Milwaukee Bucks: Panic or patience for Jrue Holiday’s slow start

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 19: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 19: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The first sign that the Milwaukee Bucks were initially getting healthy was getting Jrue Holiday back after he suffered an ankle sprain and also dealt with a non-COVID illness that caused him to miss five games. However, while his return was a boost for the Bucks, he has struggled early to begin the season.

Holiday posted career-highs in several offensive categories last year, most notably 3-point percentage (39.2 percent) and true shooting percentage (59.2 percent). Through seven games this season, Holiday’s points per game average (13.6) is the lowest of his career since 2011-12 and his true shooting percentage (47.8 percent) is the lowest of his career.

After a championship run where Holiday excelled on defense but struggled mightily at times offensively (48.2 percent true shooting in 23 playoff games), this has caused a bit of early worry from fans that there’s something wrong with the Bucks point guard.

But is there truly a reason to believe that Holiday’s offensive game, specifically his scoring and efficiency, is cause for concern? Let’s dive a little deeper.

Should Milwaukee Bucks fans panic or have patience with Jrue Holiday’s slow start?

If you look at the counting stats for Holiday’s most recent game against the Boston Celtics, you’d probably think that he had an alright night. 16 points, 13 assists, and six rebounds is a solid night for anyone, but it also took 25 shots for Holiday to get those 16 points. Not ideal!

We had some pretty lofty goals for Holiday’s offensive game before the season and it’s not looking too promising for the 31-year-old at the moment.

A few things are going on with Holiday’s offense so far, let’s start with the most frustrating and that is his inability to finish around the basket. For all the hand-wringing around Holiday’s offensive game during the playoffs, he still managed to shoot nearly 61 percent around the basket. He is shooting 50 percent at the rim this season, by far the lowest mark of his career.

This is shocking for a couple of reasons, the first being that Holiday shot over 70 percent at the rim last season and per Cleaning the Glass, was in the 87th percentile of point guards at finishing around the basket.

Holiday shot around 53 percent on 2-point attempts with the closest defender within two to four feet on nearly 300 attempts, per So far this year, that mark is a little over 41 percent. He’s also shooting a significantly lower percentage on his short midrange shots (from three to 10 feet from the basket, or floater range) this season (36.4 percent) to last (43.3 percent).

One note that I found interesting was the stark contrast in his catch-and-shoot 3-point numbers compared to his pull-up 3 numbers. On catch and shoot 3s, Holiday is shooting 6-of-14 (around 43 percent), but on pull-up 3s, he is at a paltry 7-of-25 (28 percent). One of the reasons for his career-high 3-point percentage was that he made around 40 percent of his pull-up 3-point jumpers last season.

The concern here is that he’s taking nearly four pull-up 3s per game this year and almost one attempt more per game than last season. Of course, part of this is due to the added offensive responsibilities without Khris Middleton and, to an extent, Brook Lopez. Also, we shouldn’t have expected him to shoot that well on pull-up 3s again.

Holiday has always been a better shooter off the catch than pulling up, so last year was certainly the anomaly. The hope is that he reduces the number of attempts when there are more scoring options in the lineup. On the other hand, he took about four pull-up 3s per game in the playoffs last season and shot around 30 percent, so I’m not holding my breath.

Easily the most worrying trend for Bucks fans is that he isn’t converting around the basket, which is a huge part of what makes Holiday so valuable. He is so strong and physical that he can bully other guards to get to the basket, but if he’s not finishing then opposing defenses will let him take those post-ups all day.

I don’t want to make this all doom and gloom, there are a couple of good notes for Holiday at the moment. The first is that he’s shooting better than last season on his long 2s, which are an inefficient shot but if he can make them at a high rate (similar to Middleton), then you’ll take that.

Another is that his efficiency in pick and roll situations as the ball handler is one of the higher marks in the league among high volume players at 0.96 points per possession. That’s right around what he was at last year so he can still run the pick and roll at a relatively high level.

Some of these numbers make me wonder if the ankle injury is still bothering him a little bit, but the Bucks wouldn’t rush him back this early in the season, taking the long view instead. I don’t think we’ll see another year around 40 percent from 3, but you should expect to see a better mark on his shots at the basket, it’ll just take a little time.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: Former executive shares insight on burning fan questions. dark

Verdict: Tentative patience