The Philadelphia 76ers are underachieving with a 16-23 record, but the team’s shortcomings haven’t hampered Jrue Holiday from taking a leap forward in his career progression.
Holiday, who’s averaging career-highs in points per game (19), assists (8.8) and rebounds (4.1), has put his name in an elite group of point guards–including Rajon Rondo and Kyrie Irving—due to his breakout season. The 76ers have fallen short of expectations, but is Holiday still worthy of an All-Star nod in the Eastern Conference?
Statistically, there’s really no argument when you stack him up against other Eastern Conference point guards. The 22-year-old leads all points guards in scoring, is second to Rondo in assists and he leads all point guards in minutes per game (37.9).
The fourth-year guard also shoots at a fairly efficient clip–despite being tied with Brandon Jennings for most shots per game. Holiday is shooting 45.8 percent on the year.
While Irving and Holiday have seemingly overtaken the majority of the point guards in the East, Rondo shouldn’t be forgotten as his Celtics are back into the thick of the playoff picture. But Rondo hasn’t been the lone reason behind their success. During Boston’s current five-game winning streak, he’s averaging just 13.8 points and an unusually low nine assists. Worse, he’s turning the ball over close to four times a game during this stretch.
What’s commonly earmarked as the difference between Rondo and Holiday is the fact the Rondo can’t compare in the shooting department. Where Holiday and Rondo can both penetrate and create open looks for their teammates, only one can stretch the floor with an outside jumper. Of course, this opens up more driving lanes.
But in case you don’t believe me, let’s go over the stats and the infamous “eye test.”
Let’s start with the stats. There’s roughly a 10 per centage point difference in their respective 3-point shooting percentages–Holiday is shooting 35.5 percent from 3-point range while Rondo is shooting 25.5 percent.
When it comes to their overall field goal percentages, there’s one misconception. Yes, Rondo owns the higher field-goal percentage with a 49.5 percent mark to Holiday’s 45.4 mark. But what should be taken into consideration, though, is the fact that the vast majority of Rondo’s points come close to the rim. In fact, 155 of Rondo’s 366 field goal attempts–nearly half– have come less than five feet from the basket. In other words, he takes easier shots than Holiday. Thus, his misleading field-goal percentage.
As for the eye test, defenders don’t sag off of Holiday. Rondo, meanwhile, gets the occasional “he can’t shoot” treatment from opposing defenses. Granted, the frequency of this tactic has been gone down this year because Rondo has improved his mid-range jumper (50.9 percent in mid-range). Still, his inconsistent shot is a source of frustration and an easy way for defenders to contain him at times.
The only foreseeable edges Rondo has on Holiday are the fact that he might get voted in because Boston loves their sports teams and because the Celtics have a superior record. Other than those two factors, though, Holiday clearly is more deserving than Rondo. Of course, they’ll probably both make the cut when the rosters are final.
As for other deserving candidates outside of Irving, Holiday and Rondo, well, the picture isn’t quite clear. Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets should get consideration, although he said on Tuesday he doesn’t believe he deserves a fourth selection to the game (per ESPNNewYork.com), perhaps Monta Ellis and Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks will be recognized or maybe even Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Bobcats has a shot.
Obviously, Derrick Rose’s candidacy will be discussed, but his health is the Chicago Bulls’ main concern. Even if Rose did return to MVP form, Chicago would be foolish not to have him skip the All-Star game if he did get in. Given that Rose hasn’t played this season, his only route in would be via fan voting.
But, there aren’t many clear-cut choices from the point-guard group. And the one common theme all these perennial candidates share, is that they all aren’t on dominate teams.
As aforementioned, Holiday’s 76ers aren’t making much noise. Irving’s Cavaliers sit in the cellar, while Ellis and Jennings’s Bucks are just a couple games over .500. Rondo’s Celtics, who are in seventh place in the East, can be deemed the only “real” competitive team of the potential All-Stars. Still, their success isn’t overwhelming. Remember, we’re just talking about point guards.
So if anything, you can call this a toss up because the “he’s not on a winning team” excuse doesn’t apply to any of the candidates. It’s an even playing field, at least at the moment.
Obviously, an even playing field should help Holiday get nominated if he continues to produce. His numbers are above par, and if the Sixers could rediscover the success they had last year, their budding point is a no-brainer to represent Philadelphia in the All-Star Game on Feb. 17.
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