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.

5 Eagles to watch on offense and defense at OTAs

5 Eagles to watch on offense and defense at OTAs

Tuesday is a big day in the progression of the 2017 Eagles

The team is finally all together as OTAs kick off at the NovaCare Complex. We've already looked at the biggest storylines of the week (see story), but how about the individual players? 

Well, let's look at five offensive and five defensive players to watch this week, leaving out Carson Wentz. Yeah, we're going to watch the QB. 

Offense

Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery won't be hard to spot. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound receiver was brought in on a one-year deal this offseason. He's been in Philly working out, but this will be his first time at a real practice with his new team. Maybe we'll quickly get a sense of his chemistry with Wentz. 

Torrey Smith
At his introductory press conference in March, Smith was asked about his speed and responded by jokingly challenging a reporter to a race. While that never happened, it's fair to wonder what the Eagles are getting in Smith. He wasn't the same player in San Francisco, so we'll get to see if he has some gas left in the tank. 

Donnel Pumphrey
We already got a glimpse of Pumphrey during rookie camp, but didn't get a long time to watch practice. At OTAs, we'll see everything. The biggest thing that stood out about Pumphrey a couple weeks ago was his size — or lack of size. How will Doug Pederson use his new weapon? We might get some hints this week. 

LeGarrette Blount
Pumphrey and Blount technically play the same position, yet Blount is 74 pounds heavier. To put that in perspective, 74 pounds is about the weight of an average 10-year-old. Blount has been in the league for nearly a decade, but he's in a new offense in Philly (without a true tight end), so we'll see where he is in a short time with the team.  

Taylor Hart
Normally we wouldn't put an offensive lineman on a list of guys to watch in shorts, but Hart is transitioning from defensive tackle to offensive tackle and this is the first chance to see him on offense. Worth watching. He was pretty excited about the switch in January (see story).

Defense

Timmy Jernigan
Honestly, it's harder to evaluate defensive players during OTAs because there's no hitting, and it's even harder to evaluate linemen. Jernigan, though, is worth watching because he's replacing Bennie Logan. 

Rasul Douglas
We've already seen Douglas at rookie camp, but he was really looking forward to lining up against some veterans like Jeffery. Douglas was a third-rounder, but he might be more important to the team in 2017 than any other rookie simply because of his position. 

Patrick Robinson
Speaking of the cornerback position, this week is the first of seeing Robinson, who signed a one-year deal that's mostly gone forgotten. The 29-year-old former first-round pick is coming off a rough yearlong stint with the Colts, but was much better in 2015 with the Chargers. He's on a prove-it deal, so who knows if he'll be the Eagles' best option. 

Ron Brooks
One of the biggest losses the Eagles suffered during the 2016 season was when Brooks went down with a bad leg injury. No, Brooks wasn't great before the injury, but he was the team's slot corner, which kept Malcolm Jenkins at safety. Not sure where Brooks is in his recovery, but don't forget about him. Jim Schwartz clearly likes Brooks. 

Joe Walker
Walker is recovering from an ACL tear from last preseason. He was lining up to be the team's backup middle linebacker before the injury and the 2016 seventh-round pick will probably have the inside track to win that job this year ... as long as he regains his form from before the injury. 

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO -- Stephen Curry scored 36 points as the Golden State Warriors closed out the Western Conference Final against the injury-ravaged San Antonio Spurs with a 129-115 victory Monday night, becoming the first team in league history to start the playoffs 12-0.

Golden State led by as many as 22 points in cruising to its third straight NBA Finals. The Warriors await a possible third straight championship matchup with Cleveland, which leads Boston 2-1 in the East finals.

"It's great to be one of the last two teams standing, we'll see how it goes," said Kevin Durant, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds.

San Antonio's only lead came on the opening possession when Manu Ginobili tossed in a left-handed scoop shot. The Spurs started Ginobili in what could be his final game with the team. The 39-year-old had maintained he will not ponder whether to retire or return until after the season.

Unsure if the beloved veteran will return, the crowd serenaded Ginobili with "Manu, Manu" chants as the game came to a close.

"An amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him," Durant said of Ginobili. "He was phenomenal this series."

Kyle Anderson scored 20 points to lead the Spurs, who were without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and David Lee. San Antonio didn't go down without a fight despite the injuries.

Anderson dove on the court for a loose ball that the Spurs had tipped away defensively, pushing the ball upcourt to Patty Mills who fed Ginobili for a 3-pointer that pulled San Antonio to 108-94 with 7 minutes remaining.

The effort made Spurs coach Gregg Popovich smile and clap at times, but the Warriors' depth and talent proved too much for short-handed San Antonio.

Golden State shot 56 percent and were 14 for 39 on 3-pointers.

Draymond Green had 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors.

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge closed out a disappointing series with his second eight-point effort against the Warriors.

Ginobili finished with 15 points in 32 minutes.