Sixers' big choice: It's Jrue Holiday

Jrue Holiday shooting over Theo Robertson of California. Holiday played 27.1 minutes a game, and shot 45.0 percent from the floor and 30.7 percent from the three-point line.
Jrue Holiday shooting over Theo Robertson of California. Holiday played 27.1 minutes a game, and shot 45.0 percent from the floor and 30.7 percent from the three-point line.
Posted: June 26, 2009

With each selection of the NBA draft, the 76ers knew they were that much closer to landing Jrue Holiday, a projected lottery pick, at the 17th spot.

Earlier in the night, general manager Ed Stefanski said, he had debated moving up for Holiday, the 6-foot-4, 19-year-old point guard from UCLA whom most analysts considered a top-10 pick.

Stefanski soon realized that Holiday might last without the team's improving its position.

And he did.

"As it got further and further in the draft, there was a comfort level," Stefanski said.

What kind of player is Holiday? The scouting report says he will need a year or two to develop, but has the height, reach, and court vision to become a starting point guard in the NBA.

"I can't stand here and tell you Holiday will be a superstar," Stefanski said. "But he has upside."

Stefanski said the Sixers "tried to get active" in the second round, targeting a specific player, but were unable to get the necessary pick.

The scheduled salary for Holiday as the 17th pick is just over $1.5 million.

The Sixers said that they didn't expect Holiday to make an impact this season, but that the team's war room was unanimous in taking Holiday, who it believed was the most talented player left on the board.

"He's young, and you never want to put a lot of pressure on," assistant general manager Tony DiLeo said . "I'm sure he'll get an opportunity. . . . We'll see how he develops, see how he plays.

"We weren't looking at him to really come in and make an impact for next season. We're looking for the future with him."

Holiday, on a conference call from Madison Square Garden, the site of the draft, said he disagreed with that assessment. "No, honestly, I see myself as an impact player," he said. "That's my expectation of myself."

Holiday said that although he had been to Philadelphia a few times - and played against Villanova at the Wachovia Center in the second round of the NCAA tournament - he was "not that familiar" with the city.

"I'm excited," he said. The Sixers "have Andre Miller, who is a great point guard. I can definitely learn from him. You know, a playoff team, I get to experience that. I get to experience my first year, the pleasure of being in the playoffs, and playing against the best teams."

Miller's return to the Sixers is in question. He will be an unrestricted free agent when free agency opens Wednesday.

DiLeo said the team interviewed Holiday at the draft combine in Chicago. He said Holiday wouldn't come to Philadelphia for a predraft workout because "his people" thought he was going to be chosen in the top 10.

"Looking at the players in our area, players we thought might drop down to us, he was a wish player to us," DiLeo said. "We didn't think he would drop down."

North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson, Virginia Commonwealth point guard Eric Maynor, Wake Forest guard Jeff Teague, and North Carolina shooting guard Wayne Ellington were the names mentioned regarding the Sixers in the days leading to the draft.

As the draft progressed, it seemed the Sixers would have their choice from among the players they brought in for workouts, but the wild card - looking at the players left on the board as the Sixers' pick approached - was Holiday.

Clearly, he was the highest-rated player left. DiLeo said a few surprise picks earlier in the draft aided Holiday's drop.

With the 10th pick, the Milwaukee Bucks selected point guard Brandon Jennings. Some mock drafts had the Bucks selecting Holiday. At the 13th spot, the Indiana Pacers went big, selecting North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough when most folks thought they would pick a guard.

Holiday was the Gatorade National Player of the Year out of high school in Mission Hills, Calif. At UCLA, he had a less-than-stellar freshman season, starting at shooting guard in a backcourt that included point guard Darren Collison, whom the New Orleans Hornets selected with the 21st pick.

Holiday played 27.1 minutes a game, averaged 8.5 points, and shot 45.0 percent from the floor and 30.7 percent from the three-point line. He said playing out of position was "at times frustrating."

Although Holiday spent his only college season playing shooting guard, the Sixers drafted him as a point guard and believe he is a natural point guard.


Holiday File

Age: 19.

Height: 6-4.

Weight: 199 pounds.

College: UCLA.

Hometown: Mission Hills, Ca.

Must know: Jrue's first name is pronounced "Drew."

2008-09: Averaged 27.1 minutes, 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.1 turnovers, 45.0 percent field-goal percentage, 30.7 three-point percentage, 72.6 free-throw percentage.

Synopsis: Holiday came out of high school as one of the best players in the country, but had a sub-par freshman season. He has a long list of positive qualities: He's versatile and can create his own shot. He's strong defensively and has strong court vision. And, word is, he has a strong work ethic. The knocks on Holiday are that he isn't immediately ready to contribute, and that he isn't a true point guard, more of a guy stuck between point and shooting.

Quirky facts: In high school he sang in the choir and was the manager for the girls tennis team.


 

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Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

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