The Milwaukee Bucks aren't messing around.
On Nov. 24, the Bucks announced that they have traded Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, three first-round picks and two pick swaps for Jrue Holiday.
As ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski noted, it's a draft compensation package similar to the one the Pelicans received from the Los Angeles Lakers last offseason for Anthony Davis.
Bucks are finalizing a package that includes three future first-round picks to the Pelicans in deal, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/7TYoogZHCD- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 17, 2020
There's a lot to unpack with this trade, so let's break it down into a couple of sections, starting with...
Three future first-round picks, plus two pick swaps, is a lot to give up for Holiday. Not only because that's the sort of draft compensation you'd expect to see a team give up for a superstar, not a one-time All-Star, but because there's a chance Holiday will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, as he has a player option in his contract worth $27.0 million for the 2021-22 season.
Depending on how he plays this upcoming season, Holiday could very well turn that option down in the hopes of signing another long-term deal as he enters his mid-30s. (This isn't equivalent to Chris Paul having a $44.2 million player option for his age 37 season, is what I'm saying). The Bucks trading two rotational players and a handful of draft picks for someone who could leave for nothing in 12 months is risky.
So why do it? First and foremost, the Bucks going all-in on Holiday could signal to Giannis Antetokounmpo that they're willing to do whatever it takes to upgrade the roster around him. If the Bucks giving up as much as they have for Holiday results in Antetokounmpo signing a five-year supermax, which he has until Dec. 21 to decide on, it will be 100 percent worth it.
The last two weeks have been filled with chatter that Giannis Antetokounmpo indeed plans to sign his five-year supermax with the Bucks before the Dec. 21 deadline to do so ...- Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 17, 2020
The Bucks just made a trade that suggests they must believe it
Secondly, Holiday is a more natural fit next to Antetokounmpo than Bledsoe was. As long as Holiday can stay healthy, he has the potential to take the Bucks to another level.
Let's start here: Holiday is a far superior 3-point shooter than Bledsoe.
According to NBA.com, Bledsoe made 26.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts in the 2019-20 season. Of the 294 players who attempted at least 50 catch-and-shoot 3s on the season, only 13 - a handful of which were bigs - converted them at a lower rate.
Holiday isn't a lights-out shooter by any means, but he made a respectable 36.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts last season. He made a similar percentage in 2018-19 (35.4 percent) and was one of the better catch-and-shoot threats in the league in 2017-18 (39.5 percent).
Bledsoe's 3-point shooting wasn't as much of a problem with the Bucks in the regular season as it was in the playoffs, when teams were much more aggressive helping off of him to muck up spacing for Antetokounmpo in the halfourt. Replacing him with even an average 3-point shooter at the guard position should do wonders for Milwaukee's spacing.
It helps that Holiday has played next to stars before, namely Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram. Learning to play off of Antetokounmpo shouldn't take too much of an adjustment.
That's important because the Bucks shouldn't lose much - if anything - in other areas from going to Bledsoe to Holiday.
Bledsoe has long been one of the best defenders at the guard position, but Holiday is even more versatile and is better suited to guard the opposing team's best perimeter player, giving them a little more flexibility and star power defensively. That'll come in handy in the playoffs when the Bucks could see some combination of Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler.
Holiday is also a much more reliable scorer and decision-maker than Bledsoe. He's not good enough to be a team's No. 1 option, but he's perfectly suited to play alongside Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton as a secondary or tertiary option who can attack a scrambled defence and create something when plays break down.
Between the three of them, they should be able to solve many of the issues that plagued the Bucks in each of the last two postseasons.
All in all, I'm not sure there was a better player the Bucks could've gotten this offseason. Maybe Chris Paul, but they would've had to gut their depth to get him because he's making $41.4 million this upcoming season as opposed to $26.1 million for Holiday.
The question is, was it worth completely mortgaging their future for?
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