As the Damian Lillard trade saga ends, another one begins with Jrue Holiday. The Portland Trail Blazers acquired him on Wednesday as the centerpiece in their return for Lillard and are expected to reroute him to another team.
Holiday is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro on both ends of the court. He was named an All-Star for the second time in his career and had a strong case for making an All-NBA Team. The five-time All-Defensive guard is arguably one of the best, if not the best, defensive point guards in the league. His ability to guard the best small guards in the league, get across any screen, and guard bigger players makes him such a desirable player.
Most importantly, Holiday’s skillset is proven to be more than playoff viable, something that is hard to come by with guards. All those components of his game came together when he helped lead the Bucks to win the 2020-21 championship. All that, combined with his reasonable $36.9 million salary, should make him an automatic target for most playoff contenders.
What are the Blazers looking for?
The Blazers are probably seeking a package featuring multiple first-round picks and promising young prospects. Their return for Lillard currently features only one first-round pick and two pick swaps from Milwaukee, as well as Deandre Ayton. Clearly, their return is incomplete as they need to convert Holiday into future draft picks and players that fit their timeline.
As far as first-round picks, it’s unclear if they’re seeking quantity or what they perceive as quality. Meaning, do they want the most amount of picks they could possibly get, or do they want particular draft picks that they think could end up being high selections? For example, they could be weighing offers featuring a contending team’s next few first-round picks versus those with one that is far out in the future.
If the Blazers can acquire a certain type of player for Holiday, it would ideally be a forward. Their backcourt of the future is set with Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe, and Ayton is as good a starting center a team could wish for. Their top forwards include Jerami Grant, Matisse Thybulle, and Kris Murray, but Grant doesn’t fit into their plans anymore, and neither of the latter players projects to be high-end starting caliber players.
Below is a list of several teams that could use Holiday and make a reasonable offer for him.
The Boston Celtics are already expected to explore the possibility of trading for Holiday, according to The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. The Celtics already have one of the league’s best defenses though they made a significant change to their lineup by trading Marcus Smart for Kristaps Porzingis. Holiday would not only serve as an upgrade to Smart, but he’d strengthen an already overwhelming perimeter defense needed to make Lillard and the Bucks uncomfortable.
The Celtics are already over the first tax apron so they’d need to send out at least $33.5 million to match for Holiday. The easiest way for them to match is to trade Malcolm Brogdon ($22.5 million), Al Horford ($10 million), and one minimum salary. They also have all their own first-round draft picks as well as one owed by the Warriors in 2024, giving them enough draft equity to offer. The loss of Horford would hurt their big man depth needed to contain bigs like Giannis Antetokounmpo, but it might be worth it for a player as special as Holiday.
The Miami Heat are in a weird spot after missing out on both Lillard and Bradley Beal this offseason. The roster seems worse after losing Max Strus and Gabe Vincent and the Celtics and Bucks look like they surpassed them. The Heat could really use an upgrade at guard, and while Holiday won’t bring the scoring that Lillard would’ve, he would beef up an already strong and physical defensive team.
The Heat also would need to send out at least $33.5 million to match for Holiday given their high payroll. A package featuring Kyle Lowry’s expiring salary ($29.7 million) and either Caleb Martin ($6.8 million) or Jaime Jaquez ($3.5 million) and Haywood Highsmith ($1.9 million) works. They currently can trade up to two future first-round picks in 2028 and 2030 as well as multiple pick swaps. They could alternatively trade Tyler Herro ($27 million) instead of Lowry if they need to include more value, but they could probably use his scoring in addition to Holiday.
The Brooklyn Nets are looking to remain competitive despite recently trading away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They still owe two first-round picks and two pick swaps to the Houston Rockets, so they have no incentive to bottom out. The Nets already have a strong defensive team across all positions and Holiday would accentuate it.
The Nets need to send out $29.4 million to match for Holiday. The easiest way to get there is by trading Spencer Dinwiddie ($20.4 million) and Royce O’Neale ($9.5 million). They could also offer Ben Simmons ($37.9 million) if the Blazers are patient and confident enough to attempt to rehabilitate his value. Although they’re down several first-round picks of their own, they now have a surplus of picks after last year’s trade deadline, giving them enough assets to make a strong offer.
The Toronto Raptors were in on the Lillard sweepstakes and they could be a team to watch in regards to Holiday, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. They are still seeking a starting caliber point guard who can replace the scoring, offensive creation, and defense of Fred VanVleet. Both players had very similar stats last season, making Holiday a suitable replacement except more efficient.
The Raptors also only need to send back $29.4 million for Holiday but ideally would like to send back equal salaries to stay below the luxury tax. If they want to keep all their starters, they could match with a combination of Chris Boucher ($11.8 million), Thaddeus Young ($8 million), Otto Porter Jr. ($6.3 million), and one of Gradey Dick ($4.5 million) or Precious Achiuwa ($4.4 million). Like the Heat, the Raptors can only trade a maximum of two first-round picks in 2028 and 2030, as well as several pick swaps.
The Philadelphia 76ers are still seeking a trade for James Harden ($35.6 million) though that could take some time after they took him off the market. They are reportedly interested in acquiring Holiday, according to PHLY Sports’ Kyle Neubeck. He would presumably be acquired as part of a Harden trade which could require a third team, such as his preferred destination the Los Angeles Clippers.
Harden alone matches for Holiday so the Sixers wouldn’t need to send any other players back. The big question is if they’d need to include any additional value, but they may feel that a swap involving both players is fair considering their similar age and equally productive seasons last year.
Los Angeles Clippers
With Holiday available, it’s possible that the Los Angeles Clippers shift their attention to him and away from Harden. They still lack a definitive lead playmaker on the roster and their defense took a step back last season. Holiday would solve those issues and could also be a leading voice in their locker room.
The Clippers would have to send out $33.5 million due to their high payroll. They could get there with a combination of players like Norman Powell ($18 million), Marcus Morris ($17.1 million), Nicolas Batum ($11.7 million), Robert Covington ($11.7 million), and Terance Mann ($10.6 million). They can trade up to two first-round picks in 2028 and 2030 as well as several pick swaps. They haven’t been willing to offer much of a premium for Harden, but perhaps they’re willing to trade more assets for Holiday.
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