To say that Jrue Holiday had a roller coaster of a year in 2022 is an understatement. There were some incredible highs for Holiday in his third year with the Bucks, being named an All-Star for the second time in his career. However, there were also some low-lows, with Holiday not only underperforming on the offensive end again in the playoffs but being torched by Jimmy Butler on the defensive end in the Bucks’ first-round loss to the Heat.
With this, I want to take a look back and grade “The Jruth” on his 2022–23 campaign and what Bucks fans should expect from him in his fourth season in Milwaukee.
A Slow Start
The early part of the season would end up being the perfect microcosm for Holiday’s season. The Bucks began the year against one of Holiday’s old teams in the Philadelphia 76ers on the road. The Bucks were able to win 90-88, thanks to Giannis’ 21 points and a clutch three from Wesley Matthews. Holiday ended the night with eight assists, with four rebounds, and two steals, but shot just 2-for-15 for six points on the night.
Then for the next seven games, Holiday scored at least 15 points and had three double-doubles. The best performance of the bunch came against the Atlanta Hawks Oct. 29, when Holiday went off for a 34-point and 12-assist double-double while shooting nearly 60% from the field. Even after that, if you’ve been following along here, Holiday went the next seven games without cracking the 20-point mark and Milwaukee went 4-3 after starting the year 8-0.
Through the 2022 portion of the year, Holiday put up averages of 18.9 points, 7.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. The scoring average could have been higher, but Holiday had some rough offensive performances including four single-point scoring games. All that led to some big drops in Holiday’s shooting numbers at .453/.365/.893 compared to his first two seasons in the Brew City at .502/.402/.772. Although that could be explained by the fact that Khris Middleton only playing seven games in 2022 and Holiday having to take a bigger offensive load.
Even with an unpredictable offensive performance and Holiday missing nine games, the Bucks entered 2023 with a 23-12 record, good for third in the Eastern Conference behind the Nets and Celtics.
The January Renaissance
After that relatively slow 2022 for Holiday, the first games of 2023 were a very different story. Even with Middleton missing all but five games in the month, the Bucks went 11-4, helping them get within two games of the Celtics. A lot of that had to do with Holiday finding his footing in the offense as the second option. In the 13 games Holiday played during the month, the Bucks went 11-2, with him averaging 20.3 points, 6.8 assists, and 5.2 rebounds. His shooting splits also saw a jump, with him shooting 46.7% from the field, and 37.6% from three-point range.
The numbers are one thing, but there were several games where Holiday’s production came in key moments. In his best performance of the month against the Toronto Raptors Jan. 17, the Bucks were holding onto a one-point lead, 109-108 with about eight minutes to go. In a game where Giannis wasn’t even playing, Holiday stepped up by scoring eight of the last 21 points for Milwaukee, including a 28-foot three-pointer with 2:16 left to essentially ice the game. The Bucks went on to win 130-122 behind Holiday's 37 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and two steals.
Performances like that led to an accolade that Holiday hadn’t received in 10 years.
For the first time since he was 22 years old, Jrue was named to the All-Star team as an outright reserve selection. The last time Holiday was an All-Star, he was averaging 17 points and eight assists whereas Philly’s next-best scorer was a 24-year-old Thaddeus Young at 14 points per game. It’s safe to say a lot had changed from the last time Holiday was an All-Star.
“I just sucked in between those 10 years,” Holiday said to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel after the selection. “No, it is an honor, you know? I feel like I’m getting old now so it’s kind of cool to know I made it when I’m older.”
Despite the gap in time between his selections, Holiday's peers and opposing coaches know the type of impact that Holiday brings to a team on a nightly basis.
“He’s an All-Star every year to me, just the way he plays on both sides of the basketball,” Los Angeles Clippers head coach Ty Lue said of Holiday in the same article. “He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does. He reminds me a lot of Andre Miller in my era, an All-Star to me all the time and got snubbed a lot. So I’m definitely very happy for Jrue and he definitely deserves it.”
Holiday put an exclamation point on his selection with the second to last game before the break on Valentine's Day. Despite the Boston Celtics not playing Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford, it was a dogfight between the two Eastern Conference powers. After scoring 23 points through the first three quarters, Holiday kept up his hot play in the fourth, scoring ten points. Two of those ten came with seven seconds left to put the Bucks up by three, 116-113.
The game wouldn’t end though as former Virginia and Marquette forward Sam Hauser hit a three with three seconds left to send the game to over time. The Celtics ran out of gas and Holiday led all players with seven points in overtime as the Bucks won 131-125. Holiday also had a game-high 40 points on the night, tying a career-high in scoring. The 33-year-old guard made sure to spread the love across his stat sheet with seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals.
Holiday would only play nine minutes in his second All-Star game, hitting one three as team Giannis defeated team LeBron 184-175.
The 51-point game
Ever since Holiday came to Milwaukee, he has found himself more and more as a viable scoring option. Out of his five best scoring performances coming into the 2022–23 season, three of them have been with the Bucks, including a new career-high 40 points (twice). Then came the game against the Indiana Pacers on March 29.
Coming in, Holiday was putting in work against the Pacers all season, putting in averages of 24.7 points, 10.3 assists, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals while shooting 59.6% from the field. It was the last time that Holiday would see the Pacers that season and he put on a show inside of Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Holiday set a new career high with 51 points on 20-for-30 shooting (67%). If that wasn’t enough, the former UCLA Bruin filled the stat sheet as usual, adding eight assists, eight rebounds, and a steal. On the year, Holiday averaged 31.3 points against the Pacers, the most against any opponent.
After that 51-point game, Holiday finished the regular season strong with a 20-point, 15-assist, and eight-rebound game against the Chicago Bulls on April 5 before being rested for the final two games of the year. The First Team All-Defensive team selection finished the season by averaging 19.3 points (the most since 2018), 7.4 assists, a career-high 5.1 rebounds, and 1.2 steals.
The playoff meltdown
After a year where the Bucks had the best record in the NBA and were primed for another deep playoff run, much was expected of Holiday considering the season he just had on both the offensive and defensive end. While Holiday has always had drops in his stats during the playoffs, fans hoped that this year could be an outlier and he could step up his game.
That did not happen in the slightest and it came against a familiar foe in the Miami Heat.
Despite him keeping his scoring around what it was in the regular season (17.8 PPG) his shooting numbers fell off a cliff. After shooting 47.9% from the field and 38.4% from the three-point line in the regular season, those numbers dropped to 40% from the field and an abysmal 28.6% from beyond the arc. Those numbers were to be expected; even during the Bucks’ title run Holidays numbers were very similar on the offensive end (17.3 points, 40.6% from the field, 30.3% from three). The biggest difference came in Holiday's struggles on the defensive end.
The last time the Heat beat the Bucks in the playoffs, it came from a strong defensive structure to limit Giannis’ driving ability. While the defense was still there for Miami, what really propelled the Heat this time was one man: Jimmy Butler. Butler arguably had the greatest first-round performance in NBA history to beat the Bucks in five games. Butler scored 98 points between games four and five to lift the Heat.
Despite the fact that Holiday is a strong defender, Butler is four inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than Holiday and would repeatedly beat him down in the post. It was a tough task for Holiday to handle, despite his reputation and ability.
JIMMY BUTLER STARES DOWN JRUE HOLIDAY AFTER THIS BUCKET pic.twitter.com/VMCwTc9G9o— Backcourt Alerts (@BackcourtAlerts) April 27, 2023
Holiday admitted as much in his appearance on the Sideline Stroll with Ros podcast.
“I play the game to go against the best players. I played defense to play against the best players no matter what position or however it may be. While I was in it, I was hot. I’m getting my a** busted. And then he started talking s***, I think, in the last game or something like that. And it’s like yeah, that’s what competitors do, and Jimmy is the ultimate competitor. But you hate losing. I hate losing.”
Player Grade: B+
If this was solely based on the regular season, Holiday would have gotten an A, if not an A+. However, with how poorly played in the playoffs he has to be bumped down another letter grade. With where this Bucks team is at, playoff performance is everything and you expect Holiday to hold down the one end of the floor the Bucks count on him for. Hopefully, with some of the tweaks made to this roster and Middleton being fully healthy this season, Holiday can perform better on both ends for the 2024 playoffs.