This is the slow time in the NBA off-season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to the 2010-11 season and which players might surprise us. The Slept-on Files will feature some of the players you might have overlooked or written off — and give you reasons why you shouldn’t.
Jrue Holiday’s file: One season: 73 games, 24.2 MPG, 44.2% FG, 39% 3PT FG, 66.7% FT, 2.6 RPG, 2.7 APG, 8.0 PPG
Why he’s being slept on: I know what you’re thinking. How do you sleep on a player that’s just going into their sophomore season after he was splitting minutes with both Allen Iverson and Lou Williams in his first season as a professional? There’s your answer. In a backcourt that was shuffling players and lineups all season, Jrue Holiday didn’t really get a fair shake in his rookie campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers. Getting time when Williams went down with a broken jaw, he was then bumped from the lineup after the Iverson signing went down. When he finally did get his shot after the AI experiment had come to an unsettling close, Holiday was one of a few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for the Sixers, finishing the year with 41 consecutive starts.
2009 was the year of the guard, with Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry all being drafted. This doesn’t even include Holiday’s UCLA teammate Darren Collison, or Ty Lawson and Jonny Flynn. It’s easy to see why Holiday was lost in the shuffle of his draft class, especially when he wasn’t getting the same time on the court or freedom as his fellow rookies. Even before he became an NBA rookie, Holiday was a player who had been under the radar in his one season at UCLA, playing out of position as a shooting guard when senior Darren Collison returned and already had the one spot locked up.
Why he shouldn’t be slept on: Holiday was able to go back to his natural position as a distributor when he was drafted by the Sixers with the 17th pick. While he was playing the point, people were unable to see his crisp passes, court vision and deceptively quick moves to the basket when he was glued to the bench. As the Sixers season went on, Holiday, the first player born in the 1990s to play in the NBA, began piecing together performances that proved he belonged.
Averaging 12.5 points and 6.2 assists per contest through March and April, Holiday looked like a different player than the timid guard who had started the season looking over at his head coach every time a mistake or miscue was made. Spending time with Philly assistant coach Aaron McKie helped Holiday gain confidence and, most importantly, continue to play his own brand of basketball while on the floor. With McKie in his ear offering encouragement and support, slowly the pro game has become easier for Holiday. With a career-high 25 points against the Raptors in April he showed that he can put points on the board. A dizzying 13-point, 12-assist, 7-steal night in a victory over the Hawks showed he can do a little bit of everything. With continued trust from his teammates and a new head coach who is big on development, Holiday is well on his way to being an every day household name.