Philadelphia 76ers: Why Jrue Holiday Is a Top-5 Point Guard in the NBA

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Philadelphia 76ers: Why Jrue Holiday Is a Top-5 Point Guard in the NBA
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jrue Holiday just recently orchestrated one of the most brilliant performances in his young career. The UCLA product became the first NBA player drafted who was born in the 1990s, back in the 2009 NBA draft.

This season, Holiday has improved his play astronomically and is now in consideration as one of the league's best point guards. A year ago, Holiday's name was never even close to being mentioned as a top point guard in the NBA. Naturally, it was laughable that Holiday wanted a max salary extension after last season, where he posted up 13.5 PPG and 4.5 APG on 43 percent shooting from the field.

Through 36 games, Holiday's numbers speak for themselves. He's posting up career highs in points (19.4), assists (9.0), rebounding (4.2) and field-goal percentage (46 percent). On top of his stellar stat line, Holiday is one of only two players in the entire league averaging at least 19 points and eight assists per contest—the other being Russell Westbrook.

Is Holiday currently a top-five point guard in the NBA? 

Let's take a look at some in-depth qualities that are important for a point guard and compare Holiday with, who we consider, some of the best point guards in the business (per Basketball Reference):

  PER TS% AST% TO% Ast/TO
Jrue Holiday 19.6 53.1 41.7 17.4 2.3
Rajon Rondo 18.8 53.0 49.5 22.3 3.0
Deron Williams 18.1 53.4 36.7 14.6 2.8
Russell Westbrook 23.9 52.1 41.0 13.2 2.5
Chris Paul 26.6 59.6 46.2 13.1 4.5

Judging from those stats, it's hard to determine whether or not Holiday is a top-five point guard right off the bat.

In terms of player efficiency, Holiday is in the middle of the pack, trailing Westbrook and Paul (though, by a large margin) and holds a slight edge over Rondo and Williams. PER isn't a completely accurate rating, as there are some aspects of defense and offense that are not included, such as decision making and ability to make the right pass out of double-teams or individual on-ball defense. 

 

Shooting

A great point guard must be a great passer and a great shooter. Although Holiday's outside shot is still improving, he uses his body and exceptional speed to get into the lane for easier shots instead of more difficult ones further away from the basket.

According to Hoop Data, Holiday's shooting percentage from 16 to 23 feet is fairly terrible, as he's shooting a dismal 32 percent from that area. However, he's hitting his shots from 10 to 15 feet at a fantastic 51.6 percent, and his attempts at the rim are going down at a tremendous 70.2 percent of the time. 

Out of the point guards on the list, Holiday only trails Deron Williams and Chris Paul—the best point guard in the league right now—in true shooting percentage, which is a measure of shooting efficiency that factors in three-pointers and free throws. 

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

 

Passing

The most noticeable aspect of Holiday's game that improved drastically is his ability to find the open man for the easy basket. Three of his 9.4 assists per game go to players at the rim, which is over double the amount of assists at the rim he had last year (1.4).

While Chris Paul's assist-to-turnover ratio is on a whole different level, Holiday's mark of 2.3 isn't too far off from that of the other three point guards on the list.

Unlike every point guard on the list, Holiday is shouldering the scoring and distributing load for his team more than any of those four elite point guards, since they have other players on their team who are capable of scoring at a high level (i.e. Kevin Durant).

For a young point guard who's considered "the man" on his team for the first time in four seasons, Holiday has proved that he's more than qualified to handle that task. His percentage of shots assisted (AST%) is higher than that of Westbrook and Williams—two point guards who are in a similar situation to Holiday right now because they are forced to be proficient scorers and passers.

Rondo and Paul are known primarily as pass-first point guards, so naturally their assist rate would be marginally higher than Holiday's. In Rondo's case, his turnover rate and assist rate seem directly proportional to each other, which makes sense because more passes have a higher chance of leading to more turnovers.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

On the other hand, Paul's otherworldly assist-to-turnover ratio has been one of his remarkable feats throughout his career, registering just 2.4 turnovers per contest.

Admittedly, Holiday may never reach Paul's level of success in protecting the basketball and making the best pass in every situation, but his 3.8 turnovers a game will likely decrease to a more reasonable number as the season progresses.

 

Offensive and Defensive Efficiency

Truthfully speaking, Holiday's offensive (104) and defensive ratings (108) pale in comparison to any of the elite point guards on the list. However, a major cause of his relatively low ratings is due to the fact that he plays on a mediocre team with the eighth-lowest offensive efficiency in the league.

Other than Rondo, every other player with an offensive rating of over 110 plays on a team in the top 10 in offensive efficiency. Although it could be said they themselves are the cause for their team's incredible offensive prowess, there's no doubt that Holiday is playing on a team with the least amount of talent, which certainly deflates his ratings.

There may be an excuse for his inadequate offensive rating, but there definitely isn't one for his awful defensive rating. The Philadelphia 76ers are giving up 103.4 points per 100 possessions as a team, but when Holiday is on the floor—which is over 38 minutes per game—the team is giving up over 108 points per 100 possessions, which is atrocious. 

The individual offensive and defensive ratings aren't completely accurate either, however, because a huge element affecting those stats are the players on the floor with that individual player.

Since Holiday is currently the best player on the team, he's usually on the floor with all of the good lineups and bad lineups. Royal Ivey and Maalik Wayns—the two backup point guards for the Sixers—are averaging just 10.7 and 7.9 minutes per game, respectively. 

In terms of individual defense, Holiday isn't spectacular, but he isn't terrible like his statistics show he is. At 6'3", he has good size and length for a point guard, as well as the quickness and athleticism to keep up with faster point guards. 

From here on out, Holiday will only keep improving. He's only 22 years old and is already writing his name in an elite category of point guards.

His recent performance against the Toronto Raptors should've guaranteed him a spot in the All-Star Game, but it's up to the coaches to decide. The future looks bright for Holiday, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was considered the best point guard in the NBA in the next couple of seasons.

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