According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the New Orleans Pelicans are openly discussing a trade involving Jrue Holiday with several contenders. The 30-year-old defensive juggernaut has two years and $52M remaining on his contract, with a player option for the 2021-2022 season.
We’ll begin by addressing the elephant in the room: if Jrue Holiday picks up his player option, that will eat significantly into any team’s cap space for the colossal 2021 offseason. However, as an expiring contract, he would be easy to trade next summer if his team were hoping to clear their books and bring in a superstar from the free agent market. That is compounded by the fact that as a former All-Star, and one of the most versatile defenders in the league, Holiday would give any contending team an unquestionably better shot of winning the 2021 NBA championship.
Among the teams said to be most interested in Holiday’s services are the Brooklyn Nets – who are openly on the lookout for a third star to pair with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Indiana Pacers – where Jrue would be reunited with his two brothers: Aaron and Justin, the Denver Nuggets – a team that fell just short of the 2020 NBA Finals and will be on the hunt to bolster their defense this offseason, and the Milwaukee Bucks – who are reportedly looking to solidify their backcourt enough to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to stick around.
While the Raptors have not been brought up as a top landing spot by any credible sources, we know that Toronto’s front office likes to hold their cards close to their chest, and given Nick Nurse’s play-style, it would certainly make sense for them to poke around. Would they be able to make a competitive offer against some of the other high-bidders though? Let’s take a look.
Brooklyn is one of the most intriguing potential landing spots for Holiday, and may be the most likely destination for him. As long as the Nets’ top trade target, Bradley Beal, remains unavailable in trade discussions, they will be in an all-out pursuit of Jrue Holiday. He would be a perfect fit next to Durant and Irving, as he is a low usage player on offense who can also defend the opponents best scorer.
Any deal in which Holiday is sent to Brooklyn would almost certainly have Caris LeVert going back the other way. In Irving and Durant’s absence during the latter half of the 2019-2020 season, LeVert proved to many that he’s capable of being Brooklyn’s third star, however Sean Marks, the Nets’ General Manager, doesn’t seem to be convinced. To make the salary work out, the Pelicans would probably have to take on Taurean Prince’s contract as well.
Given that LeVert is four years younger than Holiday, he would fit New Orleans’ timeline better, as they hope to rebuild around their young core of Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes, and Lonzo Ball. LeVert would fit perfectly as a third scoring option behind Ingram and Williamson, and under Stan Van Gundy’s coaching, they would become a real threat to make The Playoffs.
On the other hand, Brooklyn could also opt to try and create a four-headed dragon comprised of Holiday, LeVert, Irving, and Durant, by trying to convince the Pelicans that Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen are a better package to take back in exchange for Holiday. Dinwiddie – who is 27 years old, nearly cracked an All-Star team in 2020, and averaged 20.6 points, 6.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds this past season. Jarrett Allen is still only 22 years old, and averaged just shy of a double-double in 26.5 minutes per game: 11.1 points, and 9.6 rebounds.
Indiana, as aforementioned, is currently home to two of Jrue’s brothers: Aaron, whom they drafted in 2018, and Justin, whom they signed in 2019. Now, they may look to complete the triangle by adding a Holiday brother for the third consecutive year.
Indiana is in an interesting situation with Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner both reportedly looking to play elsewhere. They’ve also recently hired a new head coach, Nate Bjorkgren.
The most obvious and easiest trade that the two teams could make would be to swap Oladipo and Holiday straight up. Their salaries would nearly match, and the fit makes sense on both sides. Oladipo, while not the superstar that he was before his injury, would still be a very solid complementary piece playing next to Ingram and Williamson. If, for some reason, he doesn’t mesh well with the guys in New Orleans, he’ll be on an expiring contract, and would be easy to offload at the trade deadline. For Indiana, Jrue Holiday brings much of the same as Oladipo on the court, albeit being a slightly better defender and worse shot creator. His addition however would brighten up the Pacers’ locker room a little bit, with the toxicity of Oladipo’s trade request heading out, and the 2020 NBA teammate of the year coming in.
Oladipo is a more volatile asset right now because of his shaky play in a small sample size after returning from injury, so to make a straight-up swap work, Indiana may have to sweeten the pot with a couple future second round picks.
The Nuggets have a serious need for a good wing defender, and they have the assets to bring one in via trade. A trio of Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and Jrue Holiday would become real contenders in the Western Conference for the next three-to-five years. Additionally, the Nuggets have nothing to lose by taking on a longer term contract, since free agents won’t be flocking to Denver any time soon.
This past postseason, Denver had a spectacular run that was carried by their offense, and completed back-to-back 3-1 comebacks. On the back of Murray’s unstoppable scoring ability and Jokic’s masterful passing, they were nearly able to claw their way into The Finals as well. The only thing that they were missing was an elite perimeter defender who could stop the ball. When your team’s best defender is Jerami Grant, and you have guys who are rather defensively deficient next to him, you’re going to have a tough time winning a championship. Jrue Holiday likely can’t lock down LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard – nobody can, if we’re being honest – but he certainly moves the needle for Denver and puts them right at the top of the conference next to both L.A. teams.
Among the players whom they would need to part with are likely Gary Harris, Bol Bol, and a future first round pick. Harris – while his production has fallen off over the past couple of years – is still an average 3&D wing who can log good minutes for a team like the Pelicans. Bol Bol seems to have finally overcome the injuries that caused his stock to drop so harshly during the 2019 NBA Draft, and now he looks like he has potential to be the league’s next unicorn. The way that he runs the floor for a 7’3 player is incredible, he has a good handle for his size, he’s a smart player and a good passer, and what’s not to love about his length? All he needs is to bulk up a little bit and stay healthy, and he might have a real future in the NBA.
According to Brandon Robinson of Heavy.com, the Bucks are trying to land a “high impact” player at the guard position – quite frankly, the opposite of what Eric Bledsoe has been for them come playoff time. More specifically, they have inquired about Chris Paul, Victor Oladipo, and Kyle Lowry. Subsequent reports stated that the Bucks were not willing to take on Chris Paul’s longer term deal in case Giannis leaves and they are stuck paying a 36-year-old over $40M per season, and almost certainly Kyle Lowry is not being traded to Milwaukee. Regardless of whether the Bucks are able to land Oladipo, they should also be calling about Jrue Holiday.
Milwaukee really only has one chance left to win a championship – or at least they need to treat it that way. If they are unable to make a finals appearance yet again this season, their chances of retaining two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will diminish drastically. The team that they have assembled right now is not cutting it, and changes are due. Since they are deciding to hang onto coach Mike Budenholzer for another season, who probably won’t allow Giannis to see the floor for more than 36 minutes per game, they’re going to need to reconstruct their roster a little bit.
By all means, Milwaukee should not blow their team up. Khris Middleton is an elite plug and play guy, and is a great secondary scoring option next to Giannis. Brook Lopez is the perfect centre for that team because he stretches the floor well and opens up driving lanes for Antetokounmpo. He even landed himself a spot on the 2019-2020 All-Defensive second team. Rather, they should be willing to sacrifice a little bit of their future to win now. In order to land Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee would probably have to part with Bledsoe, Donte DiVincenzo, and a first round pick at the very least. Regardless of how much it takes though, they need to bolster their backcourt and get one of Oladipo or Holiday to truly contend next season. They can’t afford to run it back with the same team. It’ll be good for the Raptors if they do, though.
Finally, we’re onto the Raptors. Jrue Holiday is such an interesting trade target for this team because he fits their identity perfectly. He’s a great locker room presence, as aforementioned, and is an all-around defensive stud. It’s just a matter of whether Toronto has the assets, and how much they would be willing to give up to land him.
Off the top, Toronto’s most valuable trade piece is OG Anunoby: a 23-year-old combo forward who is highly regarded as the best one-on-one defender in the NBA. He’s extremely versatile, can guard anyone on the floor from one’s through five’s, and he has a reliable three-point stroke on the other end. He would fit New Orleans’ timeline perfectly, however there’s one little issue. As I’m writing this, I feel like throwing up. OG Anunoby is untouchable and won’t be getting dealt for anything less than a superstar. If Raptors President, Masai Ujiri, was unwilling to include OG in a deal for Kawhi Leonard two summers ago, then Anunoby assuredly will not be exchanged for Jrue Holiday.
Rather, the Raptors best offer for Holiday would probably be a sign-and-trade involving Fred VanVleet, whereby Toronto and New Orleans would need to co-convince VanVleet that the Pelicans are the best destination for him, and then the Raptors would facilitate him going there. To sweeten the pot, Toronto may need to also throw in a future first round pick.
A starting lineup of Lowry, Holiday, Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Serge Ibaka would probably have a little bit of trouble putting the ball in the basket, but it would surely be fun watching them limit opponents to under 90 points on any given night. Out on the west coast, Freddy throwing lobs to Zion might be pretty fun to watch as well.
Overall, the likelihood of the Raptors landing Holiday is low. They’ll definitely make a call to poke around, but other teams will just have more to offer, and won’t need to jump through as many hoops to make a trade work.