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How Life Without Andrew Bynum Is Turning Jrue Holiday into an All-Star

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 18: Andre Iguodala #9 and Jrue Holiday #11 of the Philadelphia 76ers talk at the end of the game against the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 18, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Sixers won 92-83. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
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Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2012

Without Andrew Bynum, the Philadelphia 76ers aren't an NBA powerhouse, but Jrue Holiday himself is.

It's easy to exude pessimism when the Sixers' supposed franchise cornerstone remains on the sidelines without a concrete timetable for his return, yet while Philadelphia is far from a superteam without Bynum, they are a postseason-bound one.

Because of Holiday.

Though the regular season is still young, the point guard is already on pace to have a career year. He's averaging 18 points, 9.5 assists and four rebounds per game while shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc—all career highs. His assist totals are also currently the fourth most in the NBA and he's on pace to post the loftiest PER of his career as well.

But does that alone make Holiday a superstar? Are his stats alone the reason why we have a future All-Star in our midst?

Absolutely not. Holiday's career numbers are an integral part of his evolution as a star, but they're not everything.

His ability to lead the Sixers in Bynum's absence, however, is.

Though the 22-year-old continues to struggle with his ball-protection—he's committing five turnovers per contest—he has served as a dependable two-way pillar at a time when this could be considered Philadelphia's darkest hour.

He not only leads the team in points and assists per game, but he's setting the tone defensively as well, swiping a team high 1.5 steals per bout. Holiday has also been the team's playmaking end-all; his 9.5 dimes per game account for 55 percent of the team's total assists and are 6.5 more than the team's second leading facilitator in Evan Turner.

This means something. It all means something.

At only 22, Holiday has been tasked with running an offense without a dominant scorer, been asked to lead a team that is nearly void of experience.

And he's delivered, both statistically and emotionally.

Sure the Sixers will continue to fight to stay at or above .500, but for a team that bet it all on an injury-prone, currently shelved center, that's not bad. In fact, it's pretty damn good.

To still have playoff aspirations despite being down your "best" player is no easy feat. It's one that usually takes an abundance of depth and a plethora of proven talent.

Philadelphia is not a poster-team for the latter, though. It has a surplus of budding young talent, but it was supposed to lack leadership in Bynum's absence.

But it hasn't. Holiday has run the offense efficiently, exuded competency on defense and despite two discouraging losses to the New York Knicks, has done whatever it takes to keep the Sixers relevant early on.

If they need him to score, he'll score. If his shots aren't falling and he's not scoring, he'll use his crafty ball-handling skills and superior court vision to make sure others do.

Simply put, he's been sensational in the early going.

And it's not going to stop here. Holiday is still developing, still coming into his own. Knowing that he is posting the sixth highest PER of players 22 or under who average at least 20 minutes per game is certainly comforting, but not in a complacent sense.

Because Holiday is going to continue to improve. He's become a household force overnight simply by assuming a more prominent role; there's still plenty more to come.

So while Bynum's absence is far from ideal, the worst of times, the most winding of roads is known to bring out the best in certain athletes.

Holiday is one of those athletes.

He has thrived in the face of adversity, embraced his role as a leader and, most importantly, given the Bynum-less Sixers something to play for.

Forget that Philadelphia is averaging a league worst 83.25 points per contest. Forget that the team is dishing out the third-lowest amount of assists in the league. Forget it all.

But remember the Sixers were supposed to break, were supposed to crumble under the weight of Bynum's absence.

Then remember that they haven't.

Because of Holiday.

 

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