Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NBA Draft Prospects: Jrue Holiday, UCLA

Stats: 8.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.6 spg, 2.1 t/o's, 45.0% FG, 30.7% 3PT, 72.6% FT

Listed Size: 6'3", 185 lb, 6/12/90 (18 years old)

(photo credit: LA Times)

About Him: Holiday is a tough prospect to predict. For starters, he played for UCLA, which means that his production is going to be stifled under Ben Howland's slowed down system. But that is less of an issue, however, considering the success that Russell Westbrook had this season.

The bigger issue is the position that Holiday is going to play in the NBA. His size, or relative lack thereof, would probably mean he will be more of a point guard at the next level. But playing alongside Darren Collison, who was one of the best point guards in the country, meant that Holiday did not get much of an opportunity to show off what he could do when running a team. The one real chance we got to see him run the point late in the season was in the Bruins first round match-up with VCU in the NCAA Tournament. Collison was being face-guarded throughout, which meant that a lot of the playmaking opportunities fell to Holiday, who didn't disappoint with a 13 point, 6 assist, and 2 turnover performance in 38 minutes.

The one thing we do know about Holiday is that he is a fantastic defender, which could have only been helped by playing in Ben Howland's system. He moves his feet very well, picked up quite a few steals (his 1.6 spg is all the more impressive considering the slow pace - meaning fewer possessions - UCLA games were played at), and has an excellent understanding of defensive positioning.

Offensively, there are more question marks regarding Holiday's ability. The biggest of those question marks is his perimeter jumper. He shot just 30.7% from beyond the arc, despite taking 2.5 per game, and was not consistent in the mid-range either. Overall, he was not a very consistent scorer, but much of that can, again, be attributed to the balanced UCLA offense he played in (his usage rate was a meager 9.7 possessions per game).

Holiday has shown some solid point guard skills. He can handle the ball pretty well, and he is a good decision maker and play maker. Despite playing off the ball, Holiday averaged a very respectable 3.7 apg with an a:to ratio of 1.75:1; again, very respectable. He has shown an ability to get by his defender and into the lane, but he did have some problems finishing at the rim. While Holiday is an all-around good athlete, he does not possess that Derrick Rose/Westbrook-freakish explosiveness.

Comparisons: The three I've seen the most: Delonte West, Rodney Stuckey, Mario Chalmers. West might be the best given their comparable frames, but I don't love any of the comparisons.

Bottom Line: Any team using their pick on Holiday will be taking a bit of a risk - if he looked like an overmatched freshman at times in the Pac-10, what will happen in the league? What an NBA team will be getting is an intelligent player that is willing to defend, can fit into a system that already has star power, and may one day turn out to be a starter in the league. As far as where he is picked, who knows? Doug Gottlieb at him going third when he did his piece on Sportscenter after the draft lottery was announced, but other publications have put him closer to 20. The back end of the lottery is probably where he ends up.


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