By Ben Fisher
Any discussion of the NBA’s elite young point guards – and there’s certainly no shortage of them – includes names like Rose, Rondo, Westbrook, Paul, Williams (Deron) and Evans.
One name that is unlikely to be mentioned in the same company is Jrue Holiday, but perhaps it should be. While he doesn’t carry MVP credentials like Rose or take over games like Paul, the UCLA alum is enjoying a breakout sophomore campaign and could wind up being the reason that the Philadelphia 76ers return to the play-offs this season.
Holiday’s averages of 14.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game put him right in the thick of the stats boasted by his much-heralded peers. Scoring-wise, he finds himself ahead of Rondo (10.8 points), while his assist totals mirror those of Rose and exceed those of Evans (5.5).
Plus, at 20 years of age, he happens to be the youngest of the group.
Just don’t expect Holiday, himself, to put any emphasis on his standing among the young floor generals.
“I don’t really look at the stats,” Holiday told HOOPSADDICT.com. “I’m just trying to get my team back to .500. If I have to score, if I have to pass; I’m going to do whatever they need me to do.”
He will admit, however, that he welcomes the challenge of going up against his headline-getting rivals. Of course, that would be plain to see for anyone who happened to catch Philadelphia’s recent road wins against Williams’ Jazz and Steve Nash’s Suns, each of which featured Holiday containing his outplaying his celebrated counterparts.
“These are some of the biggest names in our league, so sure it’s interesting to see what you can do against them,” acknowledges Holiday. “Guys like Nash, I used to watch them on TV as I was growing up so it’s pretty crazy to think that I can hold my own against them.”
The 17th over-all pick in 2009 can tend to be overlooked on a Philly team that also features constant Andre Iguodala trade chatter, a returning-to-form Elton Brand and the rookie tribulations of No. 2 pick Evan Turner. But there he is in the mix of most improved NBA players, with increases of 6.3 points and 2.8 assists over his 2009-10 rookie campaign numbers.
One person who is taking notice of Holiday’s play on both sides of the ball is head coach Doug Collins, who knows a thing or two about quality point guards having coached Joe Dumars in Detroit.
“Jrue’s gotten better as the season has gone on,” the former star and current coach of the 76ers told HOOPSADDICT.com. “He is probably – to me – what Tony Parker was to Gregg Popovich. You see a great young talent and you just want to teach them so that they’ll do things the right way and the game will be easy for them, and he‘s doing that.”