SIXERS point guard Jrue Holiday is at that moment in his young career when a talented prospect starts to realize his potential and shows he is capable of being an elite player.

He's only 21 years old, but is starting his third NBA season.

And except for few examples, NBA superstars have usually established themselves as such by their third year, if not sooner.

"Jrue's right at the point of his career where he can turn the corner and become something really special," Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala said. "He's already a special player, but I think he can be one of the top five point guards in the league."

That's a heavy statement, considering some of the NBA point guards making headlines include reigning MVP Derrick Rose, of the Chicago Bulls, as well as All-Stars Deron Williams, of New Jersey; Chris Paul, now of the Clippers; Rajon Rondo, of Boston; and Russell Westbrook, of Oklahoma City.

And don't forget two wily veterans, Phoenix' Steve Nash and Dallas' Jason Kidd, who still have a lot of game left.

"Jrue has some special talents," Sixers veteran forward Elton Brand said. "I played with a savvy veteran in Sam Cassell, and he knew how to control a ballgame.

"That's what Jrue is still learning, but he absolutely has the things to be a star in this league. His defense is uncanny; he has good size, shoots the ball, can pass with either hand and really sees the court."

The NBA is an ever-evolving league and right now it is a point-guard-driven league. In truth, it isn't the classical definition of a point guard, but most successful NBA teams have a floor general capable of controlling the ebb and flow of a game.

In a sophomore campaign during which he thrived under first-year coach Doug Collins, Holiday averaged 14.0 points and 6.5 assists. In the Sixers' five-game playoff loss to the Miami Heat, he averaged 14.2 points, 5.6 points and 2.0 steals.

It is not a stretch to say Holiday is the most important player on the Sixers roster in terms of this team's long-term direction. If Holiday can emerge as a legitimate All-Star-caliber point guard, the Sixers finally will have the anchor player they haven't had since Allen Iverson was in his prime.

"I think he's shown a maturity beyond his years," said Sixers player personnel director Courtney Witte, who was instrumental in scouting Holiday, who became the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft after one season at UCLA. "He's still a young man, but he's got a great approach to the game that is beyond his years.

"That's very important for a point guard."

It's not just that Holiday wants to be a great NBA player and has the skills to be a great NBA player; he's willing to put in the hard work that will bring it all together.

"I think the key is to listen and learn," Holiday said. "You have to become a student of the game.

"One of the things is to look at the point guards in the league - Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Chris Paul - and see how they do things.

"What I see is that a point guard has to run his team. They make the bulk of the decisions. It's really about growing as a leader."

If I had my choice, I'd still want my best player to be a 7-foot, 270-pound center, but since guys like Dwight Howard are few and far between, I'll look for an extremely talented point guard who can direct a team.

We've seen more than just glimpses that Holiday could have that something special, but you'd like to see him take it up another level during this lockout-shortened season.

"The main thing is that I do anything I can do to help this team win," Holiday said. "I do feel a lot more comfortable now that it's my third year, and especially since we have our team back together.

"I think the importance of my position is to keep this team calm and collected, especially at those times in a game when things get hectic.

"It's just about helping the team win, whether that is on defense or on offense or making that extra pass. It's getting your team into the right flow. To me, that's a point guard. If that's what everybody else sees in me, then I'm happy."

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