The success of the Philadelphia 76ers' 2012-13 season won't be determined by wins and losses.
Instead, it depends entirely on the development of starting point guard Jrue Holiday.
Holiday made waves this summer by reportedly seeking a maximum contract offer from the Sixers, drawing a predictable wave of jokes from the basketball blogosphere.
After all, teams don't typically hand out max contracts to players with a career average of roughly 12 points, five assists and three rebounds per game.
Otherwise, the Ramon Sessions' of the world would be much richer men.
Since Holiday reportedly floated the idea of a max contract, it's time to put his money where his mouth is. He needs to play like he deserves it this season.
The Sixers' long-term future starts with that.
Throughout this past year's playoffs, Holiday showed flashes of the player he needs to consistently be this season. He nearly doubled his 1.8 free throw attempts from the regular season, averaging 3.4 FTAs per game in the Sixers' two playoff series.
There's plenty of remaining work, though. Holiday battled two of the best defenses in the league in the playoffs and suffered a number of rough shooting nights as a result.
Overall, he shot a subpar 41.3 percent from the field in the playoffs. Of the 35 guards who played 20 or more minutes and shot at least 40 percent in the playoffs, Holiday ranked 31st, according to Basketball Reference.
It's to Holiday's credit that he wouldn't let a poor shooting night deter him from continuing to fire away. Despite a 1-for-14 start to his Game 4 against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, he bailed the Sixers out with two huge three-pointers in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
As Andre Iguodala said during the playoffs, Holiday is a "young guy who [is]... kind of too dumb to know [any better]," according to Tom Sunnegren of Philadunkia.
He's got the confidence in his shot that he'll keep shooting, make or miss.
Having lost Lou Williams in free agency this summer, the Sixers need that type of player now more than ever.
If Holiday hopes to become a cornerstone of the Sixers franchise, he's going to need to evolve into the Sixers' go-to option on offense.
Naturally, that means bumping his playoff shooting average of 41.3 percent up a few percentage points, at the very least.
Holiday just turned 22 in June, but already has three NBA seasons under his belt. In theory, he still has plenty of time to continue developing and refining his game before hitting his athletic prime in his late 20s.
The Sixers can't afford to wait that long to determine Holiday's role in their future, though.
Holiday becomes eligible for restricted free agency after next season, and if he accepts the Sixers' one-year qualifying offer, he'd become an unrestricted free agent the following summer.
Realistically speaking, this year is a make-or-break season for Holiday and the Sixers. If Holiday suddenly starts averaging 20 points per game with a shooting percentage in the high-40s, the Sixers should be more willing to match an exorbitant offer in restricted free agency.
If Holiday's progress stagnates, as it did through much of this past regular season?
He could become the next recipient of a Jeremy Lin-esque "poison pill" offer, one the Sixers would have less incentive to match.
The Sixers made a host of moves this summer, but none moved them any closer to being able to upset the Miami Heat in a seven-game playoff series.
At this point, without Elton Brand and Williams, the Sixers will be lucky just making it back to the playoffs this coming season.
They need to fully hand the reins of the team to Holiday, for better or worse, and see what happens this year. (To a lesser extent, this also applies to Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick from 2010.)
Realistically, three years into Holiday's career (and two years into Turner's), there's not much evidence that the Sixers should build around either player long-term.
It's time for the team to force both players to prove their worth.
If it means missing the playoffs this year? That's fine.
That should definitively tell the Sixers that it's time to move on from Holiday (or Turner), bottom out in the next two years and restart in 2014, when the team will have an abundance of cap space.
Is that such a terrible worst-case scenario?
By doing so, the team could finally determine whether Holiday (and Turner) are worth building around.
That's worth a full season, no matter what the W/L record ends up being.
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