April 3, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday (11) drives down the court during the game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Jrue Holiday for NBA's Most Improved Player

Jrue may not be a household name around the NBA for most fans, but to Sixers’ fans, he is truly special. Getting to watch Jrue grow up before our eyes this year was one of the biggest highlights of the season. Jrue went from an average starting point guard last year to going to his first, with more to come, All-Star game this year.

With Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala gone this year, Jrue moved into the primary ball handler and playmaker role. Jrue thrived in this position all year, but where he really surprised was coming off screens and knocking down buckets. When the ball wasn’t in his hands, it was in Evan’s, and Evan would either pull up for a long two or get the ball to Jrue.

Jrue’s stats skyrocketed this season. He played 37.9 minutes per game this year, which is tied for 8th with LeBron James. He is 4th in assists with 8.1 (Only Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Greivis Vazquez average more) and was 3rd overall in assists with 625. That is up from 4.5 apg and 290 total last season! Even though it was a shortened season, that is quite a jump. Jrue showed off his passing ability many times this year, but what really impressed me was his scoring ability.

Jrue is one of those guys that can use his dribble to both get him and his teammates open looks. He went from 13.5 points per game to 17.9 on 43% shooting. There were multiple times this season that nothing was really working for the Sixers, so Doug Collins would just run a high pick and roll with Spencer Hawes or Thaddeus Young, and Jrue would do his thing. Jrue became very good at coming off screens with the ball in his hands. The fact that he is quick and also a 6’4 point guard helps him split the traps while keeping his speed and composure.

Jrue was 10th in field goal attempts with 1256 attempts this year, up from 33rd with 834 last season. Jrue knew this year was his year to breakout. The team needed him to be aggressive all season long, and he rose to the occasion. Something else to keep in mind is that Jrue had just one double-double last season. This year? He had 20, including a triple-double. Much improved balance between facilitating and scoring was the biggest key to Holiday’s success.

The next thing that Jrue did well, and I say well as an understatement, was his defense. The first time the Sixers played the Cavaliers this season, Jrue locked up Kyrie Irving, which is a tough task to do. He hounded him from the moment he stepped across half court and didn’t let him get to his spots on the floor. Kyrie went 4-of-14 from the floor with 9 points and 5 turnovers that game. This is only a small sample size, but the improved defensive trend for Jrue was noticeable all season long. Just watch this if you don’t believe me.

Jrue really rounded out his game this year, and he stepped up in a big way. He took this team over even though we all thought it would be Evan Turner’s team. Jrue said it himself, that he thinks this is Evan’s team.

“I think when it comes down to it, he might be our go-to guy. We know what he’s done in college, we know his resume, we know he can score. Right now, I’m just kind of holding that title until Evan comes around.” – Jrue Holiday

Regardless of what Jrue says about his fellow teammate, this is Jrue’s team, and any fan could tell you that. They could also tell you that this team will be Jrue Holiday’s for years to come if he continues to progress the way that he did this season.

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