As most of you know, I went into this draft with unrealistic hopes of seeing the Sixers trade up to get Stephen Curry. When Curry went #7 to the Warriors I felt deflated. When Brandon Jennings went to the Bucks at #10 I felt encouraged. When Earl Clark went to the Suns at #14 I was downright excited. Why? Because at that point, Jrue Holiday was a virtual lock to drop to the Sixers.
Let's get to know Jrue a little bit before I talk about his impact on the team. He's 6'4" tall, weights 199 pounds and comes into the league with as high of a ceiling as anyone in the draft not named Blake Griffin. He was the second-highest rated high school senior in the class of 2008. He played out of position at UCLA, putting up mediocre numbers (much like Russell Westbrook the previous season). He's a great character guy and he fell to #17 tonight mainly because of a minor shoulder injury. Here are a couple of videos to familiarize yourself with the newest Sixer:
Now it's time to take a look at what this means for the Sixers. Heading into the draft, I had Holiday number four on my big board behind Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio and James Harden. Curry was there because I believe he was the best shooter in the draft, and had the basketball IQ to step right in and dominate in the Princeton Offense. Harden because he can shoot and he had the physical tools to be a starter at SG. Rubio because I thought the passing ability and star potential were too much to pass up on. Holiday because I believed he was the best defender with the highest upside. Not only were these guys my top four, but I believed the guys in this group were probably worth trading up for, which would've been necessary because I thought there was no way they'd get one of them without trading up.
My dreams of adding Curry to be Iguodala's better half at the guard position went up in flames, but by drafting Holiday the Sixers went a long way to easing my biggest fear with this team. Since selecting Eddie Jordan as their new head coach, everything I've read and everything I've heard has pointed in one troubling direction. The Sixers were going to forego defense for offense. From consistently tallking about playing Brand at the five, to discussion of Kapono in the starting lineup. Everything pointed to defense being deprioritized. Simply put, the Sixers came out of tonight's draft with the best defensive point guard, and a guy who's capable of locking down both guard positions.
He's rough around the edges, he's unpolished (especially offensively), but he has the handle to play the point, the court-vision to run a team, the athleticism to run the floor, the size and strength to finish in traffic and the desire to be an elite defender. There are no character red flags. Everything about him screams solid citizen. Everything about this pick points directly toward three straight steals in the draft for this franchise and another piece added to the young core. Holiday turned 19 less than two weeks ago.
I expect Holiday to be a part of the rotation from the beginning of the season, but not a big part of it. Not at first. He'll be given a chance, but I expect him to be brought along much the same as Young and Speights were over the past two seasons. He'll learn on the job a bit, but earn his minutes. Don't expect him to be the starting point at any time this season. On opening day in 2010? It's possible, but not likely.
So where does that leave the team? I think it leaves them taking a long, hard look at Andre Miller, Jason Kidd and Mike Bibby. Probably in that order. The Sixers have the pieces to be a competitive team right now. The Brand contract is a ticking clock, and this team needs to build upon the winning atmosphere for the young kids to continue to develop. Holiday has the potential to be a complete stud and a mainstay in the starting lineup for years to come. I think signing a veteran to a two-year deal would be a good move at this point. An on-court tutor to help bring Holiday along slowly.
Ideally, the Sixers would be willing to commit to paying the luxury tax over the next two seasons so they could either re-sign Miller or use him in a sign-and-trade and use the MLE to bring in a player like Marcin Gotat, to really set them up for the long run. If that's definitely not a possibility, then again we're faced with a tough situation. If it's either a veteran point or a long-term guy with the MLE, I don't know what to do.
The Summer is young, we have time to mull over all the endless possibilities. For now, free agency hasn't even begun and Ed Stefanski has managed to turn Reggie Evans into Jason Kapono and land the team's point guard of the future with the #17 pick in the draft. I'd say things are off to a very, very good start.