Today's edition of the Predicting 2010 Series will feature less comparative analysis and a whole lot more guesswork. Jrue Holiday is mostly an unknown heading into this season. There's no way to tell how good of player he'll be at only 19 years-old, and there's really no way to know how the Sixers plan to bring him along. After the jump, I'll try to piece together some projections.
There are two critical questions we need to at least guess at before we can project anything for Jrue. First, does the team plan to follow the same pattern they had for Thad and Speights over the past two seasons? The second is exactly how raw is Jrue?
Let's start with the team's perspective. First of all, Jrue's situation is completely different from both Thad and Speights' in their rookie years. Thad was thought of as a long-term project from the get-go. He was behind Iguodala on the depth chart and absolutely nothing was expected of the team. From opening night it was made clear that the plan was to bring Thad along slowly, then when Ed Stefanski took over (and traded Kyle Korver), Thad was sort of thrust upon Mo Cheeks. The rest was history. Thad played over 1,500 minutes in his rookie season, and cemented his spot as a building block for the franchise.
Last season, Marreese Speights was drafted before the Sixers signed Elton Brand. Again, he was believed to be a little bit raw, and once Brand was brought on board, the expectations were extremely low. Speights saw sporadic action early in the year, his minutes grew when Brand was first injured, but his defense and/or the coaching staff didn't allow him to significantly increase his role throughout the season. Speights played 1,262 minutes in his rookie season. A year in which big things were expected of the Sixers, which I'm sure had something to do with his minute total, in a negative way.
This year, Jrue Holiday was considered a steal at #17 by most draft experts. He was also plays a position which has zero depth for the Sixers. Even a best-case scenario of Lou Williams stepping into the PG position and thriving still leaves a minimum of 15 minutes/game where someone else is going to have to man the point. Unlike Speights and Thad before him, the team needs Jrue to provide something almost immediately.
Which brings us to the second question, will the kid be able to hack it right away? For me, the key will be his defense. If he brings effort on the defensive end, coupled with his quickness, size and aggression he should be able to play heavy minutes from the jump. His on-the-ball defense and rebounding should be enough to offset whatever warts are exposed in his offensive game. If he plays D, you can live with his O, if it's sub-par.
But, if he's out of his element on both sides of the floor, the team is going to need to protect him. You don't want to take a 19 year-old kid and throw him to wolves. The Sixers seem to get this, and have no problem bringing along young players slowly, so my prediction is that we'll see Jrue's minutes gradually increase as the season goes on. If you look at the talent on the roster, it's not a stretch to say Jrue should be the first guard off the bench from day 1, but I'm just not sure we'll see that. Here are my projected stats, with a bit more analysis below:
You'll notice the decent shooting percentages, there are a few reasons for these projections: #1 I don't think there will ever be a time where the offense is dependent on Jrue. He's going to be a facilitator and an opportunity scorer on the offensive end. I think he'll produce a very strong 2-point percentage, mainly because he can get to the hole and use his size to finish. The big number that I'm hoping for is the three-point percentage. The book on Jrue is that he has a fundamentally sound jumper, and only needs repetitions to become a good three-point shooter. Well, he's gotten plenty of reps this summer and I think when the season begins, he's going to be the recipient of quite a few open looks from three. If he can hit about a third of the shots he takes, he'll be bringing something to the table when he's out there. Defenses will eventually have to respect that type of shooter. The rebounding and assist numbers should be strong, as should steals and blocks. Turnovers are going to be a problem, I just don't see any way around that, for now.
Thoughts in the comments, Rodney Carney will be the next guy on the hot seat, check out the archive here.