Why Philadelphia 76ers Must Pay Jrue Holiday Like a Star Point Guard
The essential combo guard is set to become a restricted free agent next summer, and though Philadelphia will have the right to match any offer that is thrown his way, it is far better for the team to lock him up before then.
Especially considering Holiday doesn't want to go anywhere else.
According to Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com, when news broke that the Sixers had picked up Evan Turner's option, Holiday re-affirmed his affinity for playing in Philadelphia:
“I definitely want an extension,” Holiday said after Thursday’s two-hour practice. “I want to play here. I feel comfortable. It’s like family to me. But it’s kind of out of my hands. I’ve just got to go out and play every day.”
Agent Tony Dutt and Holiday are believed to be seeking a four- or five-year deal (which the Sixers could only give Holiday if they use the one-time designated player exception) starting at close to the maximum allowable $13.6 million.
The Sixers have reportedly offered a pact beginning closer to $9 million.
Just like it always does, it seems Holiday's future with the Sixers will come down to dollars and cents.
He and Philadelphia seem to be about $4 million apart annually, so some middle ground must be established for this extension to be ironed out.
And for the Sixers' sake, they cannot afford to not find that middle ground. Heck, they can't afford to not offer him the $13-plus million he's seeking a year if that's what it comes to.
But why? After all, Holiday isn't an All-Star, so why pay him like one?
That's correct, he's not an All-Star.
Holiday is only 22, but he has taken great strides toward improving his game every year.
Though his averages of 13.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds on 43.2 percent shooting last season were a slight drop from his totals during 2010-11, he did improve his defensive execution (career-high 1.6 steals per game) and ball protection (career-low 2.1 turnovers a night).
Let's also not forget that Holiday wasn't the primary ball-handler, either. Andre Iguodala handled it most of the time, forcing Holiday to play off the ball.
However, I will admit his regular-season performance—excuses and all—is hardly enough to warrant $13 million or even close to $13 million annually.
So how about his postseason excursion?
Last spring, Holiday helped propel the Sixers to an impressive playoff performance and near Eastern Conference finals berth. He led the team in scoring, dishing, steals and three-point efficiency per game, totaling 15.8 points, 5.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 swipes per postseason contest.
While that 13-game span is a small sample size, it still means a great deal.
He stepped up his game when it mattered most, emerging as a two-way leader that Philadelphia could rely on, just as much as Iguodala.
And you know what? With Andrew Bynum still watching from the sidelines, he'll step up his game to meet the needs of the team yet again.
Which leaves the Sixers in need of a leader, both statistically and emotionally. A leader who can inspire them to play postseason-caliber basketball in Bynum's absence. A leader who has historically stepped up his performance when the situation called for it.
A leader who is up for a contract extension this season.
A leader who deserves to get paid like a star, because he is one.
We can argue that he isn't an All-Star until we're blue, purple or green in the face, but truth be told, his league-wide status has almost nothing to do with his value to Philly.
One day, he may be an All-Star, but today, more so than ever, he is already a star, a vital cog in a playoff-hopeful machine for the Sixers.
With Andrew Bynum out, who is the Sixers' most important player?
Yes, he has plenty left to prove. Yet, at 22, after just three years in the league, he has also already proven so much.
Which is why the Sixers cannot let him get away, or even give him the opportunity to explore the open market. Why drag out the negotiating process when they're going to have to line his pockets one way or another?
Even in a market laden with star-esque point guards, there will be a team that gives Holiday the money he wants.
And with Bynum's future in Philadelphia anything but certain, it would be wise for the Sixers to make themselves that team now.
Or run the risk of losing their second in command and current MVP later.
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