As Sixers Nation prepares for the highly anticpated debut of big man Andrew Bynum I can't help but put the spotlight on the real "big" man of Sixers basketball. All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday.
That's right, ALL-STAR!! Holiday has quietly become the driving force behind the Philadelphia 76ers success, or attempt at success. At 18-25 the Sixers are far from making noise in the Eastern Conference but Holiday is starting to make a name for himself as an elite point guard in the NBA. Let's just say the Sixers wouldn't be even remotely close to the 8th seed in the Eastern conference without their All-Star point guard.
You could see the team torch being passed from Andrew Iguodala to Jrue Holiday in the Sixers 1st round upset of the Chicago Bulls in the 2012 playoffs. In the six game series Holiday averaged team highs in points (18.2) and assists (4.7) while pulling down 5.2 boards. The Sixers handed the keys to Jrue in early August when they traded away, team leader and longest tenured Sixer, Andre Iguodala for center Andrew Bynum. It was clear that the young point guard was poised to lead this team into the future.
When the Sixers drafted Holiday with the number 17 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft there was a lot of negativity from Sixers Nation. The hot name coming out of that draft was ACC player of the year, point-guard Ty Lawson. Lawson had just led UNC to a National Title in the 2008-2009 season and declared himself eligible for the 2009 draft. A proven, seasoned point guard, not a work in progress.
The Sixers instead opted to draft a fairly unknown, blossoming young freshman out of UCLA. A consensus top 5 player coming out of high school. At UCLA, alongside All-American point guard Darren Collinson, Holiday struggled playing off the ball in a slow paced offensive with limited touches. But his high ceiling, good size for his position, and strong defensive skills made him a must have for the Sixers. Let me just use this platform to say that I was thrilled with the pick and said Holiday would be a better PG, long-term, than Lawson (just saying).
Quick 2012 PG comparison between Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson, just for fun:
Points Per Game: Holiday 19.4/Lawson 14.8
Assists Per Game: Holiday 8.9/Lawson 6.8
FG%: Holiday 46.1/Lawson 43.4
Rebounds Per Game: Holiday 4.2/Lawson 2.6
Minutes Per Game: Holiday 38.1/Lawson 34.2
Ty Lawson does have a better tunrover ration but you get the point! Oh yea and Lawson is 25, Holiday is 22.
The future is now for Holiday and the 76ers. It was a no brainer. The decision is paying off as the blossoming young talent is budding at just the right time. Projected as a top-ten pick, the Sixers were "ecstatic" to draft Holday with the 17th pick. Straight from the mouth of current Sixers GM Tony DiLeo in 2009 after the Sixers selected Jrue.
"We were unanimous as a staff that if he was there, we would take him. We're looking to the future with him," DiLeo said. "We're ecstatic. He's exactly what we wanted. He's 6'4 and a big guard."
Two days after being named to his first All-Star team Jrue Holiday validated it by pouring in a career high 35 points on the hated New York Knickerbockers. A 97-80 beatdown of the first place Knicks. A star is born. Oh and to add to his stat line Jrue added 6 assists, 5 rebounds and ONE turnover. Holiday was downright impressive, embarrassing every defender the Knicks tried to use on him. The first 35 point performance by a 76er in six years! It was a win the Sixers desperately needed, led by an All-Star the Sixers deseperately need.
At 6'4 Holiday is a big for his position, imposing point guard. He has a 6'7 wingspan that gives him a great advantage on the defensive side of the ball. Extremely athletic, he has a nose for the ball and the size and strength to play both guard positions, although he is a natural point guard. At the young age of 22 Holiday is positioned to be an extremely bright talent for the Sixers for years to come. This is no doubt his first of many All-Star game appearances.
His 19.4 points per game ranks him 4th among point guards, second in the East to the Cav's Kyrie Irving. 6 points higher than his career high. His 8.9 assists puts him 4th in the league and 2nd in the East to Rajon Rondo, who is lost for the year.
"He's grown as a player, and become one of the stars in this league," teammate Thaddeus Young said. "We're just complementing him."
Congrats to 76er Jrue Holiday on his first All-Star apperance! It is well earned and well deserved.