The Jrue Conflict

At 9:04 PM on the better coast, David Stern announced we had taken Jrue Holiday.  

I assume you knew this.  I was furious.   As Jrue kept falling past the Bucks, the Pacers, the Suns, I grew more and more wary that we'd take him if he fell to us.  Lawson and Maynor were sitting there, ripe for the picking, but we opted for the 6'3" freshman "point guard" from UCLA.  I'll do my best in this post to outline some clear reasons why I don't like this pick (one of which is to stir up the pot since Jordan is riding the Jrue Holiday bandwagon sipping on margaritas in his UNLV speedo).  I won't talk about his poor outside shooting or weak ballhandling skills specifically, because he has a chance to develop them, but they are worth thinking about. 

 

  • Allow me to first make clear the fact that I don't dislike Jrue Holiday.  In fact, I think he has a good shot to be one of the top two or three point guards in this draft when we look back in 10 years.  I also believe that getting a guy with this much potential at pick 17 is a steal, and a great value pick.  With that in mind, the rest of the bullets will attempt to convey why I don't think he's the right fit for this team right now.  
  • Jrue Holiday didn't play the point guard position in college.  Somehow, people are commending him for going to UCLA and playing out of position despite knowing Darren Collison is the point guard for Ben Howland's snail offense.   He knew he was only going to stay in school for one year, but decided he'd like to spend that year at the 2-guard, an unnatural position for Holiday.  I don't see the reasoning here.  Why wouldn't he, like Tyreke Evans, go to a school where he'd get a shot to play the position that he's believed to play as a professional.  (Hypothetical and extremely unrealistic situation alert)  If you're the best criminal lawyer prospect that only has to go to school for one year (I know, right?) before you can go out and practice law, you wouldn't go to a school where there's already a criminal lawyer and practice maritime law just for kicks.  Awful analogies aside, he should have been playing the point guard position somewhere to get ready for the role he'll take on as a pro.
  • As a shooting guard for Ben Howland, Jrue played 27 minutes a night, and scored 8.5 PPG with a 3.7 to 2.1 A/TO.  He shot a solid 45% FG but only 31% from beyond.  For the number one high school prospect, that is severely underperforming.  Some say this is the nature of the UCLA offense.  On the east coast, I didn't get to see Holiday as much as I'd like, but I did see about 5 games and I was totally unimpressed.  He disappeared for long stretches, didn't demand the ball offensively, and didn't look comfortable out there.  It's only a couple games, yes, but I like to see a player on the court before blindly trusting the experts (although I'm confident most of them are smarter than I).  One argument I've heard out of the pro-Jrue camp is that this should draw comparisons to a freshman Russell Westbrook. I'd like to dispel this notion before it gains too much speed.  
  • Westbrook had much less hype than Holiday coming into his freshman year, but both players were listed as shooting guards.  Westbrook's freshman year was awful, playing only 9 minutes a game because he had Josh Shipp, Arron Afflalo, and the same Darren Collison playing in front of him.  In the first game of his sophomore season, Collison went down with an injury.  So Russell was thrust into the starting lineup at the point, and he thrived until DC was healthy and relegated to the bench.  But Westbrook's play forced Howland's hand, who after a few games, brought him back to the starting lineup to play the 2 guard.  When Westbrook came out after his sophomore season, he could play both guard spots, and put up pretty good numbers doing it (13, 4, and 4 in 34 minutes per).  Holiday really hasn't shown that he can play either guard spot at a high level and didn't come back for his sophomore season like Westbrook did, so he's a much less known commodity.  For every Russell Westbrook, there's a million more guys like Keyon Dooling, Randy Foye, Rashad McCants, Shaun Livingston, Dajuan Wagner, and Will Avery.  Westbrook and Wade are the exceptions rather than the rule, and it's unfair and unrealistic to think that just because they both went to UCLA and measure at 6'3" that Holiday will be anywhere near Westbook's production for the next few years.  
  • Last offseason, we signed Elton Brand to a 5 year, $82 million dollar deal to be our best player and lead us to a championship.  Sane people on this planet that have ever watched basketball are not ready to give up on Brand in Philadelphia after an injury riddled 29 games and two head coaching changes.  By the time Holiday is even close to being ready to contribute as a starter, Brand will be in the 4th year of his deal, and will turn 33 during that season.  I have no idea what will happen until then, but his injuries have been a concern, and hopefully by then he'll have strung a few healthy seasons together.  But if he falls off the cliff in his production at 32, then Holiday will not only have to contribute as a starter, but as one of the two or three go-to guy's in this offense, which is something that he hasn't shown he can do.  
  • With Thaddeus, Iguodala, and Speights, this team has a big window to try and win.  But if Elton Brand is going to be the centerpiece of this team on its way to a championship, Holiday was not the pick here.  This was not a "Win Now" pick.  I don't think we would be winning a championship if Lawson was our starting guard, but I think we'd contend, and put ourselves in good position to win next year.  If Thad keeps developing and Speights works on his defense, we could potentially be championship contenders next season with the right guy running the show.  They're both going to want their money when Jrue is ready.  Add Iguodala's fat contract and we're looking at a lot of cash devoted to 4 guys just when Holiday is ready to get in the pool. Holiday will be 20 next season.  He's not the guy that can lead this team to a championship right now.  Ty Lawson could have been.  I don't think just because Lawson left as a junior that his development has leveled off and he's reached his ceiling.  True, Holiday has more potential, but his floor is also much lower than Lawson's.  I think that Lawson will end up being the better pro, especially sitting behind Billups in Denver for a year or two, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if Holiday is.  This is the culminating point of my argument.  Not that Holiday was a bad pick at 17, or that he'll be a bust in the NBA.  But for this team assembled right now, he's not the guy that can get us to where we need to be.  
In five years, I'd be thrilled if Holiday was a stud point guard in this league.  I'll root for him to succeed from day one.  That's not what this is about.  I wanted Lawson or Maynor because they would help us succeed with this roster in place.  With Holiday now, there's still a bunch of moves left to be made.  If we had taken Holiday 2 years ago in the same draft we took Thad, I would have loved it so much I'd be drooling.  But we're not "rebuilding" anymore.  This is a team that had (unnecessarily) high expectations coming into last season, and with a new coach those expectations should be tempered again next year.  But we're not the T-Wolves.  And we're not Portland.  Patience is nice, but we can't afford to wait 3 years for this kid's balls to drop.  Financially, we'll have to make some sacrifices, and it may end up being with Brand on the bench due to injuries that come with aging in the NBA.  I'd be happy to be proven wrong, but at this point, I don't like the pick. 
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