Last year, Andre Iguodala‘s point forward-ness emerged, with Dre averaging 6 assists per game with a 3:1 assist-turnover ratio. While I believe the 3:1 ratio was somewhat fluky, the assist numbers are not – Dre is an adept passer who initiates the offense. However, he isn’t as capable at setting himself up for easy points – visions of missed 18-footers are dancing in my head. So Dre can set up the offense well enough, but he needs someone who can score to play with him.
The Sixers’ leading scorer, Elton Brand, averaged a meager 15 points per game. These 15 were the lowest for any leading scorer on an NBA team. While the Sixers compensated partially with having six players average double-figures in scoring a night, which isn’t an easy thing to do, the lack of a true go-to-guy is concerning. Especially in the starting lineup. And whenever I think of who could step into the starting five and produce like a leading scorer, my thoughts constantly come back to Jrue Holiday as being the guy who can make a scoring leap.
Jrue comes in with solid, if unspectacular, shooting percentages: 44.5% FG, 37.5% 3FG, 80.3% FT for his career – roughly mid-pack in all of them. Not too great, not at all poor, which is seemingly the story of this franchise. But given the other options, I think Jrue is the best candidate to change. Consider everyone else in the starting five: Brand is getting older, Jodie Meeks is limited to being a shooter only, Iguodala can’t shoot, and Spencer Hawes is, well, Spencer Hawes. If the starting five will remain the same, and I believe it should*, then someone from that group needs to become the dominant scorer. While the combination as a starting unit works best, too often were they in need of a reliable scorer.
*Kate Fagan has a new site that’s not ESPN where she’ll still be posting on the Sixers and the NBA- check it out here. And she basically shared the same thoughts I had before about the starting five, but more eloquently.
I think Holiday can change this, if he becomes a more aggressive offensive player. While we don’t need him to channel his inner Allen Iverson, he does need to take the ball to the basket more often. While he shot over 80% from the line, he only took two and a half shots there per game, the equivalent of just over one shooting foul. If you’re taking under three long-distance shots and twelve field goals overall while only making one trip to the charity stripe per game, you won’t shoot as efficiently as possible. It means he either avoided contact on inside shots or settled for more mid-range shots (the lease efficient shot in basketball).
While Jrue may not be able to outpace his opposition, he can certainly overpower his defenders. At 6’4″, Jrue is taller than most points, and he’s built bigger than most as well. Using that size in the paint and forcing his defenders to foul him will make him a much better scorer, one that the team so desperately needs. All he needs to do is be more aggressive: attacking the paint, drawing contact and grabbing as many freebies as possible. The scoring increase should come as a result – getting more points in the paint and hitting a higher percentage of shots is the goal.
The Sixers will alleviate much of their scoring issues with this change of attitude. And that’s the goal of these presents – to make the Sixers a better team. If Jrue can become an aggressive scorer, the Sixers look like a much better team.