Jrue Holiday’s All-Star consideration has never been much of one in his first three seasons in the NBA. At 19, he was still figuring out his style while turning the ball over more frequently than he handled it. As his obvious talent has become more apparent more frequently, an All-Star nod was squelched by Philadelphia’s democratic no-star system of the past two seasons and, most importantly, the sheer depth of talent he was up against as an Eastern Conference guard. Derrick Rose, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams were All-Stars the past two seasons. To carve out space between those guards in those seasons, Holiday would have needed dynamite. More importantly, he wasn’t ready. Now, not only does he have an opening with Rose’s injury and Williams’ poor play, his own explosive play signals he’s deserving of a trip to Houston.
With the 22-year-old Holiday about to miss what would be four games with a sore foot in mid-December, I looked for reasons through statistics he’d be missed most. I’d seen Holiday and Carmelo Anthony each go for 27 in a New York-Philadelphia game in November at the Garden, dueling for stretches at a time in what looked like a one-on-one game. I was intrigued at how a season after the 76ers could play without a defined leader, Holiday looked so natural being The Guy. Four Six weeks into the season his statistics jumped out immediately, and I wrote this to say so.
Three improvements stood out: His shooting accuracy where he needs it most; the fact his turnovers are near a career low even though he’s never handled the ball more; and that he’s pulled it off without much teammate help. The numbers are still there in all three categories and an All-Star bid should be waiting as a result.
Holiday’s shooting volume has continued to rise, but his accuracy hasn’t wavered. He’s shooting a career-high 70 percent at the rim with more attempts than ever there, and even though he’s shooting a career “low” from three, he’s still at 53 percent effective field-goal. It’s valid to take issue with his career high in long two-point attempts, especially given he’s shooting just 32 percent between 16 and 23 feet, but his accuracy at the rim and beyond the arc outweighs the damage.
Before he was injured only 18 percent of Holiday’s baskets were assisted, the sign of a player able to make his own shot. It’s risen slowly to 21.7 percent now, but not only is that still far lower than ever (his previous low was 35 percent), it’s the second-lowest assisted-percentage among NBA point guards to Russell Westbrook. Just like Westbrook, an obvious All-Star, Holiday enjoying his fewest turnovers this season while not sacrificing his playmaking. Holiday is still seeing his usage rate go up but his turnovers declining per 100 possessions. The 8.9 percentage point difference between his usage rate and turnover rate this season is his best ever. As you might suspect, his PER rating (20.8) is above what is considered an All-Star rating of 20.0 because of all this.
Two other paradoxes were noticeable during Holiday’s showdown with ‘Melo in NYC. How can a point guard be the most aggressive in his career and yet the ball doesn’t stop with him? He’s assisting on 41 percent of 76er buckets when he plays, a career high by a whopping 12 percentage points. Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young are direct beneficiaries of Holiday’s breakout season, with career highs in points. Another mystery was how Holiday could expend arguably more energy than ever on offense and yet be so valuable on defense. When he rests, the 76ers allow 10.4 more points per 100 possessions.
When I watch Holiday, I see a 23-year-old Brandon Roy from 2007-08, the year of his first All-Star nod. While playing slightly different roles — Holiday that of pure point guard, Roy that of a shooting guard who often handled the point — the pair have compiled curiously similar statistics. Points per 36 minutes and every shooting metric in the comparison below are extremely close (The differences in their respective rebounding and assist percentages reflect that difference in playing shooting guard and point more often).
The overarching similarity is the way both Roy then and Holiday now are becoming louder voices on their young teams, capable of leadership by production. Holiday has been so good it shouldn’t matter he’s doing it on a team as un-sexy for national observers such as the 76ers, much how Roy did it holed up in the Pacific Northwest on a team destined for that season’s No. 1 pick. There’s an opening in the Eastern Conference for Holiday this season with Rose and Williams either injured or struggling, but the way Philly’s young guard has played so far would deserve recognition even if there wasn’t.
Should he be an All-Star?
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