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Latest News, NBA / Dec 13, 2012 / 3:35 pm

How A 76er Is Putting His Team On His Back Better Than Any Other Point Guard

Jrue Holiday

Jrue Holiday (photo. Nicky Woo)

According to CSNPhilly.com, 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday is waiting for test results today from an MRI to determine whether soreness in his left foot’s arch is something worse. Injury news in Philadelphia has reached that rare point of fatigue that recently only Portland and Minnesota can relate to, and, most unusually, all because of one player: Andrew Bynum. An injury to Holiday wouldn’t just add to Sixers’ woes, however; it would curb one of the NBA’s best individual seasons so far, one that stacks up well against any point guard.

Ever since August the storyline in Philadelphia has been Bynum playing the role of anchor dragging down the season. With one of the best centers of the past five seasons yet to play, that attention is warranted, of course. So too is the attention Evan Turner and Holiday have received for their spikes on production and confidence. Holiday’s season, however, isn’t just notable on a personal, career-high kind of glance. Instead, it’s because it stands out from a league-wide view of the NBA at its quarter pole. Put simply: There may not be a point guard carrying his team more than Holiday is with Philadelphia.

All along Holiday’s constant has been accuracy, and that hasn’t changed. His career-high effective field goal percentage was last season’s 50 percent; his “low” is actually this season’s 47 percent eFG. With the departure of Lou Williams, though, went Holiday’s inhibitions or reservations of putting Philadelphia on his back in his fourth season. Now, his 18.8 percent of baskets he makes that are assisted are the lowest of any point guard. He doesn’t pass, cut away from the ball and work back for a shot via screens. He makes his own damn shot. I don’t need to tell regular Sixers watchers how he’s done it, either: He’s never shot more often, more accurately (70 percent) and while being assisted less at the rim, per Hoopdata.

Certain caveats are expected for players shouldering a team’s scoring load, minefields Holiday has somehow stepped around. For all that time creating his own shot, his turnover rate is the lowest of his career and his usage rate (a measure of how often a player uses a play on the floor) is actually several points lower than his career high. OKC’s Russell Westbrook is the poster child of the point guard who looks for his own shot but his criticism comes because his team has more quick-deploy weapons than a U.S. drone. Unlike the Thunder, the Sixers don’t have a roster you’ll one day be able to play as a 2K Sports “classic” roster option. Given his relative dearth of talent around him, what Holiday is doing is outlandish: Curbing his turnovers, resisting the urge to drive the offense solely through him, and still getting career highs in points and assists. Unlike the loud criticism Westbrook gets, Holiday deserves to be lauded. Westbrook’s athleticism trumps any guard’s and his PER rating is 4.5 points higher than Holiday’s. And yet, you could make the case Thunder fans secretly wish the Thunder’s PG played more like the Sixers’ PG, that this is the model Westbrook would emulate.

Remember that a percent-assisted figure as low at Holiday’s 18 percent isn’t exceptional for a backcourt player. Shooting guards obviously and typically have much higher rates of being assisted on because of being set up by teammates, not rates of doing the assisting — looking at you, DeMar DeRozan‘s 8.92 assist rate. And to be clear, Holiday is still dishing it out better than he ever has: a career-high 8.9 assists per game piggybacks on his career high of assisting on nearly 42 percent of teammates’ buckets when Holiday is on the floor. To relate how unique his scoring and passing production is, consider only he and Westbrook average at least 18 points and eight dimes per game this season.

We don’t know what kind of butterfly effect a healthy Bynum would have on this Philadelphia roster. What we do know is that if Holiday misses time because of an injury to his sore left foot, it might just cripple the 76ers’ offense altogether. Instead of lamenting what hasn’t happened in Philly, maybe it’s time to appreciate the superlative season Holiday is putting together.

What do you think?

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