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The New Orleans Pelicans are trading guard Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and draft-pick compensation, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Pelicans will receive three future first-round picks in the deal, which will also feature pick swaps:
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
Besides the three future first-round picks going to New Orleans, there are also pick swaps included in the deal, per sources. All in all, this is shaping up to be a draft compensation package similar to New Orleans’ deal for Anthony Davis with Lakers. https://t.co/HbnLxzUI96
According to David Aldridge of The Athletic, one of the first-rounders New Orleans will receive is the No. 24 overall pick in Wednesday’s draft.
Though Milwaukee is giving up an abundance of future assets in the deal, an NBA source believes Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo signed off on it.
“Giannis had to approve it,” an unnamed NBA team executive told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “That’s all that matters.”
That trio was broken up midway through the 2017-18 season when Cousins tore his Achilles in a game against the Houston Rockets. He wound up leaving at the end of the campaign to sign a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors.
Even with trading away Davis, things seemed to be going great for New Orleans by drafting Zion Williamson No. 1 overall in June. The team added a shooter by signing JJ Redick to a two-year deal.
A core of Holiday, Williamson, Redick, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram seemed like it could be strong enough to keep the Pelicans in playoff contention.
Unfortunately, things didn’t come together as expected. Williamson made an impact in 24 games, but the Pelicans were unable to make up ground in the postseason race. The defense ranked 19th in Basketball Reference’s defensive rating (111.9) and 27th points allowed per game (117.1).
Holiday’s contract was a bold move for the Pelicans but one that paid off because they won a playoff series in 2018. He was terrific in the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers with 27.8 points and 6.5 assists in the four-game sweep.
He carried that over to 2018-19, averaging a career-high 21.2 points and 7.7 assists per game. The former All-Star is putting up solid numbers this season with 19.1 points and 6.7 assists in 61 games.
Despite his individual success, Holiday gave credit for his performance to the players around him.
“I really just take the opportunity that’s given,” he said in January 2018, per William Guillory of the Times-Picayune. “From there, make some floaters, make some jump shots—it’s just so easy when they key in on two people. It’s pretty much just leaving me with one person.”
With drastic changes happening in New Orleans, dealing the 30-year-old Holiday now while his value is still high made the most sense for a franchise that needs as many future assets as it can get.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans are getting a nice mix of veteran players and future draft picks in return.
Bledsoe averaged 14.9 points on 47.5 percent shooting this season, including 34.4 percent from three-point range. The 30-year-old has three years remaining on his current contract, though he is only guaranteed $3.9 million in the final year of his deal. He is owed $16.9 million this upcoming season and $18.1 million in 2021-22.
Hill is coming off a season in which he averaged 9.4 points, shooting an impressive 46 percent from beyond the arc. He is a career 38.4 percent three-point shooter. The 34-year-old will make $9.6 million this upcoming season. While he is scheduled to make $10 million in 2021-22, he is only partially guaranteed $1.3 million.
Combined with last year’s Davis trade, the Pelicans have managed to flip veterans for an impressive haul:
When it comes to the Holiday trade, though, this was clearly a win-now move by the Bucks.
Following another disappointing playoff exit, the Bucks found themselves in a desperate place heading into the 2020-21 season.
Antetokounmpo is eligible for free agency after next season. The reigning two-time NBA MVP hasn’t given any indication that he wants to leave, but the pressure for him to win a championship continues to mount.
Milwaukee has done an excellent job of surrounding Antetokounmpo with talent that also fits head coach Mike Budenholzer’s system. The franchise has had the NBA’s best record in each of the past two seasons.
Adding a dynamic playmaker like Holiday with the ability to make an impact on offense and defense is exactly the right move for the Bucks at this point. There’s no guarantee they win a championship this season, but he should significantly improve their chances.