Jrue Holiday has sat in the trade rumor mill since the middle of December, when The New York Times’ Marc Stein set Twitter ablaze by stating that the New Orleans Pelicans longest tenured player was available. EVP of basketball operations David Griffin quickly shot down that report, stating that the Pelicans were not actively seeking to move Holiday. Since that time, Holiday’s name has appeared in multiple outlets and he’s been considered to be the biggest catch via trade before today’s 2:00 p.m. Central deadline.
While other players on New Orleans roster have been rumored as potential targets too — JJ Redick and Derrick Favors in particular, the “belle of the ball,” as Zach Lowe recently called Holiday, sounded likeliest to change his address.
Pelicans fans faced a somewhat similar situation last season with Anthony Davis, albeit with far more tension and unease throughout both the franchise and the NBA. With Holiday, however, the team has no pressure to move him today. Reportedly, he remains happy in New Orleans and is still considered an important piece of the puzzle. Holiday has spent only seven games alongside Zion Williamson so the evaluation process is still very fresh. If the time comes that New Orleans or Jrue decides it’s time to move on, the Pelicans front office wants to be in a position to place him where he can both succeed and a potential trade return nets New Orleans’ demands. According to Adrian Wojnarowski multiple times yesterday, that time is not now.
New Orleans continues to be content with Jrue Holiday remaining on roster through Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline, league sources tell ESPN. The kind of overwhelming offer it would take to pry Holiday hasn’t surfaced in the marketplace.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 5, 2020
Zach Lowe on ESPN Deadline Special regarding Heat & Holiday: "I would be very surprised if they traded Tyler Herro or any other young player of that level or better to get into that conversation."— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) February 5, 2020
Woj followed up by saying New Orleans isn't interested moving Jrue before deadline
As many have noted prior, this summer’s current draft and free agent classes are underwhelming at best. Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram will almost certainly be off the table leaving potential top prizes to be the likes of Andre Drummond, Montrezl Harrell or Fred VanVleet. Couple this with the lack of available cap space for competing teams and it means the trade market will be the more appealing and flexible route for contender’s to pursue upgrades.
Some teams that may have been more active this summer in free agency have already made their moves. Atlanta nabbing Clint Capela, Memphis flipping Andre Iguodala into Justise Winslow and others have made smaller moves this season in anticipation of the limiting summer. Other teams with eyes on the summer of 2021 — aka the potential free agency of Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be making every move with keeping that summer space in mind. We are currently witnessing this with Miami’s deals for Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari as they’re structuring those deals to ultimately benefit the Heat’s pursuit of a major free agent target.
Jrue Holiday is under contract for the 2020-21 season with a player option for 2021-22, which he’ll almost assuredly decline or extend with his current team at the time. This would make his fit even more desirable as he’ll either be one of three things for prospective buyers: Off your books for the much bigger free agent summer of 2021 where teams will court Giannis; a likely piece of your contending future you can extend; another large expiring salary to flip at the deadline for a player of greater impact. He checks a lot of boxes for any team ready to win now.
For the Pelicans, they will almost certainly max out Brandon Ingram this coming summer to as long an extension as possible. This should come to no surprise given Ingram’s success this season, but it’s worth mentioning given the financial requirements it will add on to the current roster.
The Pelicans also currently have 2-3 definitive keepers on their current roster in Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and depending on your assessment Lonzo Ball, and good young prospects in Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes and Didi Louzada. This covers their forward spots for the next half decade or more and potentially their lead guard spot, with developing help in the pipeline. All of these players are in a competitive timeline window that fits their potential primes down the road. Jrue will obviously be entering his current era JJ Redick years by the time these guys are contending.
To both maximize value for the Pelicans AND do right by Jrue Holiday, which should certainly be a part of any deal discussion, any trade was always going to appeal most this summer where Jrue and the Pels can better survey the contenders landscape and negotiate more freely with contracts in flux. Return for Jrue should be focused on finding a contingent of players that fit around the aforementioned Zion/Ingram/Lonzo core and potentially elevate their weaknesses. But most importantly, they will need players that thrive in a complementary role.
Who and what you want in return for Jrue will vary from person to person, but the outline is already on the roster. JJ Redick, Josh Hart and Derrick Favors all embody the kind of players the Pelicans will need around that trio to elevate them day in and day out as they strive to compete in the West. Surrendering Jrue will be tough — it’s not a forgone conclusion he’ll be moved at any point, but allowing him to chase present glory on a contender while bringing back younger and complementary talent seems a necessary step for the direction of this franchise going forward.
Zion, Ingram and Ball will continue to progress and their usage rates with it. NAW will hopefully continue to grow into a contributor that plays on ball too so the Pels should want to give these players the opportunities to grow and learn. Personally, I would be targeting a group of high end role players and good future picks in any deal. Teams like Brooklyn, Indiana and Toronto — in addition to Denver and Miami — are contenders that should be interested in a player of Jrue’s caliber and have the right mix of assets to send back to New Orleans in a deal.
So enjoy today’s NBA trade deadline, but don’t be upset if the Pelicans wind up only making a peripheral move like dealing E’Twaun Moore or Darius Miller — or they decide to just stand pat. New Orleans already possesses a deeply talented group so we should appreciate the majesty of Jrue Holiday’s defensive skill and shuffling drives to the paint for at least a few months more. Maybe this current roster clicks before the season is out and the front office decides its best to run it back next season, but if it doesn’t, they’ll be in better position to let Jrue chase his title elsewhere down the road. He most certainly deserves it.