The Portland Trailblazers are reportedly trying to turn around Jrue Holiday, their big prize from the Damian Lillard trade, to raise more assets and raise capital for their rebooted rebuild.
Holiday is one of the best defenders in the league, a core member of the former Big 3 of the Bucks, who won a championship in 2021 and made the All-Star team last year – an attractive resume for the Knicks.
New York’s wide range of picks and prospects has made them an active potential buyer over the past two years, although they haven’t done a trade for a star yet. Could Holiday be the guy you would start spending with, and should it be?
Before we delve into his abilities and suitability, it is important to know that Holiday will not be an easy player to trade.
He’s making $35 million this season, and the Knicks need to reach that salary without the possibility of bundling him with someone else.
This leaves you with a few potential packages. Two of them involve trading Julius Randle or RJ Barrett , who should not be eligible.
The alternatives are to pack one of your centers with Evan Fournier . If it’s Mitchell Robinson, the trade is done, but Isaiah Hartenstein earns less and would require the input of Quentin Grimes or Immanuel Quickley.
If Portland goes on vacation during the regular season, the Knicks will have a chance to take on Josh Hart or Donte DiVincenzo with Fournier. Unfortunately for New York, the rumors point to a quick turnaround in the holiday business.
The Knicks would have to release a few picks from the first round, if not more. So is it worth negotiating with Holiday as your starting center or one of your most valuable prospects?
As already mentioned, their defense is unique. He is one of the most versatile and impactful defensemen of the last decade, with iconic playoff moments at this end of the court in each of his postseason appearances before 2023.
People will point out the positive presence of Grimes in this regard, but there are levels, and vacation is elite. He can attack almost anyone, wreak havoc on and off the ball and would immediately become the best defender in the team.
The combination with Tom Thibodeau is even more perfect than with Hart. He is also generally a physical player and a strong rebounder for his size.
He’s also not sloppy offensively, averaging 19.3 points and 7.4 assists on 54.2% shooting on 2s and 38.4% on 3s last season. He may act as a primary option, but he’s more efficient as a secondary playmaker, plays helpfully without the ball, and has shot 39.5 percent from three in the last three seasons in Milwaukee.
However, there are some disadvantages.
His rating keeps falling off a cliff in the playoffs, he’s 33 years old and the fit is mixed.
Although Holiday is a great addition to Jalen Brunson’s defense, he is more of a methodical self-creator on offense and not the purest thrower or the fastest ball mover. Getting the ball between him and the Big three will be a challenge, although it is possible that he could make a smooth transition to an off-ball player in these later stages of his career.
The best thing is that after the acquisition of Holiday, the Knicks should have enough to then jump on the big star, which will push them fully into the competition. The holiday itself will not, but it’s worth exploring it as an upgrade for yourself.
Having to deal with an important prospect would certainly hurt, and if there’s any magic to get around that, the Knicks have a much more interesting case. The impact Hart had on last year’s team would not be matched by what Holiday brings, not only defensively but also in his attitude and goal on three levels.
His resume in the playoffs may scare some teams, but the Knicks have fixed a lot of shortcomings in the same squad at this stage. Holiday also had a strong streak against the Heat and the Hawks during the championship, as well as two great performances in the NBA finals.
He is the most successful player possible, which makes him a natural target for the Knicks. He may not make them conference favorites overnight, but there’s a reason all the candidates are chasing him.
Perhaps it is better to rely on the development of Quickley and Grimes. The holidays “are not on the timeline”, but teams cannot stay together forever, and championship chances disappear as quickly as they appear.
The Knicks are likely to be strongly considering a leave request, as they should. It is not an easy decision and brings with it doubts.