The injuries in the NBA are now piling up to near-historic proportions, particularly in the point-guard ranks, where the extended absences of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe have robbed the NBA at least an eighth of its overall watchability. Now, the lame can add another newcomer to their ranks--Pelicans point guard and former Sixer great Jrue Holiday.
Jrue has been ruled out indefinitely by Pelicans brass with a right ankle injury--a stress fracture in his tibia, if you must know. The loss to injury is tough for Holiday, who has been durable for most of his four-plus-year pro career, not yet missing ten games in a season. It might be even tougher for New Orleans, who was already missing sharpshooter Ryan Anderson for an indeterminate amount of time, and has also seen fellow young core players Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and future superstar Anthony Davis shuttling in and out of the lineup with various maladies over the young season.
As NBA fans, we hate to see the league lose a talent like Jrue for any time period, and as Sixer fans our heart obviously goes out to our former floor general. However, the latter allegiance also forces us to consider how this news might end up impacting the Liberty Ballers, who own the Pelicans' first-round pick in the upcoming loaded draft, and have reason to wish temporary ill upon the fortunes of New Orleans.
And the impact will likely be rather sizable. Jrue wasn't likely to be an All-Star again this season--more of a comment on the level of elite backcourt talent in the West than anything--but he was still having a very solid year in New Orleans, averaging 14 and eight on 45% shooting and 39% from deep, while developing a particularly nice chemistry with Davis. Without him, the Pellies will have to either shift combo guard/forward Tyreke Evans to the starting lineup, leaving the second unit almost entirely bereft of scoring, or promote either steady backup Brian Roberts or (shudder) one-time prospect Austin Rivers to the first unit, none of which are particularly attractive options compared to the Damaja. The offense, already reeling from the loss of Anderson, will undoubtedly suffer even further.
The Pelicans currently reside at 15-19, and would have the 12th best lottery chances if the season-ended today. Their injury woes seem likely to push them back even further, possibly falling out of the just-outside-the-playoffs tier of the Wolves, Nuggets and Grizzlies and into the when-does-next-year-start? tier of the Lakers, Kings and Jazz. They'd have to do some serious losing to out-tank the dregs of the East, where they currently have a better record then even our seventh-seeded Bobcats, but nothing is impossible in this most unpredictable (and injury-stricken) of NBA seasons.
Good news for the Sixers, right? Well, to a point. Obviously we'd rather have the eighth or ninth pick in this historic draft than the 12th or 13th--though with the Eighth Samurai Sam Hinkie making the final proclamation, you gotta like our chances at either--but it's a slippery slope at that point, because if the Pelicans actually get drawn in the top three on lottery night (or more incredibly, tank their way all the way to the bottom five), we don't get to pick at all, as the selection remains top-five-protected. Ideally, we want the Not-Hornets to slip another rung or two, but tread water from there, to avoid risking anything more than a single-digit-percent chance of the Pelicans getting to hold onto their pick.
The important thing for us is that the Pelicans not get into the playoffs. If they did, it'd probably mean they had a better record than all but two or three of the Eastern playoff teams, which means their pick would fall all the way to the 20s in the draft--still valuable, but not nearly as. As long as we're picking in the lottery, the depth of this draft should allow Hinkie to find us a player to be a valuable contributor on the team for a long time to come. With their recent spate of injuries, we should now be relatively safe on that one, and that is good news.
Most importantly, we don't want karma to come back and bite us on this one. So let us wish nothing but get-well-soon thoughts to our once-and-future boy Jrue, and hope the Pelicans get back on track before too long. We'll bandwagon for you guys super-hard next season, promise.