NBA Start, Bench or Cut: Point Guard Edition

AP Photo/Brandon Dill

NBA Start, Bench or Cut: Point Guard Edition

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NBA Start, Bench or Cut: Point Guard Edition

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The first quarter of the NBA season has delivered some fascinating storylines but none more rich than the play of many of the games best lead guards. Loads of young point guards have taken the next step in their development and the old guard is staying their usual steady course. Start, bench, cut is a popular social media activity for fans to engage in but let’s take the concept and apply it to some of the league’s comparable PG’s. 

Group One: Tyrese Haliburton – Indiana Pacers, Jrue Holiday – Milwaukee Bucks, Fred VanVleet – Toronto Raptors (Will Locklin)   

Start: Jrue Holiday 

There was a time when Jrue Holiday was truly one of the most underrated players in the game. The 2018 NBA playoff series between the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans showcased just how big time Holiday was on defense as he put Damian Lillard into a straitjacket for four games. In the seasons since then, Holiday remains a top tier perimeter defender and has rapidly improved his offensive output.

Holiday is averaging 18 points & seven assists in the last two seasons. He put up 50/40 efficiency lines from the field and three last year but both those numbers have cratered in 2022. However, Holiday is shooting 81% at the rim and 44% in the mid range, both great marks for guards of his size. Even with Holiday’s subpar efficiency, his balance of high feel decision making, strong self creation and elite man defense make him a top 10 player at his position and the starter out of this group. 

Bench: Tyrese Haliburton

Much fuss was made of the Pacers & Kings trade at the time of the deal last February. Fans and media alike were quick to label the Pacers as quick winners because they landed the young talent of Tyrese Hailburton. In his first full year in Indiana, Haliburton has shined as the team’s lead ball handler and offensive initiator. Through 19 games, Haliburton is averaging 19 points on 60% true shooting and a blistering 37.8% from three on over 7 attempts a night. Additionally, Haliburton is leading the NBA in assists at just a touch over 11 apg.

His pace and passing skills have guided the Pacers to a surprisingly adequate 113.1 ORTG which ranks 10th in the NBA. Haliburton has taken a massive leap in his fourth season and is the primary reason why the Pacers are overachieving at 11-8 and the fourth seed in the west. He’s mixed with two veteran guards in this group but Haliburton more than holds his own on the bench.

Cut: Fred VanVleet 

Last year, Fred VanVleet was absolutely fantastic and the Raptors best player for half the 2021 season. He was rightly rewarded with his first All-Star selection of his career. Flip the page to this season, and when VanVleet is healthy and on the court he’s been more than stellar. The seventh year veteran has missed six games and played in 13 this season. In those 13 games, VanVleet is averaging 19 points & seven assists.

It’s VanVleet’s efficiency that’s dipped below his usual above league average standard. VanVleet posts 55% true shooting and an ugly 39.6% on two point shots. On defense, VanVleet remains a net positive in the Raptors system despite being undersized. This isn’t to say VanVleet is bad but his lower scoring efficiency and lack of elite defense or playmaking is enough to separate him from Holiday and Haliburton as the cut from this group in the here and now. 

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