Jrue Holiday may have missed out on a place on the NBA All-Defensive team, but it is hard not to notice all the appreciation coming his way from his peers. Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant have been very vocal lately about how much they value what Holiday brings to the court and his team every day. Showing his dogged versatility in 2018, Holiday guarded Durant in the playoffs after spending four games all but making Lillard disappear in a Pelicans sweep of Portland. Andre Iguodala and JJ Redick were among the other NBA stars to voice their admiration of Holiday.
Anonymous NBA insiders and blue-checked Twitter megaphones do not flatter Holiday in the same way. Now with only one year left on his deal before a player option, Holiday it a career crossroads, and it puts the New Orleans Pelicans in a tough spot. The opening salvo of trade offers floated have been underwhelming. Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin probably has a set price and some counteroffers lined up for some hypothetical trades and should be looking at the return as a three-year investment. Zion Williamson is eligible for an extension that following off-season.
The Brooklyn Nets are heavily linked to a deal for Holiday, with Brandon Robinson on record saying discussions have begun. Brooklyn’s offer is reportedly Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, Dzanan Musa and a protected future first-round pick. While the first two names and a pick might seem nice on the surface for building a team next year, a three-year rate-of-return analysis shows this offer to be lacking any value beyond avoiding a tank job next year.
Musa is listed as a 6’9’’ small forward slash shooting guard. He is 21 years old going into his third season. He has a 49 game sample size where he shoots 22% from three-point range. He has a $2.1 million cap hit for 2020-21 with a $3.6 million salary for 2021-22. Frank Jackson, Kenrich Williams, Sindarius Thornwell, and Jahlil Okafor all cost less, have more experience, and more built-in chemistry with Brandon Ingram and Williamson.
Dinwiddie and Allen are the headlining return of playing talent. Dinwiddie will turn 28 in April and has a player option in 2021-22. Presuming Lonzo Ball remains in New Orleans for next season, is the Dinwiddie-Ball tandem a better option now than waiting to deal Holiday at the in-season trade deadline? Holiday and Ball having one more season to figure things out together could propel the Pelicans into the middle of the playoff pack. Having Ball try to figure out a new system with a new backcourt running mate could stunt his growth further, lowering his trade value going into a contract negotiation. Then Dinwiddie splits and the backcourt needs a total rebuild to support Williamson last seasons on a rookie contract.
Allen would be due a qualifying offer for 2021-22. He is years ahead of Jaxson Hayes on the defensive end, can stretch out to the corner three spots, and has the size to patrol the paint on both ends. A frontcourt of Allen, Williamson, and Hayes could run with small-ball lineups and still dominate traditional big men on the low block or pick and roll game. However, he could also render Hayes expendable should New Orleans want another savvy veteran in the rotation.
David Griffin should still insist on Caris LeVert being part of the deal. Especially since the Nets attached protections to a draft pick. A team with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Jrue Holiday is not going to be a lottery team. A pick that transfers after 2023 is practically useless to Brooklyn’s current roster. Going all-in on a championship requires sacrificing more of the future than one protected pick, especially considering the draft picks New Orleans has from the Anthony Davis trade. The recent trade market dictates that New Orleans adds a bench player and Brooklyn adds another pick or possible swap.
The Golden State Warriors are also heavily linked to Holiday. The Warriors could offer the second overall pick in this draft but would also have to include the Minnesota 2021 pick. The only way for Golden State to make the salaries work is to send Draymond Green or Andrew Wiggins to New Orleans. The Pelicans would immediately have to pay that 2020 NBA Draft pick almost $10 million. The salary cap hits coming back immediately have to be factored in which is why Golden State likely needs a third team to take on Wiggins.
And now the most nostalgic parts of New Orleans would like to include Oklahoma City in the discussions. Chris Paul making a return to New Orleans as a final push for a championship has an appeal. However, this season was shortened and no one will ever know if Paul’s age would have shown in the last two dozens games plus a playoff series. Paul looked rejuvenated in the bubble but he had months to recover from carrying the Thunder.
Wiggins is younger and could still be useful for an up and coming squad. Would Griffin want to take on that project, using Wiggins as the bench version of Ingram? Would Aaron Nelson be able to keep Paul refreshed long enough to make that contract palatable, or would Griffin demand Oklahoma attach a pick as well? None of these questions will be answered until after a champion is crowned and the trade window opens.
Fans of the Pelicans just have to trust Griffin has his eye on a better trade haul target than what is currently being offered. The deals just do not do justice to Holiday’s value to this team and for what it is worth, Holiday shot down trade talks at this season’s deadline. If any player should be trusted and taken for their word, Holiday has earned that loyalty from New Orleans. If other teams want to entice Holiday to leave, they need to bring better offers to the table so New Orleans has a reason to stay and listen.