The Milwaukee Bucks have made their big move of the offseason. On Monday, they acquired guard Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for guards Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, plus three first-round picks, according to Shams Charania. There will also be pick swaps involved, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Holiday, 30, is one of the league’s best defenders and one of the top players on the trade market. He is one of the few guards in the league who does not represent a downgrade from Bledsoe when it comes to perimeter defense, and his size makes him more versatile. More importantly, Holiday is a massive upgrade on the other end of the court. For two straight seasons, Milwaukee’s dominant regular-season offense has looked stilted and predictable against elite playoff defense. It needed more playmaking, and Holiday provides just that, while only strengthening its defense-first identity. Last season, he averaged 19.1 points, 6.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds for the Pelicans.
Hill was one of the league’s better reserves last season, and the Bucks have sacrificed some depth in trading two rotation players for one. That is a problem for the front office to solve as the offseason moves forward, as is the need for more shooting. Holiday is a decent but not great spot-up shooter, which is par for the course on this Milwaukee roster. Hill was an exception to that — he made an extraordinary 46 percent of his 3s last season.
In a separate trade, the Bucks also reportedly acquired Bogdan Bogdanovic in a sign-and-trade with the Sacramento Kings. In exchange, Milwaukee sends back guard Donte Divincenzo, D.J. Wilson and Ersan Ilyasova, per Wojnarowski.
By surrendering so many picks, the Bucks have sent a message to franchise player Giannis Antetokounmpo: They’re all-in on winning a championship next season. The question, though, is whether or not this will be enough to convince Antetokounmpo to stay in Milwaukee. He can sign a supermax extension this offseason or become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021.
Both sides fared well with this transaction, so let’s grade the trade to break it down.
Milwaukee Bucks receive:
New Orleans Pelicans receive:
- Three future first-round picks
Milwaukee trade grade: A-minus
The Bucks certainly gave up a lot to get Holiday, and given this franchise is trying to do all it can to convince Antetokounmpo to sign a supermax deal to stay with the team, they had to make this trade. On the one hand, if Giannis does decide to stay in Milwaukee long-term to compete for titles, and the Bucks are able to re-sign Holiday next offseason when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, then this trade won’t look as worrisome. However, if Giannis bolts, then the Bucks just gave away a good chunk of their future for Holiday, a player who has dealt with his fair shares of injuries. It’s a move you make 100 times out of 100, hence the high grade, but the Bucks are banking on Giannis staying, which isn’t quite clear yet.
New Orleans trade grade: A
From New Orleans’ perspective, this deal adds to its already enormous collection of draft picks. David Griffin’s front office got as much as he could from the Los Angeles Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade in the summer of 2019 and has done an impressive job maximizing Holiday’s trade value, too. We won’t know exactly how significant this haul will be until years from now, when the picks have either been made or moved elsewhere. If Antetokounmpo leaves the Bucks, it would obviously make them much more valuable.
In the meantime, Bledsoe and Hill will help the Pelicans remain competitive next season, assuming that neither is flipped to another team. If they do decide to send either or both players elsewhere, they will surely get attractive returns from contending teams as they both provide considerable value. The Clippers are rumored to be looking for a point guard, so perhaps they could put together a package for Bledsoe, and any team in the league would enjoy the shooting ability of Hill. Griffin positioned his team to make more moves by acquiring these two players if they want, setting the Pelicans up even better for the future.