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Comparing Jrue Holiday and Gary Payton—a Christmas Gift to Philadelphia 76er Fans: Fan Analysis
When Gary Payton played his first game as a Seattle Supersonic in October of 1990, Jrue Holiday was just four months old. Believe me, when I read that, I felt as old as you feel right about now. "The Glove," as Payton was called, was the second pick in the first round of the 1990 NBA Draft out of Oregon State. He was the consummate point guard, as smooth and commanding offensively as he was dominating defensively. He was a nine-time All-Star, won countless awards, was a mainstay at the top of the league in numerous categories and is an iron clad Hall of Famer.
Jrue Holiday, the young and up and coming point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers, drafted with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft, is not Gary Payton. There simply aren't many who can compare to the Glove's body of work. That being said, watching Holiday play and grow entering into his third season, I will put myself in front of the scrutiny of those who would say, "How dare I?" Why would I make the comparison of a third year point guard to NBA royalty? Because it's been too long since the Sixer fans have had anything to get excited about, and Holiday is that player—not only on the court, but off it.
I'll use Gary Payton as my vehicle to try and cajole the casual Philadelphia hoops fan to raise a lazy eyebrow toward this team as it gets set to kick off the shortened 66-game season on December 26 in Portland. I implore those who have given up on this franchise to watch Doug Collins' brand of coaching, and watch this young, brash, physically gifted team buy into it. Will the Sixers make noise in the 2011-12 postseason? With the Miami Heat's Big Three, the Chicago Bulls young stars and the Boston Celtics aging ones, probably not. But I guarantee you come playoff time and barring injury, none of those teams is going to want to see Philly. Add that to the obvious nucleus of young, talented players like Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young that are starting to come together at the Wells Fargo Center, and soon enough the Sixers will become an attractive venue once again for free agents. Again, you say? Yes, there actually was a day when professional basketball in Philadelphia was as revered and feared as Los Angeles or Boston.
Holiday is the kind of kid who could quietly take over the basketball landscape in a city like Philly. He's not all flash and tattoo like Allen Iverson, and he probably doesn't have Iverson's scoring ability. But we haven't seen a pure point guard with Holiday's skills in Philadelphia since Maurice Cheeks found out from the media he was traded. Holiday is involved in the community, is cordial with the fans, the media actually seems to genuinely like him, and he possesses the key ingredient missing from just about every 76er who has traipsed through Philly the last ten years—he can actually play basketball.
A quick comparison of Payton and Holiday over their first two seasons show similar statistics both in totals and averages, but keep this in mind. Holiday was a 19-year old rookie. Payton was 22. Payton also played in all but one game his first two seasons, and he started all but three (161 total). Holiday played in 155 games, starting 133. The difference comes in the seasoning Payton had coming out of Oregon State as a senior, and the expectations placed upon him as the second pick in the draft. Still, their rookie averages are interesting to compare.
Payton—7.2 PPG, 6.4 AST, 3 RB, 2 STL, 45% FGP, 71% FT, 2.2 TOV
Holiday—8 PPG, 3.8 AST, 2.6 RB, 1.1 STL, 44% FGP, 75% FT, 2.1 TOV
The shooting percentages are similar, but considering Payton launched just 13 three-point attempts to Holiday's 159, their proximity becomes more relevant. Sixer fans should be looking for growth in the youth of their team. The following statistics per game, showing Payton and Holiday in their second year, when Payton was 23 and Holiday 20, shows that growth. Both played and started at least 79 games.
Payton—9.4 PPG, 6.2 AST, 3.6 RB, 1.8 STL, 45% FGP, 67% FT, 2.1 TOV
Holiday—14 PPG, 6.5 AST, 4 RB, 1.5 STL, 44.6% FGP, 82% FT, 2.7 TOV
To be fair, Payton did not come into his own as a player until his fifth season when he averaged 20.6 points, 7.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game. By that point, Payton was a 26-year old veteran. Holiday will be entering his third season still a 21-year old kid, and he's well on the way to similar numbers. Simply for the sake of feeling good about a basketball season and a talent in Philadelphia, take all this with a grain of salt that is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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