2012 NBA Playoffs: Jrue Holiday's Transformation

u already kno

What the heck happens to Jrue Holiday when the regular season ends? He's been a completely different regular season player than the guy we've seen in the Playoffs. It could be a classic case of small sample size, given he's played 220 regular season games and only nine Playoff games, but maybe there's been a fundamental change. Let's look at some numbers.

Jrue Holiday Regular Season:

  • 14.4 PER
  • .515 TS%
  • .078 WS/48
  • 20.5 USG%
Jrue Holiday Playoffs:
  • 19.4 PER
  • .541 TS%
  • .133 WS/48
  • 22.4 USG%
Jrue's usage has increased only slightly in the Playoffs, yet his production sky-rockets. Again, he's only appeared in a total of nine Playoff games, so that's to be taken into consideration. However; another thing to consider is the competition Jrue's faced in the Playoffs.

In 2011, his opponent was the Miami Heat – the best team in the League and one of the most tenacious perimeter-defending teams in the NBA. In 2012, he went up against Derrick Rose for one game – he didn't play well – but after the first game of this year's series, he's been great against a very good defense, with or without Rose.

Is he simply "making more shots", or has his approach changed?

The two things I looked at are Jrue's greatest offensive weaknesses to this point in his career – free throw rate and shot attempts at the rim (opposed to long two pointers attempted).

Free Throw Rate

Jrue's free throw rate in 2012 was 0.14 – only Jason Kidd, Steve Blake, Baron Davis, Gary Neal Derek Fisher and Mo Williams were worse, among qualified point guards. His free throw rate in the 2012 Playoffs is 0.27, so he's nearly doubled his free throw rate – a number much closer to the average free throw rate of a point guard (0.27 exactly).

(Jrue's free throw rate in 2011 Playoffs was similar, at 0.26.)

Shots At Rim Vs. Long Twos

In the regular season, Jrue averaged more shots from 16-23 feet (3.6) than he did at the rim (3.4). This statistic is more common for point guards than the abnormally low free throw rate, but still a negative aspect of Jrue's game, since the long two is the worst shot in basketball. The average point guard attempts more shots at the basket than long twos, and only 25 percent of their shots come from 16-23 feet. Jrue is a little above that at 28 percent.

It should come as no surprise, given his increased free throw rate, but it appears Jrue is making a conscious effort to cut down on the long twos and attack the basket in the Playoffs. His attempts at the rim are up from 3.6 to 4.5, and his long two attempts are down from 3.4 to 2.8. Instead of 28 percent of his shot attempts coming from 16-23 feet, he's down to 17 percent.

(Jrue only averaged 2.6 attempts at the rim in the 2011 Playoffs, opposed to 2.4 from 16-23 feet. However; the percentage of attempts from 16-23 feet was only 21 percent.)

Conclusion

Jrue's only played in nine Playoff games, but based on the numbers, his approach drastically changes when the lights get brighter and the intensity is turned up. He stops settling for long two and attacks the basket nearly twice as much as he does during the regular season. What's the reason for the change? I have no idea, but it needs to continue for the remainder of the Playoffs and carry over into next season, along with the rest of Jrue's career. If it does, we could be looking at a completely different player.

Now I remember why everyone was so high on Jrue after the Heat series.

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