Jrue Holiday's season has been exceptional, and it's all because of how he's improved.
It's not uncommon for a young player to improve over the offseason. In fact, it's more than common for them to get better.
What's not common is going from 50 MPH to 110 MPH over the offseason. That's exactly what Holiday has done.
Holiday is averaging 18.8 points, nine assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, but his increased production comes from improvements in certain areas of the game.
Take a quick look at any Philly game and you'll see that Holiday is certainly no stranger to getting better.
Here's a look at his most impressive improvements this season.
The Sixers might have 14 players on their roster, but they only have one leader. To be the definitive leader at the ripe age of 22 years old is absolutely ridiculous. We have to remember who we are talking about right now.
This guy was not at the top of everyone's point guard list coming out of college. On top of that, concerns about how quickly he'd be able to adjust to the league started to rise because of how young he was.
Holiday wasn't brought into the organization as the next great thing. He was simply drafted to fill one of Philadelphia's many holes at the time.
Fast-forward to 2013, and the guy that people didn't expect much out of has turned into one of the premiere young point guards in the NBA. That's not exactly the easiest thing in the world for a young player to be able to handle, but instead of freaking out about it, Holiday has decided to hone his craft and be the leader that the Sixers badly need.
His improved leadership is especially evident in almost every interview he does. You'll constantly hear him talking about being the leader.
The man knows what's required of him and takes those challenges head on.
Having the ability to lock an opponent down by playing staunch (yes, I used the word staunch) defense is a missing commodity in the NBA.
It's one that the Sixers now have with Holiday.
This is an interesting improvement because he has always been a good defender. He's always been athletic enough to stay with most players and looks as though he works hard enough to get the job done.
The problem is that most of his success has come off of the ball. Guarding people away from the basketball is extremely important, but you need to be able to guard the ball-handler.
At least you need to if you want to be a special player.
It's good news for Sixers fans that he wants to be a special player. Holiday is now successfully guarding players with elite quickness—something that he hasn't been able to consistently do.
His defensive improvement comes from a lot of different areas. He's now an experienced player that knows how to watch film and catch his opponents' moves, plus he's certainly a stronger player.
In the end, though, becoming a defensive stopper comes from heart and playing harder than the person you're guarding.
People could take a page from Holiday's book on that one.
The headline of this is kind of funny at first glance, but it's arguably the most important of all of his improvements.
There's such a strong difference between how a player's body needs to be in college vs. pro-level basketball. You're able to survive and sometimes even thrive in college simply based on the system being run. Another way to make it at the collegiate level is to be exceptionally athletic.
The majority of those players don't have successful NBA careers without getting better in one particular area: strength.
Player after player after player has come into the league and failed to live up to their potential simply because they weren't strong enough. Strength allows players to handle constant contact, always be in attack mode and provides them with a level of resistance to injury. There are also smaller areas where being stronger helps, like driving to the paint or not getting out-muscled on rebounds.
Holiday came into the league with an NBA-ready body but nothing that separated him from the pack. His body isn't drastically different to the naked eye, as he's only gained around six pounds since coming into the league, but his game has gone up a notch because of how much stronger he's gotten.
He gets to the paint with ease, handles almost all of his defensive assignments outside of the three-point line and wins the majority of the hustle plays he gets involved in.
Getting stronger takes a lot of work, but more importantly, it takes time.
It appears as though the hard work is finally starting to pay off.