Jrue Holiday at the Heart of Sixers' Youth Movement

Written By Roy Burton On Monday, March 14, 2011
At virtually every level of basketball, a quality starting point guard is essential to a team's success.

Never has that been more true than in today's NBA, where many of the league's elite are directed by an All-Star caliber lead guard: Chicago's Derrick Rose, Boston's Rajon Rondo and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, just to name a few.

Sixers' point guard Jrue Holiday hopes to add his name to that list soon enough.

As the youngest player in the NBA last season, Holiday experienced his fair share of growing pains during his transition to the pro game.

As a 19-year-old rookie, he struggled at times to make the conversion from scoring guard - which he was during his one season at UCLA - to a more conventional point guard role.

Less than two years removed from his days back at Pauley Pavilion, the Sixers' lead guard has quickly blossomed into one of the best young talents in the NBA.

Holiday has started every game this year for the Sixers, averaging 13.7 points and 6.2 assists per game. Other than wins and losses, the most important stat for a point guard is their assist-to-turnover ratio, and Holiday shines in that area with a stellar 2.34-to-1 mark.

His care with the ball is seemingly infectious: as a team, the Sixers turn the ball over only 13.4 times per game, fifth-best in the NBA. A team as inexperienced as the Sixers usually commits turnovers at an alarming rate - Holiday is clearly the steady hand that prevents the Sixers from playing out of control.

As a four-time NBA All-Star, Sixers' coach Doug Collins is notoriously demanding on his young players. His instruction, along with that of Sixers' assistant coach Aaron McKie, has been crucial to the development of Holiday.

"It was all about being more aggressive and learning more about how to be a point guard," said Holiday in an interview with NBA.com during All-Star Weekend. "And that’s definitely something that me, coach Collins and Aaron McKie are trying to instill in me."

While it is often said that a point guard serves as a catalyst for a team, in Holiday's case, the stats clearly bear this point out.

This season, the Sixers are 8-3 in games when he scores 20 points or more. Three of those wins came in the month of February, shortly after Collins named Andre Iguodala the team's "point foward" in an attempt to free up Holiday on the offensive end. Not coincidentally, the Sixers finished February with a record of 9-3, their most successful month in eight seasons.

Holiday has 11 double-doubles on the season, ranking second in that category among all NBA sophomores (the San Antonio Spurs' DeJuan Blair leads all second-year players with 16).

Just as a rising tide raises all ships, Holiday's performance this season has improved the overall play of his teammates, many of whom are enjoying either breakout or resurgent seasons.

Both he and Elton Brand have exceled at the pick-and-roll this season, and Holiday's consistent jumper frees up the floor for players like Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young to attack the basket .

That's not to say that Holiday hasn't had his struggles. Earlier in the year, he made more than a few questionable decisions in late-game situations. More recently, he's had trouble defending the other team's point guards, allowing his opponent to drive the lane and disrupt the Sixers' defensive schemes.

But the 2010-11 season has been filled with plenty of positives for Holiday, perhaps no positive bigger than his triple-double against the New Jersey Nets on February 2 (11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds).

The only moment that may have topped that was his selection several days later to the Sophomore team for last month's T-Mobile's Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam during NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.

The nomination was important to Holiday, especially since he wasn't selected as one of the nine members of the Rookie team last year. The acknowledgement of his skills by others in the league is a clear sign that his game continues to grow each and every day.

"He is the total package," said Collins in an interview with Comcast SportsNet back in September. "He is such a good kid and such a hard worker and he is pure. I honestly believe that next year you will talk about him being one of the top five point guards in the league."

While Collins may have been a little premature with his praise, you can definitely see the potential in his emerging point guard. With more than half of the players on the roster younger than 25, the Sixers are built for long-term success as they grow together both on and off of the court

And Jrue Holiday shall lead them.

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