Is Jrue Holiday an All-Star? Breaking Down the Damaja's Mid-Season Qualifications

Is Jrue Holiday an All-Star? Breaking Down the Damaja's Mid-Season Qualifications

It's pretty cool to even be talking about All-Star consideration for one
of our young, homegrown guys this season. It took Andre Iguodala eight
years and a lucky hot start from the Sixers to be given even strong
consideration for the All-Star team, but this year, fourth-year point
guard Jrue Holiday is putting up career-best, Most Improved Player-type
numbers that have forced his name into the discussion. However, the
Damaja's case is far from cut and dry, so let's analyze his chances from
five relevant factors and see what kind of odds he has of making it to
H-Town this All-Star Weekend:


Superficial Stats. This is the category where Jrue is the
strongest. His first-level stats—the kind you'd see in a box-score—are
almost across-the-board excellent. Not only is he third in the league in
assists with his 8.9 a game, but he's thirteenth in the league in
scoring with his 18.9 a game. His 45% shooting and 36% from three are
very acceptable for a point guard, and even though he still turns the
ball over too much (3.7 a game, one of the league leaders), that number
is down from the league-leading four-something he was averaging earlier,
and is no longer such a blight on his resume. He's also grabbing four
rebounds a game and averaging over a steal per, for a very strong
overall stat line. There's no question that Jrue is a worthy All-Star by
these numbers alone.


Advanced Stats. Jrue starts to slip a little here. His
advanced stats, while still quite good, fall a little short of All-Star
worthiness. His PER is a team and career-high 18.7—up four whole points
from last year—but usually, an All-Star PER is considered to be around
20 or higher, with Jrue's efficiency hurt by his relative lack of free
throws (just 3.5 a game, low for a lead guard) and his high turnover
rate. More damning is Jrue's defensive rating of 108 (the higher over
100, the worse), which is a big slip from his last few years. His low
defensive rating means that his Win Shares per 48 minutes–roughly
determining how many wins a player is worth over the course of a game—is
actually lower than it was his sophomore season, when he was averaging
just 14 and 6.5 a game. Defensive metrics are a lot less reliable than
offensive ones in basketball, but that still hurts Jrue's argument among
the NBA statheads.


Team Record. For better or worse, All-Star qualifications are
still built largely around team success—statistically, Andre Iguodala's
season was virtually identical last year to his last two or three, but
he was an All-Star for the first time because the Sixers had gotten off
to a 16-6 start and were still one of better teams in the East by the
time of the break. This year, Jrue will be getting no such boon from the
Sixers, who at 15-17 are arguably doing better than many would've
expected with 'Dre, Lou Williams and Elton Brand all gone and Andrew
Bynum still riding the pine with injury (and in fact would be in the
playoffs if the season ended today, somehow), but who aren't exactly
turning heads and making people go "How are they doing this???" with
their record. The record doesn't hamper Jrue's chances the way it would
if the team were 9-23, but nobody's gonna choose him just to make sure
the Sixers are represented at the Mid-Winter Classic this year, that's
for sure.


Eastern Conference Competition. Jrue is definitely helped by
the relative dearth of strong guards in the East this season. After
Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo—current leaders for the fan-voted guard
slots, and almost pre-ordained sure things for the game, one way or
another—there's a huge drop-off in All-Star obviousness. Deron Williams
and Joe Johnson have both disappointed in Brooklyn, Derrick Rose has yet
to play a game for Chicago, and none of the Knicks guards have
complete-enough stat lines to really earn consideration. Brandon
Jennings and Monta Ellis boast a superior record in Milwaukee, but their
shooting numbers are markedly inferior to Jrue's, so it's hard to see
them posing all that much of a threat. Kyrie Irving would be a shoo-in,
and might still be chosen, but missing 11 of the Cavaliers' team's 32
games hurts his case a little.


Really, when you get down to it, Jrue is third among qualified
Eastern guards in scoring and second in assists, playing for a
borderline playoff team. That's a pretty strong argument right there.

Name Recognition.
Another not-particularly-fair aspect of All-Star competition is that
certain names ring out among voters and coaches, while other names
aren't quite there yet. I would say Jrue fits more into the latter
category, as a zero-time All-Star who while obviously playing the best
ball of his career, hasn't exactly been setting the league on fire in
Philly—tellingly, he's not even close to qualifying in the fan vote,
ranking only eighth among guards, behind "name" players like Ray Allen
and Deron Williams. First-timers always have a tough time breaking
through in these votes, and ones without the huge hype of a Kyrie Irving
are even further behind the 8 ball.


Still, I'd say Jrue is coming around in this regard. During the game
in Portland, where Jrue lit up the Blazers for 29 and 9, the announcers
kept talking about the Damaja's pending All-Star campaign, and after
his performance certainly sounded convinced of his worthiness. A couple
more wins out West and Jrue's name is certainly gonna be out there,
forcing people to recognize.


Ultimately, I'll say that Jrue does get in this year. Were he in the
loaded West, with Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, James
Harden and Stephen Curry (among others) all clamoring for inclusion,
he'd have a much, much tougher time. But in the relatively weak East,
with three spots basically up for grabs, even if the coaches decide that
the games Kyrie Irving missed don't matter and that Deron Williams
isn't having that miserable a season, it's virtually impossible
to imagine Jrue getting screwed out of all three backup slots. Unless he
and/or the Sixers fall apart over the next few weeks (always a
possibility) or a couple of the Nets/Knicks guys lead their teams on hot
streaks that beef up their stats significantly (probably less likely), I
do believe it's gonna be a Holiday in Houston come February 17th.

Penn State not going to College Football Playoff, likely headed to Rose Bowl

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Penn State not going to College Football Playoff, likely headed to Rose Bowl

Penn State's wild comeback win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship was not enough.

The Nittany Lions were not selected to the four-team College Football Playoff, finishing fifth in the rankings.

Undefeated Alabama takes the top spot and will play No. 4 Washington. No. 2 Clemson will face No. 3 Ohio State.

Penn State earned its signature win of the season, handing felllow Big Ten member Ohio State its only loss of the season. 

However, Penn State sputtered in the beginning of the year, losing to unranked Pittsburgh and was thrashed by Michigan — who finished sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings — 49-10.

The Nittany Lions likely will play in the Rose Bowl, facing either USC or Colorado. The official announcement will be made later Sunday.

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”