This season is widely understood to be a crucial pivot point in the development of Jrue Holiday: whatever sort of player he will ultimately become, he will go a long way towards becoming it between now and June.
As the story goes, he will either raise his play – become, if not the “top five point guard” his coach maintains he will be, a high-level player – or flat line like some of the other once-promising-rookie-turned-disappointments he shares the Wells Fargo locker room with. More than even wins and losses, Holiday’s progress is what will determine ‘10-11 as a success or failure
So far, the early returns are mixed.
He started the season about as poorly as he could have. He looked disjointed in going 2/9 from the floor and getting gashed by Dwayne Wade for 30 on opening night. He didn’t shoot a foul shot and turned the ball over five times. Doug Collins, whether out of a loss of confidence in his young guard or as a motivational ploy, pulled him from the game for long stretches. He played only 21 minutes. His next two nights weren’t much better. He scored 20 points on 25 shots, got to the line once, and – most damning for a putative creator – averaged three assists per.
But when the calendar turned to November, Holidays game turned too.
He dropped 13 dimes against John Wall and the Wizards. Three nights later he scored 29 points on 10/17 shooting against the Cavs. He didn’t turn the ball over once.
He has still though, to a greater extent than is desirable for the floor general of a team, been plagued by maddening stretches of apparent inconsistency. He looks different from came to game. He vacillates from demonstrative and assertive one night to timid and lost the next. This transformation sometimes happens over the course of quarters, possessions.
What’s going on with this guy?
The fan base, and sometimes even his coach and teammates and certainly us here at Philadunkia, seem to wonder.
What’s strange is that while the individual elements of Jrue’s game have been erratic, the total production, the sum of the parts, has actually held fairly steady.
He hasn’t had the wild swings – stone cold killer one night, Cold Stone Creamery (?) the next – that are common with rising youngsters that are yet to put it together. Here is Jrue’s per game production compared to John Wall’s, a player only three months his junior.
Hmm. Jrue looks like, if not a rock in comparison, someone who’s swings are much more measured and gradual. If most young guns are a rapidly cycling bipolar, Holiday is a borderline case.
And his counterintuitive stability notwithstanding, he’s been pretty good this young season. Not great, but good. Well, OK. Alongside some decent countables (16.7 ppg, 9 ast, and a near 3/1 assist to turnover in the month of November ) he’s posted a .088 WP48 (average is .1, he had a .053 last season) and produced .6 wins. His win score per 48 minutes is 6.8 (the formula for calculating win score is PTS + REB + STL + (1/2)BLKS + (1/2)AST – FGA – (1/2)FTA – TO – (1/2)PF. It’s a simplified version of wins produced, but the two are highly correlated. 6.3 is the average tally for a PG).
The problem with Jrue though – insofar as there’s a problem – is that while he’s played reasonably well himself, his counterparts have played even better.
Jrue has faced, in these first ten games, Dwayne Wade, Mike Bibby, Darren Collison (twice), John Wall, Mo Williams, Raymond Felton, Russell Westbrook, Jason Kidd, and Tony Parker. While he has, again, compiled a respectable Win Score/48 of 6.8 against this stiff competition, he has allowed a Win Score/48 of 10.7. Jrue’s guy is outplaying him by over 40 percent thus far.
This information needs to be taken with, if not a grain of salt, a few caveats: Jrue has faced better than average competition to this point, a player only has limited control (at best) over how well their man plays (most good statistical tools don’t put a great deal of weight on individual defense), Holiday’s performance is dragged down mostly by the first and most recent games when he played lousy offense and faced guys who went off, and we’re only ten games in.
While I would say that I’m, to this point, mildly disappointed in the play of Holiday, at less than 1/8th of the way through the season any judgment is a mountain from a molehill. And the most important number for Holiday so far isn’t his win score or his wp48, or his xz42 or his 102.9wmgk. It’s 20. His age. He still has a long way to go.