Why the Sixers are Better Without Jrue Holiday
I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. It takes about 40 minutes from my childhood driveway, assuming I-95 doesn't back up somewhere near Chester, to walk in the door of the Wells Fargo Center. Throughout elementary and middle school, I had no choice but to grow up in the age of Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie and that Iverson guy who didn't like to practice. Sixers fans still dominate my Facebook wall and Twitter news feed.
So last night was fun. I don't think I've seen an angrier mob of Philadelphia fans since Scott Rolen asked out of town or Donovan McNabb spoke words that one time.
Judging by the public perception, new 76ers GM Sam Hinkie is somewhere between Clubber Lang, Michael Irvin, and the Guy who Cracked the Liberty Bell on the list of Enemies of the City. I think my favorite quote I saw was, "'Passionate, Proud, and Stupid' should be the team's new motto for hiring you". What I wouldn't give to be able to tune into 610 WIP this morning.
You know, that's all a shame. Because in actuality, Sam Hinkie made one of the shrewdest moves in the NBA last night, setting the 76ers up with multiple young pieces for a long-term run. All he had to give up was one of the single least efficient players in the NBA to do it.
Why Do People Like Holiday?
Here is the public perception on Jrue Holiday: He's a playmaker. He can take control of a game. He holds a varied skill set. He's not Evan Turner. He quickly became the fan favorite in Philly, partially because any distraction from the Andrew Bynum Pro Bowling League was a welcome one.
However, those people clearly haven't looked at the numbers. Let's do a fun "Player A, Player B" breakdown. It's not particularly useful because you don't receive a larger context for a player, but man, it's so much fun when you can come up with comparisons like this.
Player A: .466 eFG%, 36.5 AST%, 17.3 TOV%, 99 ORtg, 107 DRtg
Player B: .493 eFG%, 32.2 AST%, 19.3 TOV%, 112 ORtg, 109 DRtg
Yeah, slightly more turnovers are a problem, but that extra 0.13 points per possession would sure be nice in Philadelphia when the offense sputters worse than a 1967 Oldsmobile. Oh, what's that? Player A is Jrue Holiday and Player B is Andre Miller, the now-37 year old point guard the Sixers pushed out four years ago in favor of young guys like Holiday and Lou Williams? Well then.
If that isn't enough for you, how about this context: according to stats.nba.com, among the 145 players that played at least 75 games last season, Holiday's .466 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) was 112th. His assist/turnover ratio, supposedly one of the best parts of his game, was only 31st behind such vaunted PGs as Kemba Walker, Darren Collison, and Luke Ridnour.
This was supposed to be Holiday's breakout All-Star season? Please.
What This Means for Philly
Look, this isn't something I'm pulling out of thin air. I was making my case that Jrue Holiday shouldn't be an All-Star all the way back in January. The only reason he puts up such high per-game numbers is his 26.6 percent usage rate, the 20th-highest in the NBA among players who played 50 games or more.
That means that when he's on the floor, the Sixers would run plays for him (or he would just chuck the ball near the rim) five percent more than any other starter. Considering his overall inefficiency, that means the Sixers would become a better team just by running plays for a league-average player instead.
As I've explained a couple of times this week (like this KG/Pierce analysis or this NBA rookies analysis), we like to use a player's nERD score for his overall efficiency. This is an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a team would be with that player as a starter alongside a league-average team. For example, LeBron had a ridiculous 27.3 nERD this past season, meaning that if the Heat started LeBron and four average players, they would still be expected to go 55-27. Norris Cole, meanwhile, would lead an average team to a 39-43 record with his inefficient play thanks to his -5.3 nERD.
Jrue Holiday? Well, let's just say that he fails the nERD test. Miserably. His -6.3 nERD last season means that the Sixers could have just replaced him with an average efficiency player (say, Steve Blake) and actually gained three wins. That makes him the ninth-least efficient player in the entire NBA last season. (For what it's worth, Evan Turner was second-worst with a -8.4 nERD).
This is nothing new for the point guard. In his four years in the league, Jrue has never even once played replacement-level ball. His -0.7 nERD from 2011 is his best efficiency rating, and his overall efficiency has decreased each of the past four seasons. Now, is that a guy that you'd want as the centerpiece of your team moving forward? I tend to believe that he's not going to make an amazing Rocky-type Renaissance in Season 5 in Philly.
Sam Hinkie is an analytics guy; he comes from the Daryl Morey tree in Houston. This is 100 percent an advanced analytics move, even if Noel and the 2014 first don't pan out. Trading Jrue Holiday makes the Sixers a more efficient team right away, and their projected wins actually go up by not having him on the roster.
We're analytics people here too, so it's no surprise we like the move. Public perception isn't always correct, and it certainly isn't in this case. Jrue Holiday had to go before the Sixers could truly become a great team.