The moment the Sixers selected Jrue Holiday, I began exchanging e-mails with the blog manager over at Bruins Nation -- the SBNation UCLA Bruins blogs. Turns out there has been some controversy Bruin' (Damn, I'm good) in regards to their main blogger's "strange hatred of Jrue Holiday". When I asked him to answer a few questions about Jrue Randall Holiday, he referred me to a "more mellow" blogger when it comes to the Holiday situation.
Without further adieu, here's Ryan from Bruins Nation.
LB: Did Jrue perform better than his 8-3-3 numbers indicate? Worse?
Ryan: It was really dependent on the game. The tools are there, no doubt and some games you would see them. There were some games where Jrue was all over the court, defending, rebounding, scoring, passing. There were also other games where Jrue would get frustrated, get torched defensively, turn the ball over at an alarming rate and struggle to put the ball in the basket. It's really tough to say whether or not he was better than his 8-3-3 numbers indicate because half of the time he was, but other times he was worse.
LB: What are Jrue's strengths?
Ryan: He's got a great body for a point guard. At a very long 6'3'', he's going to be able to match up with just about anyone in the league and will have a size advantage over most. His length causes problems on defense, especially on smaller guards as he disrupts opposing point guards in their attempts to initiate the offense. He has good ball handling skills and shows a good feel for the game, especially in the open court. His biggest strength is probably his ability to finish around the rim. While he can, Holiday is not the type of guy who will throw it down when he goes to the rim. Instead, he's able to weave his way past shot blockers, go with a tear drop over shot blockers and can finish with either hand.
Ryan: Jrue needs to improve his jump shot. His mechanics aren't bad, but they aren't consistent. He has the tools to be a very good shooter, but it will take some work. He also certainly needs to mature. Against some better teams, he was taken out of his game by their skill and strength. When he got beat a few times defensively, he tended to become a tentative defender and lose his confidence. The truth is, he has the maturity of a 19 year old. That's not too bad considering he is only 19, but an 82 game season isn't the best thing for a kid looking to mature. He has a good family and isn't a bad kid, but the fact is that he is a kid and at times, will act as such.
LB: UCLA has had a handful of unpolished, athletic guys who turned out better than expected in recent years. See: Farmar, Ariza, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Westbrook. Holiday seems to fall in this same category. Do you see him developing as well as these guys?
Ryan: I think Jrue can develop as well as the guys you mentioned, but certainly not as quickly as them. Of those players, only Ariza played a single season of college ball and it took him some time to break out. The other players all made solid contributions within the first year or two and while Jrue can make a contribution, he won't live up to his potential for a few years. Ben Howland's system is extremely effective for the college game and while it doesn't let all players put up huge numbers, it prepares players well for the pros. Holiday's skills have been refined under Howland and he can outproduce his college numbers, but it will take some time first.
LB: Blogging aside, as a Bruins fan, what were your feelings about Jrue Holiday in his one season at UCLA?
Ryan: I know some UCLA fans have less than favorable feelings towards Holiday for some of the remarks that may have come out of the Holiday camp, but I don't harbor those same feelings. While I don't have the same attachment to him that I have for guys who were Bruins for three or four years, some of the missteps that caused some fans to turn on him were a result of questionable people around him, in my opinion, and more than anything, immaturity on Holiday's part. He didn't live up to expectations that many would have for a High School Player of the Year, but he made his contribution despite playing out of position and I still consider him a Bruin. I'll be rooting for him in Philly.
LB: How is Jrue off the court? Good character? Work ethic? Bright kid?
Ryan: As has been the theme thus far, immaturity describes him pretty well. The positive side to all of that is that it's something he will grow out of and I think he's a pretty good kid. He has a good feel for the game and a high basketball IQ. By all accounts, he works his tail off in the offseason and does so in games when he's not downtrotten, a result of immaturity. While he may have some issues the first year or two as he matures, if you are willing to wait a few years, I think you'll have a high character guy who works extremely hard.
LB: Anything else us salivating Sixers fans should know about our new point guard?
Ryan: I think you guys got an absolute steal at #17. Jrue's talent level is far above that of a #17 pick and if you're willing to be a little patient then your patience will be rewarded. While Eddie Jordan will likely bring his Princeton offense with him, I don't see that stopping you from getting into the open floor on stops, where Jrue can shine. For the first couple years, he's going to have some trouble in the half court as he works on his jump shot, but I think that he will become a good half court player eventually. I think it would be best if you resigned Andre Miller or another veteran point guard so Jrue can come off the bench for 15 minutes a game early on and learn the game, then take the starting spot over in a year or two. All in all, a great pick by your Sixers.
Big thanks to Ryan for answering my questions.