Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Pelicans Star Guard Jrue Holiday
After coming into the season with a shock-the-world aura around them, the New Orleans Pelicans have been derailed by injuries.
Prized rookie phenom Zion Williamson hasn't seen the court. Their top free-agent signing, Derrick Favors, has been in and out of the lineup. Even a breakout campaign from Brandon Ingram hasn't been enough to keep the Pelicans afloat.
With the season already spiraling out of control, it may be time to make some changes.
According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, New Orleans is open to moving its star point guard, Jrue Holiday. Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin attempted to shut down those talks, though there could be some gamesmanship at play.
Holiday's numbers are down from last year but remain notable: 19.5 points, 6.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He's still a borderline All-Star talent, but it appears the Pelicans are at least entertaining the idea of moving him for pieces that better fit their timeline.
The Pelicans do have the leverage here. Holiday is under contract until 2021 with a $27 million player option for 2021-22, and he's still one of the best two-way talents the NBA has to offer.
Ultimately, the Pelicans seem further from being serious players in the West than they anticipated. Selling high on the 29-year-old guard would be a smart way for them to lean entirely into their rebuild.
If they do decide to go that route, here are five teams that should be all-in on the potential Holiday sweepstakes.
Miami Heat get: Jrue Holiday, Kenrich Williams
New Orleans Pelicans get: Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr., 2025 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
The Heat are off to a better-than-the-consensus-expected 19-8 start. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have made early claims for All-Star selections; Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn have both made Rookie of the Year cases. This group is deep, gritty and...on the brink.
This is where team president Pat Riley likes to reside, but not for long.
Equipped with a mix of intriguing young pieces and short but bloated contracts, the Heat have the ingredients to swing for a player like Holiday.
Griffin is a fan of Justise Winslow, a versatile point forward who affects the game in a multitude of areas when healthy. Goran Dragic would serve as the short-term starter, and his elbow-flinging drives and budding pull-up triple would be a welcome addition to New Orleans' offense. Derrick Jones Jr. is an athletic ball of clay still being molded as a multipositional defender and rim-runner.
For the Heat, adding Holiday would give them a trustworthy secondary creator to take pressure off Butler. Holiday has mostly been fine as a catch-and-shoot threat, ranking in the 60th percentile or better on unguarded jumpers during each of the past three seasons, per Synergy. Placing him alongside Butler would allow him to cut down on some of the pull-up triples currently tanking his percentages.
Kenrich Williams would slot right in off the bench as a backup forward. He's a smart team defender, which matters a ton to head coach Erik Spoelstra, who toggles between classic drop coverage, traps against one-star teams (hello, Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards) and a 2-3 zone. The ability to read the floor and rotate correctly isn't a preference; it's a necessity. Williams has the IQ and anticipation to do just that.
Milwaukee Bucks get: Jrue Holiday, Kenrich Williams
New Orleans Pelicans get: Eric Bledsoe, Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova, 2020 first-round pick (via Indiana Pacers)
I'm not sure if you've heard, but the Milwaukee Bucks are pretty darn good.
They're fresh off an 18-game winning streak and boast the NBA's best record. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the best player in basketball. Khris Middleton has been tossing metaphorical flames since his return from injury. The Bucks have gotten solid contributions from offseason additions such as Wesley Matthews, as well as young pieces like Donte DiVincezo.
And virtually none of it matters to the masses.
It's harsh. It's unfair. But this team will be judged by what it does in May and June. And after its past two showings in the postseason, skepticism is warranted.
Adding Holiday to the mix would give Milwaukee the boost it needs at point guard. Bledsoe has arguably been the better player through the early portion of this season. But again, every Bucks move is—or, at least, should be—viewed through a postseason lens.
Bledsoe has been embarrassed by Terry Rozier and Kyle Lowry in back-to-back postseason outings. The last time we saw Holiday in the playoffs, he was hounding Damian Lillard in a surprising first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers and holding his own (20.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.2 assists per game) in the second round against the Golden State Warriors.
Slotting Holiday in as a third option alongside Antetokounmpo and Middleton would give the Bucks a Big Three that could stack up against virtually anyone in the league.
For the Pelicans, Bledsoe remains a good point guard—playoff warts aside—on a reasonable contract. His slashing ability rivals Holiday's, as does his on-ball defense.
DiVincezo has been making flash plays on both ends in a solid second-year campaign. His combination of size (6'4", 203 lbs), athleticism and playmaking ability could give the Pelicans another interesting guard to evaluate. Ilyasova is mostly salary filler but remains a charge magnet and pick-and-pop threat.
Denver Nuggets get: Jrue Holiday, Jahlil Okafor
Pelicans get: Gary Harris, Juancho Hernangomez, Malik Beasley
The Nuggets have been one of the weirdest teams in the league this season. They're clearly good (17-8 record), but for the exact opposite reasons many would've anticipated. Their defense has been elite, while the Nikola Jokic-led offense has been an absolute mess.
Jokic's passive-aggressive bouts contribute to their strange offensive start, but a lack of rim pressure is at the heart of the matter. Jamal Murray is primarily a pull-up artist. Relying on Will Barton to carry that weight while in the midst of a career year on defense is a bit much to ask.
Holiday would give the Nuggets some of that juice. His 16.9 drives per game give him a top-10 mark in the league, outpacing Murray's team-leading mark (10.0) by nearly seven drives per contest. Adding that dimension would allow Murray to flourish off the ball, as well as take some of the creation burden off Jokic.
Harris has been one of the NBA's best perimeter defenders this season. His three-point shot (36.1 percent on 4.3 attempts per game) is starting to rebound, though he hasn't quite found his finishing mojo from years past (32nd percentile at the rim, per Synergy). A change of scenery—specifically, a return to an uptempo style—could do him some good.
Hernangomez has showcased the ability to swing between both forward spots and knock down open shots. Beasley is an interesting case. He shined in Harris' absence last year, posting career highs in points (11.3), three-point attempts (5.0) and three-point percentage (40.2). He's shot better from beyond the arc this season (40.7 percent) but has found himself in head coach Mike Malone's doghouse.
Not only does Beasley possess three-and-D potential, but he also has some underrated creation chops that may be worth exploring. The Pelicans would have to pay Beasley this summer once he hits restricted free agency, but there's some serious steal potential here.
Minnesota Timberwolves get: Jrue Holiday, E'Twaun Moore, Jahlil Okafor
New Orleans Pelicans get: Robert Covington, Jeff Teague, Josh Okogie, 2021 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Andrew Wiggins playing well enough to earn pseudo-point guard duties is a tremendous story. However, Wiggins serving as the Timberwolves' best point guard is not a great sign for the team.
After a hot start to the season, the Wolves have fallen to 10-15. The bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture is a disaster, so being five games under .500 means they're only a game out of the eighth seed. Still, the Wolves need help, specifically at the point of attack.
Not many NBA guards can hound enemy ball-handlers like Holiday. And while he isn't a Point God like Chris Paul, he has no issue feeding elite big men; he had plenty of practice with Anthony Davis.
Adding Moore to the deal would give the Wolves a much-needed spacer. They currently have six players averaging at least three attempts per game from beyond the arc, but Karl-Anthony Towns (41.8 percent) is the only player eclipsing the 36 percent mark.
If the Pelicans are going to lose Holiday, stacking the deck with rangy defensive wings wouldn't be a bad plan. Robert Covington remains a menace when upright. Josh Okogie is a bit erratic but has the tools to develop into one of the NBA's best on-ball defenders. Jeff Teague would serve as a passable stopgap before hitting free agency.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers get: Jrue Holiday
New Orleans Pelicans get: CJ McCollum
Ah, the rare All-Star-caliber straight swap.
The Blazers have been in a season-long battle with the injury bug. It, um, hasn't been going great. Injuries to Jusuf Nurkic and Rodney Hood have caused them to lean heavily on backups and a rejuvenated Carmelo Anthony just to tread water.
That, combined with the smallish duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, is a recipe for a bottom-10 defense. But one way to alleviate that issue would be swapping out McCollum for Holiday.
The Blazers would surely miss McCollum's mid-range mastery, a necessary half-court counter against playoff defenses. However, Holiday's ability to penetrate and make plays as a secondary creator would still work alongside the flame-throwing of Lillard. And defensively, it's hard to overstate the gap between Holiday and McCollum. It is stark.
As for the Pelicans, they'd get a bona fide three-level scorer in McCollum who could flourish in an uptempo system. Between Lonzo Ball, Ingram, Williams, Williamson (please come back), Favors and Jaxson Hayes, there would be plenty of length and athleticism to surround McCollum.
The Zion front is especially important.
Giving him a pick-and-roll partner with an effective pull-up jumper would be pretty unfair. Play drop coverage against McCollum and he'll pepper you with middies all night. Trap him and Zion will wreak havoc against four-on-threes. Switch the screen and you'll likely have a small human trying to keep Zion away from the rim.