At various times during my basketball prognosticating days I have the urge to jot down some of my thoughts and beliefs onto an easily-lookup-able medium. The goal of this post isn't to be exhaustive or in-depth, as we'll spend all year (and perhaps more) debating the final outcomes of these players and their place in the Sixers long term plans.
Neither of these are the reactions to the first five games of the season, a sample size irrelevant when trying to determine the final outcome of 20 or 22 year old players. Some previously held beliefs may have been reinforced by early season action, but none of these beliefs/concerns/thoughts have been reached because of these games.
Jrue Holiday is overrated
Jrue Holiday will not be one of the top 5 point guards in the league this year. He may never be a top 5 point guard in this league, which has as much to do with the renaissance of point guard play in the last few years as it does with any evaluation of Holiday. Chris Paul, Deron Williams, John Wall, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Stephen Curry will be around for a long, long time. That doesn't even include "old-timers" like Chauncey Billups and Steve Nash, who still have some gas left in the tank, or other talented young prospects like Brandon Jennings, Darren Collison and Ricky Rubio still carving out their place in the NBA, or in Rubio's case who has yet to touch the NBA hardwood.
That doesn't mean Jrue Holiday is not a fantastic prospect who I have a lot of hope for in the future, and who the Sixers are relying on if they intend to turn this ship around. If you've been following me you know I'm a Jrue Holiday fan. From my initial thoughts on the pick when he was drafted, to me defending Jrue in a debate with Jordan last year, I've consistently been a Jrue Holiday supporter.
Let's just not put unfair pressure on the kid, which we seem to do whenever a youngster shows the slightest bit of promise. It happened with Iguodala, who we now condemn for not being a #1 option rather than praise for the versatility of his all-around game. It happened with Thaddeus Young, who showed tremendous potential as the second youngest player in the league his rookie season but has faltered since.
Will Jrue Holiday go down either one of those paths, or will he exceed all of our expectations? I see it as much more likely that Jrue develops towards the Andre Iguodala path rather than Thaddeus Young path. I don't see Jrue faltering, but I do see some fans setting unrealistic expectations.
His production, whether looking at per minute stats, advanced stats, or efficiency, isn't yet there. His PER places him below league average, and his win shares a bench player, with Offensive Ratings and Defensive Ratings flipped from how you would prefer them.
I don't generally use advanced stats to determine the potential of a prospect, and I think Jrue's potential is evident, and something he regularly shows flashes of. That being said, his production has yet to catch up to his potential. He still needs to prove that his improvement last year on his jump shot remains consistent. He needs to develop his right hand, to continue developing his floater and his pull-up, and he needs to cut down on his turnovers.
That's not to say there isn't a whole lot of potential with Jrue Holiday, potential that he flashes with regularity. Rather than lamenting what Jrue Holiday isn't, appreciate what he is. Rather than bemoaning that he isn't -- and likely won't ever be -- a #1 option offensively, or that he's not a top 5 point guard in the league, appreciate that you have someone who very well could be an all-star point guard, and a cornerstone to mold your team around. Just don't let unrealistic expectations dampen an otherwise bright young player.
Evan Turner will be the team's best offensive player...by the end of the season
Above I mentioned that I didn't believe Jrue Holiday was, or would develop to into, a #1 offensive option capable of basing your half-court offense around. Neither is Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, or anyone else on the roster.
With the exception of Evan Turner.
Lauded as a potential 20+ point per game scorer coming out of Ohio State, a dreadful summer league, mediocre preseason, and passive start to the season has dampened some of the enthusiasm from our shiny new prospect.
Evan Turner is the best half-court offensive player on this team, and once he finishes settling into the NBA -- and once the team begins making him the focal point of the half-court offense -- he's going to start putting up the stat lines fans have been expecting.
A slow starter at every level, Evan Turner is deferring to his teammates, almost to a fault. The bigger question on Turner reaching his maximum potential may be the teammates he's currently surrounded by. Andre Iguodala is commonly linked to as the guy who is being hurt by this team's lack of shooting, but Iguodala's half-court offensive game has never been built around dribble penetration. Evan Turner, on the other hand, is much more natural at creating his own offense. That being said, Turner was surrounded by a bevy of outside shooters at Ohio State, allowing him the room to create on the perimeter, a luxury he doesn't have here.
That being said, the skills are there, and Turner's been showing them off in flashes. The spin move against the Heat for the layup, the behind the back dribble, the midrange jumper, the ambidextrous finishes, and the advanced ballhandling have all been on display, not to mention how evident it has become that his passing and rebounding have translated successfully to the NBA level.
Turner's athletic criticisms have been overblown, and his ballhandling, quickness, and more importantly the ability to change direction and speeds under-stated.
Whether Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner can provide enough catch and shoot ability to work together at the NBA level is a question that is still unanswered, and that is what the Sixers should be using now until the trade deadline (at the minimum) to determine. Is Evan Turner going to be a 22+ point per game scorer in this league in his prime? That's up for debate. Is Turner the Sixers best offensive player, and should he be the focal point of the Sixers half-court offense -- over Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday? I believe he will be that player, and I believe it will happen by the end of the year.
Marreese Speights will flash the ability to defend and rebound...but never consistently. Doug Collins insistence that Speights do more than just score to get playing time will get just enough effort out of the enigmatic big man to flash brilliance and give us hope, but I don't believe we will ever see it consistently. If Doug Collins is here long term (3+ years), I don't believe Speights will be here past his rookie contract.
Thaddeus Young, on the other hand, I'm beginning to believe will be extended. That statement probably sends Sixers fans in a state of panic, but I actually don't think it will be one we regret. I think Young at his best will get his defensive rebounding into the 15-17% range, just enough to be useful as a scoring combo forward off the bench, much in the way of a big-man Louis Williams type role, and may be brought back for a reasonable (RE: near mid-level, or at least what we currently know as the mid-level) extension.
Andre Iguodala will not be a Sixer come March. Just a hunch.
We'll see how ridiculous this all looks in a few months.