Even though things aren't all that bright in Southeastern Pennsylvania (notice that there's no reference to a popular television program, that would just be cliché), the esteemed basketball writers over at ESPN are giving some major credit to the Sixers' two best players.
In their second annual "25 best players under 25" feature, Kevin Pelton (also of Basketball Prospectus) and David Thorpe ranked Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young 12th and 17th, respectively (Insider Only for ESPN, sorry). Jrue jumped up a whopping 12 spots from last season and Thad improved by five, which is, what's it called.... progress! It's also a major win for the "Sixers only have two players that are really any good" camp.
The criteria for the rankings are fairly simple: "This is a ranking of how we would order these players if we were starting a franchise and would have them for the next several years, not just this season."
Here are parts (again, it's behind a pay wall, don't want to give too much away) of what Thorpe and Pelton had to say about Messrs Holiday and Young. First, Jrue:
Current: "Still younger than many college seniors, he plays like a grizzled veteran in his decision-making and overall control of the game. A borderline All-Star already, Holiday's game truly will explode when he's surrounded by better talent..." -- Thorpe
Future: "Holiday is young -- younger than everyone but Irving ranked ahead of him. So Holiday has at least another couple of seasons of development ahead of him." -- Pelton
And then, Thad:
Current: "Young is a dynamic athlete who knows his limits -- a rare thing in today's game. Young can have a big impact on an offense because he almost always makes the right decision with the ball or his own movements." -- Thorpe
Future: "While Young is thought of as a stretch 4, he's almost completely taken the 3-point shot out of his arsenal, and it will be interesting to see if it ever returns." -- Pelton
Anyways, if you have Insider, the whole thing is worth a read. I think it's cool that a scouting type and leading statistician both think highly of Jrue and Thad. There are a lot of really good players under these guys, and I really only have two major qualms with players as they relate to Jrue and Thad: Kenny Faried (11th) should be lower than Jrue and Paul George (18th) should definitely be higher than Thad. There are other things, especially Thad maybe being a little too high, that are also very debatable. The two major questions are as follows:
1. The only point guards under 25 that Jrue is ranked behind on this list are Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, and Stephen Curry. So, pretty heady company. Do you agree with Pelton and Thorpe that he can improve to the point where he reaches the coveted, if absolutely arbitrary "Top Five" point guard group? How?
2. Thorpe calls Thad a perfect "on court teammate," which is the ultimate complement, but also a nod to the fact that he's a complementary player. Are his best years being wasted on a team that doesn't contend? And can he regain the three-point form he had early in his career? To me, watching him shoot the ball right now, this is much easier said than done.
Discuss, debate, but mostly, complain.