In Shakespeare’s classic and perhaps most iconic play, Romeo and Juliet, Ms. Capulet famously asks herself the question, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
This, an annoying question of which I was physically forced against my will to break down, chew up, spit out and then write a 20 page paper on seems relevant right now; for I myself am asking a similar question:
“What’s in a point guard?”
I love Jrue Holiday. That much isn’t a secret on this site. Between Jrue and Doug Collins, I have a sports woody comparable to Bill Simmons’ for Larry Bird and anything that has the word “wicked” in front of it.
I love Jrue’s upside. His presence. His school (UCLA is the best point guard producing school EVER). His background. His name (still trying to talk my girlfriend into naming either the dog or our first born Jrue). And his ability to rival the performances of the elite point guards in the League.
With that said, WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING WITH JRUE?
Is he deferring to Lou and his All Star companion? Is he just hitting a wall? Is it the schedule? Is he a little hurt? Is it Doug? It can’t be Doug! Is it Doug? Does he not have confidence in himself? Is he worried that ET or Lou are breathing down his neck? Does he not like Philly? He has to like Philly! We have Will Smith! Is he just one of those guys that preys on the weak and gets beat like a sunglass wearing wannabe gangster at Sunday church by the strong? Is he not on the verge of becoming elite? Is this just what he is? Do we need to look elsewhere? Does he miss having Hip Hop as a mascot? Is he not used to playing in front of so many supporting fans?
I wrote a post a while back that was never published because we were waiting for a few more breakout games from Jrue. In the post, I compared him to Russell Westbrook and how I thought Jrue was on his way to becoming that type of point guard. Though I may seem like a delusional S.O.B., it was before Westbrook signed his lucrative contract and got paid. But the numbers at the time spoke for themselves:
Westbrook- 35.6 MIN, 52.1% FG%, 41.7% 3P%, 76.9% FT%, 5.6 REB, 6.0 AST, 2.0STL, 2.6 TO, 27 PTS
Holiday- 38.2 MIN, 41.6% FG%, 35.7% 3P%, 85.7% FT%, 3.0 REB, 3.4 AST, 1.8STL, 2.4 TO, 15 PTS
As you can see, those numbers aren’t far off from each other. And since putting those two lines side by side, Holiday has blown the big one; launching himself into a slump of all slumps and forcing me to put the blame on my shoulders for the young point guard’s recent demise.
I jinxed it.
After starting guns a blazing, Jrue has fallen back to earth with a thunderous crash; and that hole keeps getting deeper and deeper.
In the month of February, Holiday has been uglier than rush hour traffic during the first decent snow:
34.5 MIN, 39.4% FG%, 30.4% 3P%, 75% FT%, 3.5 REB, 4.5 AST, 1.3STL, 1.5 TO, 12.4 PTS
In that month he has an abysmal 0-9 performance against the Mavericks, 1-8 against the Magic, 2-8 against the Clippers, 3-9 against the Hawks, and 5-13 against the Heat. All playoff teams.
So again, what’s in a point guard?
Well, when it comes to the eye test and personal pleasure, we (and by we, I mean me) want a guy that can distribute and push the ball on offense, get to the rack and finish, run the high screen pick and roll to perfection, knock down a jumper here and there, obtain a few steals and play quality defense both on his man and on the help side.
So, let’s break this down, starting with the first category from that list: distribution. Out of all the point guards in the NBA, Holiday is ranked 24th in assists per game. He is sitting in a pool with Greivis Vasquez, Kyrie Irving, Jeff Teague, Earl Watson, and Devin Harris. Besides Kyrie, these guys should not be putting up any sort of numbers that can be equivalent to #11. To make matters worse, Jrue averages more minutes than all of them. Three of which, by more than ten. Is it the system? Does Jrue not see the floor as well as he should? I’m not too sure, but we need Jrue to get closer to his sophomore season numbers (6.5 per game) as opposed to his freshman year (3.8).
Next- getting to the rack and finishing. To find that out, I took my research to a more advanced level. Advanced statistics that is. I compared Jrue to some of the best “finishing” point guards in the league: Ricky Rubio, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Jennings, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Chris Paul and, you guessed it, Jeremy Lin (how could I resist). When it comes down to field goal percentage in the restricted area this year, Jrue Holiday is last among that group shooting 48%. 48%! At the rack. A freaking lay-up! The easiest shot in the game. A fundamental and easy attempt, of which accounts for 28.8% of Jrue’s shot distribution, is being converted 48% of the time. Isn’t an NBA team’s starting point guard supposed to make opponents bleed exponentially when he gets that deep into their defense? 48%? I’ve seen 4 years olds make more baskets that close to the rim. In all honesty, that conversion percentage is downright pathetic. It needs to be over 50% for Jrue to be what I want him to be. But more importantly, it has to be over 50% for this team to be what they want to be, a contender (If you were wondering who led the group, it was none other than old timer-Steve Nash who is posting an amazing 74% shooting percentage in that field).
I assume most of you share my displeasure in that last finding, so, in desperate need of finding something to believe in, I expanded it to overall field goal percentage in the paint (Non restricted area). Jrue is in sixth, with only Rondo, Jennings and Rubio posting worse percentages behind him.
Again, not too thrilled.
Now to the screen and roll. I think Jrue runs this very well. Of course, that is a personal opinion of mine and don’t really have much proof statistically to say otherwise. I’ve never once thought “God, I wish Collins would have ET run the pick and roll instead of Jrue.” So I’m giving the young point guard his first positive check mark.
As it stands, Jrue is currently in seventh place among point guards in steals per game (12th in the NBA), 11th in steals per 48-minutes and fifth in steals to turnover ratio at .73. He gets his hands on everything which fits so well into Doug Collins defensive strategy. Positive check numero two.
So now the defense. Oh the defense. Let’s get a few things out of the way first. Philly has a Top-5 defense in the league. Philly leads the league in opponents points per game and is fourth in opponent’s field goal percentage per game. They force 14.2 turnovers on average and for the most part capitalize on everyone they get.
Now for Jrue. We’ll start with the good news first. He gets his hands on everything which fits Doug Collins defensive philosophies perfectly. He gambles, he reacts and he gets into the flow of a game, sometimes becoming a nightmare to shake. Sometimes. Lately though, during Holiday’s February month of horrors he hasn’t been so great. If you take a look at the starting opponents player efficiency numbers in the five loses of February, you’ll see this: Rubio +4, Kidd +28, Nelson +19, Paul +5, Parker +5 and Chalmers -8.
Again, those are all point guards on playoff teams. In fact, in the Sixers twelve loses, the opposite point guard has posted a positive player efficiency number in all but two games. The first being Chalmers’ -8 in the second meeting against the Heat this season and Iman Shumpert’s -6 back in January against the Knicks. Point Guards are tearing the Sixers apart, and though that can’t all fall on Jrue, a lot of it unfortunately has to.
So, if “what’s in a point guard” are the things I mentioned above, then Jrue is about halfway there. Halfway there! I’ll take that.
Wait, what? After all of that statistical proof that Holiday doesn’t truly fit my personal eye test for what makes a point guard successful in the NBA, I’m going to give him a pass?
Listen, this is Jrue’s third season in the league and in all honesty, he should be a senior in college right now. He’s 21 years old. He was the first nineties baby in the NBA. When some of the guys he is going up against were old enough to appreciateTGIFridays on ABC, totally understanding the hairstyles and clothing during the era, Jrue was barely in grade school and didn’t know who Clarissa was and what she was trying to explain.
Most of these mistakes are 21 year old, senior in college blunders. And while you get angry with some of his inabilities and want to throw your remote in frustration, don’t forget that he is still five or six years away from the prime of his career. That’s an amazing sign. He has comparable numbers to Russell Westbrook in only his third year in the league. I’ll take that every day of the week.
Jrue has gotten better every season and there is no reason to think that as this team grows he will not continue to grow too. Collins believes in him, which has done wonders for his game. That continuity is going to be huge for Jrue; almost as much as a full off season with the coach.
It’s tough right now in this NBA. The schedule is demanding and for a young player that can be often times a lot to handle night in and night out. He’s finding his way in a crammed schedule. There is no time to relax, digest, and react. Instead it is play, play, play and watch a little film before you play again.
In a regular season, Jrue Holiday is better than this. In the playoffs, Jrue will be better than this. After the All-Star break, Jrue will be better than this. I have faith in that. I believe in that. And so should you.