Why Jrue Holiday and Andrew Bynum Need One Another to Mature into True Stars
When it comes to achieving NBA stardom, individual brilliance is a necessary ingredient but not a sufficient one in and of itself. More often than not, winning is just the burst of wind that a given player needs beneath his wings to make the leap from good to great.
Jrue Holiday's led the Philadelphia 76ers to a playoff series victory (and nearly two), though his success might just as easily be explained away as the result of Derrick Rose suffering an untimely ACL tear. So, too, could Holiday's efforts be discredited as less important than those contributed by Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams.
Andrew Bynum won two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers but achieved those while serving as more of a role player (albeit a gifted one) next to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom rather than as a singular force. Bynum finally managed to stay healthy last season and wound up in the All-Star Game as a result, though his team was once again bounced in the second round and nearly earlier.
But Iguodala and Williams are no longer in Philly, and Bynum is no longer in L.A. Circumstances have changed for Jrue and 'Drew, it would seem, potentially for the better if they make like dirty hands and wash each other.
And not just because their names are so similar, either.
For Holiday, the Sixers' "Extreme Makeover: Roster Edition" is a golden opportunity for him to prove that he not only can play at an All-Star level, but can do so as one half of a deadly inside-out duo. Everyone and their mother expected Jrue to break out last season when his point-guard productivity actually declined, despite a slight increase in usage.
To be sure, Holiday is still anything but a bust. He's still only 22, with a slew of impressive postseason performances under his belt after this past spring.
Having a big man like Bynum by his side can only make Jrue's life easier and his productivity more impressive. For one, Bynum should be a perfect target for passes from Holiday. Assuming Jrue can hit 'Drew in his preferred spots down low, the former should reap the reward of easy assists and the latter the points scored therein.
Bynum's mere presence, too, figures to open up the floor for Holiday. More defensive attention paid to Bynum on the block likely means less toward Holiday on the perimeter, where the UCLA product should find more open shots and, in turn, opportunities to bolster his subpar .496 true shooting percentage.
Which player will be more important for the Sixers this season?
He'll be counted on to do so, as well, now that Iguodala is with the Nuggets and Williams with the Hawks. Holiday will have help on the outside in Jason Richardson, Evan Turner and Nick Young, though the task will still fall to him to orchestrate a revamped offense that (presumably) will be built to take advantage of Bynum's particular skills.
If Holiday can make the Sixers' scheme hum and lead the team to greater success, the ranks of those who recognize his talent will grow, as will the accolades handed out thereafter.
And if Jrue can build a strong working relationship with—and somehow get through to—the notoriously hard-headed 'Drew, then he may well be greeted as the Anne Sullivan of basketball.
Helen Keller Andrew, this newfound partnership is certainly not without its perks. The move closer to his boyhood home in New Jersey presents an opportunity for Bynum to prove that he can be the focal point of a successful franchise, rather than just an adjunct to and a beneficiary of the greatness of others.
It can also prove that he deserves to be paid accordingly. After all, Bynum will be an unrestricted free agent at year's end, thereby rendering the immediate achievement of excellence that much more crucial for his own earning potential.
He'll be given every chance to do just that in the City of Brotherly Love. Doug Collins has already expressed excitement over his newest pupil, though the head coach won't be the one delivering the ball to him in the post.
That will fall, instead, to Holiday. Bynum, then, can make Holiday look good, and vice versa, by use of his long arms and huge hands to take in passes from the perimeter and turn them into dunks, layups, hook shots and the like.
Having the ball in his hands so often (rather than watching Kobe Bryant go to work) should yield bigger numbers for Bynum, though there remains the danger that comes with putting pressure on his frail body. He's already had both knees operated on and undergone the same treatment in Germany that Kobe and Alex Rodriguez have explored, even though, at 24, he's significantly younger than either of those two.
But if Jrue can get him the ball in his sweet spots, particularly on lobs, then Bynum's body should be no worse for wear while his productivity improves.
Holiday figures to be of considerable help to Bynum on the other end of the floor as well. 'Drew is a solid post defender and a top-notch shot-blocker but often struggles when faced with guards, either because he can't keep up or because he doesn't care to.
Whatever the case may be, he'll have Holiday—a plus-defender with lock-down potential—on hand to keep the little guys out of the lane and make his life that much easier.
And while Bynum and Holiday have the power to elevate each other's games, what's most important for their own futures as stars in the league is that they elevate the performance of the entire team.
The Eastern Conference this season will be as deep as it's been in quite some time, with the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics on top and the Indiana Pacers, the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets among a handful of others duking it out for home-court advantage.
The further the Sixers rise through (if not above) that fray, the brighter the respective stars of Jrue Holiday and Andrew Bynum will shine over the NBA landscape.
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