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Jrue Holiday: The Once And Future All-Star

Even if Philadelphia 76ers' point guard Jrue Holiday doesn't receive an All-Star bid this season, he's made it clear that his name should be in the mix for the NBA's mid-season showcase for many years to come.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

This was supposed to be about Evan Turner.

This was originally designed to be an ode to a player who took his game to the next level in his third NBA season. A man who lived up to his "Villain" moniker every time that he stepped out onto the court.

But Turner isn't quite there yet. Every now and then, we catch glimpses of him displaying that killer instinct inherent in all superstars, but it's rarely much more than a glimpse. On some nights, Turner is Lex Luthor. On others, he's Mister Mxyzptlk. And while he's staked his proverbial claim with the corner 3 this year (Turnersville - Population: 1), if you were to ask the Magic 8-ball whether Turner will ever make an All-Star team, the answer would be something along the lines of "Reply hazy... try again."

In the absence of Andrew Bynum, there's only one player on the Philadelphia 76ers who is on the cusp of stardom. One so quiet and unassuming that many wondered if he would ever take his game to the next level.

In our player previews prior to the season, Derek Bodner wrote that Jrue Holiday was the most likely candidate to be the Robin to Bynum's Batman. So far this year, the Sixers' starting point guard has had to assume the roles of both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson at times, with a little bit of Alfred Pennyworth thrown in for good measure.

Just five years removed from starring at North Hollywood's Campbell Hall High School, Holiday is legitimately in the conversation when it comes to the top 10 point guards in the Association. His game has evolved to such a level this season that he should be in the mix for an Eastern Conference All-Star spot for the better part of the next decade. The plethora of quality guards in the East (Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams, et al.) will make it hard for Holiday to get a seat at the grown-up table each year, but it won't be for lack of trying.

Truth be told, this is something of quantum leap for a man who was rated as the 73rd-best player according to ESPN's NBA Rank project this past September. In fact, if the Good Lord is willing, the creek don't rise and the duct tape on Bynum's knees holds up, the Sixers could potentially have two of the top 40 players in the league on the court at the same time as early as next month.

The numbers on the back of Holiday's trading card (19.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 4.2 RPG) don't fully illustrate his true value. Even advanced statistics such as "win shares" fail to do justice to his impact this season: He's clearly responsible for more than just 2.5 of the Sixers' wins during the 2012-13 campaign.

If the MVP Award was truly given to the person whose mere presence dramatically improves his team's play, Holiday would garner more than a few votes this year. Case in point: Holiday missed four games in December due to a sprained left foot. The Sixers lost all four games by an average of 13 points.

To hear Doug Collins tell it, the Sixers are perhaps too reliant on their starting point guard to be the focal point of the team's offense. In 16 games this year, Holiday has shot less than 40 percent from the floor: The Sixers' record in those contests is 4-12.

Jrue Holiday has a weakness for honey buns.

It's important to note this because even though he plays with the aplomb of a 10-year veteran, Holiday is just like any other 22-year-old.

He clowns for Instagram photos while wearing UGG boots. He takes pictures of his teammates when they fall asleep on the bus. And he isn't above playing pranks on unsuspecting fans.

At the heart of it all, Holiday is just a young soul trying to make his way in the world. And, as one would figure, this youth is evident on the court as well. Holiday often throws both caution and ill-advised passes to the wind. His focus on the defensive end isn't always as sharp as it could be. Sometimes, he plays at an 11 when a 7 or 8 is perfectly acceptable.

But along with that same youth comes hope for the future. Holiday still has plenty of room to grow, especially when it comes to improving his shot selection. If he ever embraces his ability to attack the basket off of the pick-and-roll, and overcomes his affinity for long jump shots, Holiday has the potential to be a perennial 20-and-10 guy. Not bad for a guy who was selected 11 spots after Johnny Flynn in the 2009 NBA Draft.

When Holiday received a four-year, $41 million extension in October, there was a fair amount of chatter among the basketball cognoscenti that the Sixers may have overpaid for their young point guard. Three months later, some of those very same writers are openly campaigning for Holiday's All-Star candidacy.

With all due respect to Petteri Koponen, Holiday is far and away the best talent that the Sixers have drafted in the past eight seasons. And as the only player in the league who averages 19 points and nine assists per game, there's no doubt that the 76ers' 6'3" playmaker has done more to earn a free trip in Houston in mid-February than any other Eastern Conference guard whose last name isn't Wade, Rondo or Irving.

If it weren't for Holiday, the only basketball-related storyline in the City of Brotherly Love this year would have been Bynum's eventual(?), inconsequential return to a team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by the time Beyonce performs at halftime on Super Bowl Sunday. Instead, there's still that faint glimmer of hope that the Sixers can make a late-season playoff push once everyone is present and accounted for.

Can Holiday eventually find himself on the league's Mount Rushmore of point guards? As the Magic 8-ball would say, "ask again later." But he's been the best player who has put on a Sixers' uniform this season, and his star figures to shine bright in the NBA's constellation for many years to come.

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