphia in June 2013, roughly seven months after he signed a four-year contract extension with the 76ers. Holiday enters this summer listed as a consensus top-10 free agent and will have the ability to sign with any team July 1.
“New Orleans is kind of like a second home for me,” Holiday said in early April, when asked about his plans. “Obviously with what I went through this year (taking an early-season personal leave of absence), being able to have the support from the fans and my teammates and all of that, for sure I’d like to see them next year. But obviously I’m still going to do what’s best for me and my family.”
A new father who has been featured prominently in the NBA’s “Lean In” campaign, Holiday didn’t play the first 12 games of the season as he helped care for wife Lauren, who’d been diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer. Jrue eventually rejoined the Pelicans in mid-November, after Lauren’s condition improved and she’d given birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Jrue. New Orleans missed Holiday’s scoring ability significantly, going 2-10 as it tried to incorporate a few new pieces.
The Pelicans eventually fought their way back into playoff contention despite the poor start, winning five of Holiday’s first seven games in uniform, but couldn’t keep pace with red-hot Portland or Denver late in the season. New Orleans finished 32-35 when Holiday played, but just 2-13 when he was not available, underscoring some of his importance. As the Pelicans headed into the ’17 offseason, re-signing Holiday was at the top of the team’s list of priorities.
“Jrue’s been with us for four years,” Dell Demps said in his season wrap-up press conference. “We love Jrue, we love his family. Obviously we’d like to have him back. He’s got a tough decision to make. We’re going to let that process play out. He’s one of my favorite players. He’s a two-way player and a phenomenal person. We really enjoy having him here.”
NBA experience: 8 seasons (four with Pelicans) || Games played/started: 67/61 || Age: 26