Can Jrue Holiday Take the Bucks All the Way in 2021?
The Milwaukee Bucks knew they had to do something big to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo from leaving town.
To be fair, at the time of this writing, The Greek Freak hasn’t verbalized any kind of commitment to the franchise beyond the coming season. This swing for the fences may still end up being for nothing.
But if that ends up being the case, you can’t say the Bucks didn’t try.
Try, they did, as Milwaukee made a move that is quite uncharacteristic of them, as they nailed a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans to bring star guard Jrue Holiday to Mil-town.
Here are the details of the trade.
FULL TRADE DETAILS:— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) November 17, 2020
It’s a great trade on paper, and one that has quickly created a buzz around the Bucks moving from merely a team with a great regular-season record, to one with serious title aspirations.
Here’s a quick breakdown as to why adding Jrue Holiday greatly increases Milwaukee’s odds of winning the 2021 NBA Finals.
Getting Jrue Keeps Giannis Happy
This is huge because it keeps Giannis Antetokounmpo engaged for the immediate future, and possibly long-term, as well.
Whatever Bucks ownership promised Giannis in their postseason meeting … I think they exceeded it.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 17, 2020
Swinging trades for a two-way force like Jrue Holiday and a marksman of Bogdan Bogdanovic's caliber before we even get to the draft is league-shaking work from Jon Horst and Co.
When viewing the long-term trajectory of the franchise, it’s pretty arguable getting someone of Jrue Holiday’s caliber convinced Antetokounmpo to sign a contract extension.
Milwaukee had to give up a lot to make this deal happen, and whether it was a sign of commitment or pure desperation, Giannis has to be pretty pleased.
A happy Giannis likely equates to a happy Bucks franchise. He’s enough to get them 50+ wins on a yearly basis, but it was obvious he needed a little more help.
This trade showed Milwaukee’s best player that the franchise is behind him, and will do what’s necessary to put the team in a position to contend for a title.
That calms the storm, may eliminate any kind of dark cloud contract talks could create, and also may settle nerves concerning Milwaukee’s future.
Holiday is a Big Upgrade Over Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe was the big name attached to this deal, while the Bucks also forked over a slew of first-round picks to entice New Orleans to give up Holiday.
But when talking about who is coming and going, Holiday is effectively replacing Eric Bledsoe.
While still a decent scorer and good defender, Bledsoe had long stretches where he disappeared, and his offense wasn’t as explosive or consistent as it needed to be.
More importantly, he had the ball in his hands a good deal and was tasked with attacking defenses, and all too often he made the wrong decision.
This Eric Bledsoe exit interview of sorts following the season sums that up perfectly, while also touching on Bledsoe’s good-but-not-elite outside shooting.
Jrue Holiday is a much better perimeter scorer for his career, he makes better decisions, and he’s simply the more complete player. In fact, many agree he may be the most underrated player in the entire league.
Milwaukee’s Defense Gets a Massive Jolt
As if an elite defense that ranked #1 in the league in defensive efficiency needed any help, am I right?
Touche’ sir, but still. Milwaukee gets a more versatile offensive performer and playmaker with the addition of Holiday, but they also get one of the best on-ball defenders in all of basketball.
There is a video detailing Jrue’s performance against James Harden in a 2019 game, and it’s pretty fun to watch how he just tracks plays and surveys everything.
Holiday is either anticipating or diagnosing every second he’s on the floor.
There are moments where it seems like he’s being lazy or not giving full effort, but it’s honestly just because he knows exactly what he needs to be doing in that situation and he’s not going to expel unnecessary energy.
Whether he’s trying to make Harden drive, giving him the baseline but not allowing a clean shot, or simply closing out, Holiday routinely makes the right call.
Holiday isn’t going to completely lock down someone of Harden’s talent level every night, but he did a fantastic job of making Harden do things he didn’t want to.
Bledsoe was a very good on-ball defender, but I think Holiday’s approach takes things to another level. That’s really saying something.
The Odds Indicate Jrue is a Plus
Lastly, and perhaps as important as any other reason to buy Jrue’s potential impact on the Bucks, is the fact that Milwaukee now settled in with +500 odds to win the 2021 NBA Finals.
The Lakers still hold the best odds to win the title next year, but Milwaukee pulls in second after this move.
That may mean nothing in the long run, of course. This was a team that already owned the league’s best record in each of the last two seasons, and they still don’t have a ring.
Heck, last year they couldn’t even get out of the second round.
But that’s why they made this swift change. They saw Bledsoe’s ineffective offense, and they brought in a guy in Jrue that can be far better in that area, and also looks to be a better defender, as well.
Regardless, the Bucks were already decent bets to reach or even win the 2021 NBA Finals. But now the best NBA sportsbooks peg them as the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference.
Will the Bucks Win the 2021 NBA Finals?
Getting a player as good as Jrue Holiday is huge. It makes Giannis happy, it might keep him in town beyond this season, and it absolutely boosts Milwaukee’s odds of making a title run.
Holiday is a big upgrade over Bledsoe, too, and an already elite defense may honestly get even better.
But nothing is guaranteed in the NBA, especially not with so many other contenders working so hard to get better.
Heck, the Bucks just completed a second impressive trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic, only to see it get interrupted.
Nobody knows what will happen with that as I write this, but even without two big deals, Holiday alone keeps the Bucks on the map as a true title threat.
I still stand by my preseason prediction of the Nets winning it all, but the Bucks are definitely going to give them a run for their money.