The Jrue Holiday Trade That Makes Sense For Everyone

Published: January 19, 2017

The Pelicans management is in a tough spot here. Ownership wants to make the playoffs, yet a singular focus on that one goal could have terrible ramifications for future years. Imagine a situation where the Pelicans get the 8th seed, or fall a few games short, denying all offers to trade players before the February 23rd deadline. Then, imagine a scenario in which the Pelicans get a middle of the road pick and watch guys like Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday leave for nothing in July.

And before you write that scenario off as possible, but unlikely, need I remind you that we just saw it happen 6 months ago with Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson? So, it certainly isn’t hard to imagine Tyreke Evans being lured by a coaching staff that will appreciate his talents more, and Jrue choosing either a big city, a chance to play with his brother, or a winning organization over New Orleans.

When faced with this possibility, most fans and observers choose to concoct fake trades centered around dumping Jrue and Tyreke, getting draft picks, and rebuilding around Davis, Hield, and a bunch of young guys. Sorry to tell you, but that ain’t gonna happen. Unless the Pelicans are ten games out of 8th come mid-February, they are still going to put making the playoffs as the top priority on their list. So, how do you trade Holiday and still possibly improve not only long-term, but possibly short-term too? I’m glad you asked.

In Portland, one thing is becoming abundantly clear – A Lillard/McCollum backcourt is insanely entertaining, but it will make it nearly impossible for that franchise to win at a high level. Their strengths overlap a little too much, and their weaknesses are magnified by the fact that they have to play together. Their perimeter defense is a nightmare, and in a league that is dominated by guards, it puts Portland at a disadvantage every night if those guys don’t score at least 60.

Enter Jrue Holiday. Imagine a backcourt with he and Damian Lillard. Yes, there is quite a drop-off offensively from McCollum to Holiday, but defensively, Holiday can take the other teams best guard every night and mask some of Lillard’s issues on that end. While McCollum might be a slightly better player in a vacuum right now, a Holiday/Lillard backcourt might actually make the Blazers a better team. At least, that would be my sell if I were Dell Demps.

For the Pelicans, McCollum gives you the potential to pair a young, explosive guard with Anthony Davis for the foreseeable future. McCollum just turned 25, is averaging 23.5 points a game, and despite taking difficult shots, he isn’t far away from the exclusive 50-40-90 club. He is good around the rim (better than any of the Pels terrible guards), elite from mid-range, and extremely good from three. He is listed as a shooting guard, but is more of a combo guard, as he showed no issues starting at the point when Lillard went down with injury. He could easily play point guard in much of the same way Isaiah Thomas does in Boston – where he scores first, and sets up others off of that. And that is exactly what McCollum did when Lillard went down, as he averaged over 31 points per game in that stretch.

Truth be told, McCollum has some James Harden potential, in that he might become even better once he becomes THE guard on his team. Imagine pairing a bigger, better shooting version of Thomas with Anthony Davis, while Buddy Hield plays off those two, getting wide open three after wide open three. It might not be that wild of a dream, as reports have surfaced that Portland would at least consider moving McCollum (who they recently signed to a 4 year/$106 million extension).

So, what would it take for the Pelicans to pry the star shooting guard from the Trailblazers? First and foremost, the Blazers would have to have a strong belief that they could re-sign Holiday this offseason. Assuming that they think they could for a number similar to, or perhaps less than, the one they gave McCollum, the Blazers might be interested for the reasons stated above. Next, the Pelicans and Blazers would have to make the contracts work. Even though CJ is only making a shade under 4 million this year, his contract will count for $22 million because of the poison pill provision. Since Holiday just makes a tad over $11 million, New Orleans would have to add more salary. But if they do, it pushes Portland over the tax line, which makes the deal less appetizing for them.

This makes things a little complicated, but if teams are motivated to get a deal done, it could work. A guy like Meyers Leonard could be moved to a third team and/or Tyreke Evans can go out as well. Bottom line, they can find a way. But Portland would have to get more than just Holiday. McCollum is a younger, more desired asset around the league, and a straight up trade for Holiday just wouldn’t be realistic. At the very least, New Orleans 2017 1st round pick would need to be added to the mix, and that would assure the Blazers of at least one lottery pick in the upcoming draft. I am sure the Blazers wouldn’t be upset if the Pelicans included Diallo too. And if you are the Pelicans, there is no way you let a second round pick be a deal breaker in a trade that could help you net the most explosive 1-2 scoring punch in the entire league.

Bottom line, it is a move that the Pelicans should consider if there is even a remote chance of it happening. It makes sense for their future timeline, and their present one as well. It makes sense for Portland both short-term and long-term if they can get a commitment from Jrue, and it makes sense for all the players involved, as it puts them in a position to better showcase their skills. For two teams with high aspirations but mismatched parts, it might just be the move that gets both finally heading in the right direction.


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