October 18, 2023, 12:46 am
Ask and you shall receive, faithful readers! After my last Fantasy Faceoff, I polled readers on the app formerly known as Twitter about what the next matchup should be. Lo and behold, we have a contest between Dejounte Murray and Jrue Holiday. I admitted then and again now that this was always the duo I wanted to write about, so I’m glad my audience is similarly curious!
Every team with legitimate playoff aspirations knows it needs two-way players that can keep them competitive on both sides of the ball when it matters most. To that end, the Atlanta Hawks made waves by acquiring burgeoning All-Star Murray before the 2022-2023 season. You may have also heard that the Boston Celtics acquired Holiday recently in an admirable attempt to reassert their status as titans in the East.
In terms of career accolades, there’s no fair comparison between this guard duo. Holiday has simply been playing high-level basketball for longer. However, they are remarkably close in terms of on-court and fantasy value while also playing similar offensive roles as part-time point guards who are accustomed to being moved off-ball. What separates them and what makes them so similar? You’ll have to read further to find out. As always, we do this so you can know who is the better option for 2023-2024 fantasy drafts.
Dejounte Murray vs. Jrue Holiday
PAST: Who was the better fantasy player?
21.1 PPG, 1.4 3PT, 8.3 RPG, 9.2 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 2.6 TO, .462 FG%, .794 FT%
68 games, 1438 points, 96 3-pointers, 563 rebounds, 627 assists, 138 steals, 23 blocks, 180 turnovers, 573-of-1241 field goals, 196-of-247 free throws
18.3 PPG, 2.0 3PT, 4.5 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 2.7 TO, .501 FG%, .761 FT%
67 games, 1225 points, 132 3-pointers, 301 rebounds, 457 assists, 108 steals, 29 blocks, 183 turnovers, 478-of-954 field goals, 137-of-180 free throws
It’s not fair that I, a Jrue Holiday fan, should have to do this but I did accept the task. Here’s the thing: he was great. Holiday always is. Some lights shine brighter than others, though. Dejounte Murray was the runner-up for the Most Improved Player this season on the strength of his across-the-board career highs in every category but free throw percentage, which he only missed the mark on by .004%. One never would have thought that it was going to be Murray’s last season with the Spurs after nearly averaging a 20-point triple-double with two steals and the Seattle product justifiably received praise from every corner of the basketball world. In truth, Murray probably deserved to get the Most Improved Player award instead of Ja Morant: he did outproduce him in every category but points and field goal percentage while being indisputably better defensively. In 9-cat leagues, there was only a handful of players -all but one an MVP- that outranked Murray, so he certainly out-produced his Fantasy Faceoff opponent in this season.
It would be a disservice not to dive into what made Holiday excellent even with the admission that he never had a fighting chance to beat Murray in the 2021-2022 season. After all, being among the top 15 assists and steals producers for a season is nothing to shake your head at. The 5-time All-Defensive team member wasn’t acquired by the Bucks for his scoring but was still able to provide above-average points and 3-point numbers too, so the fact that he made about 3-of-4 free throw attempts on average didn’t seem so bad even if that technically represents negative value for fantasy purposes. Really, the only thing that Holiday left managers wanting was better value in free throws and turnovers. It’s hard to blame a playmaker for turnovers though – it’s part of the job. Further, with less than three shots from the charity stripe per game, Holiday wasn’t really hurting anybody in that category either. The total package was a top-35 player with no glaring weaknesses. Nobody who drafted Holiday should have been disappointed in this result.
PRESENT: Who is the better fantasy player?
20.5 PPG, 1.8 3PT, 5.3 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 2.2 TO, .464 FG%, .832 FT%
74 games, 1515 points, 133 3-pointers, 389 rebounds, 448 assists, 112 steals, 19 blocks, 160 turnovers, 612-of-1319 field goals, 158-of-190 free throws
19.3 PPG, 2.4 3PT, 5.1 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 2.9 TO, .479 FG%, .859 FT%
67 games, 1290 points, 158 3-pointers, 341 rebounds, 495 assists, 79 steals, 25 blocks, 197 turnovers, 490-of-1023 field goals, 152-of-177 free throws
Believe me, this article wouldn’t have been worth writing if I was going to award a unanimous decision to Murray for the second time in a row. It wasn’t a clean sweep for either man in the 2022-2023 season. Circumstances changed and that went a long way towards closing the gap formed between Murray and Holiday in 2021-2022. Perhaps that was too ambiguous: Murray’s stats declined and Holiday did what he always does. It was Murray’s first season with the Hawks and there were some obvious growing pains as he adjusted to playing alongside All-NBA stud Trae Young. That included a 4-point drop in his usage rate, which only served to reduce his opportunities to generate counting stats. In what was generally an up-and-down season for the Hawks, Murray’s production had similar peaks and valleys. From one perspective, it was more of the same as he kept a similar scoring and 3-point average. There was even a bonus in the form of his considerably improved free throw accuracy. Unfortunately, the 6’5” guard also lost nearly half of his previous assists and rebounds averages while also dropping about half a steal per game. If you looked at his numbers without knowing what they were before, there would be no reason to complain. After all, a 20-5-5 line with solid defense and efficiency is still worth a top-35 valuation. The subtext to all this is that he was top-10 before becoming a Hawk.
Over the course of the 2022-2023 season, Holiday did enough to gain recognition on the All-NBA Defensive First Team but we fantasy managers didn’t actually see growth on that side of the ball. Holiday actually declined in steals while staying static in blocks. However, managers were treated to valuable boosts in almost every offensive category. We were treated to increased points, treys, rebounds, assists and a career-high mark in free throw percentage which was almost 10 percent greater than last season. Holiday lost an edge in field goal percentage after falling below the 50 percent mark but remained one of the better guard options to protect this category nonetheless. It’s a bit odd that Holiday actually lost ground in the overall rankings given all of the positives from his first All-Star season in a decade but that goes to show the extremely high impact of premium steals production. Once again, Holiday was behind Murray in the overall rankings due to that steals impact but the number of players separating them could be counted on one hand. Ultimately, it’s hard to argue in Murray’s favor when the optics around their two seasons seem so disparate and that’s why this decision goes to Holiday. Need a tiebreaker? Consider that teams probably would have had to draft Murray with one of their first two picks and were rewarded with third-round value. On the flip side, Holiday matched that same valuation but with an average draft position in the forties. It’s a bit obtuse to phrase it like this but one player turned out to be a bust and the other proved to be a valuable sleeper. Give me the guy that outperformed expectations for 2022-2023.
FUTURE: Who will be the better fantasy player in 2023-2024?
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