Jrue Holiday trade raises hopes Celtics will lift another banner
Jrue Holiday is coming to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams III, and first-round draft picks from Golden State in 2024 and Milwaukee in 2029.
There was mild surprise over the Celtics making this move. But in the final analysis, the Celtics picked up one of the premier point guards in the NBA. The downside is that they had to let go of Brogdon and Williams. Brogdon, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, gave the Celtics some marvelous moments before being injured at the end of the regular season, which greatly affected his play in the postseason. Some critics will say that Brogdon got a raw deal from the proverbial “bottom of the deck.”
Having known him since his college days at the University of Virginia, I suspect that Brogdon is hurt but will accept the trade as business as usual in the NBA. He is a total team player, as witnessed by his statements when he came to Boston from the Indiana Pacers last year.
“I just want to play a role on this team. I don’t care if I start or come off the bench,” he was quoted to say at his first news conference, squelching any discussion about moving Marcus Smart out of his starting point guard position. The irony is that Smart is gone to the Memphis Grizzlies and Brogdon to the Portland Trailblazers as part of a housecleaning.
Letting go of Robert Williams III is something of a head-scratcher. Nicknamed “Time Lord,” a shot-blocking and defensive stalwart, Williams was a vital part of the Celtics defensive scheme, making them one of the top teams in the NBA the last couple of years. His presence in the middle and his ability as an off-the-ball defender who altered his opponent’s shots will be missed.
Knee problems and a couple of failed surgeries made Williams expendable. It will be interesting to see how Williams’ career progresses from this point forward. In the meantime, the Celtics will go with a frontline of Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis as starters as of this writing.
Porzingis, acquired as part of the Marcus Smart trade, has a history of leg injuries and is currently battling ankle problems, which will limit his playing time during the preseason and possibly into the early phase of regular season play. There is the possibility of the team acquiring more frontline help.
The most positive aspect of this trade comes in acquiring Holiday — one of the best two-way point guards. Just three years ago, Holiday was the point guard leader of the Bucks team that won the NBA championship. The team expects the 33-year-old point guard to be the answer to defending All-NBA first team guard Damian Lillard, the man who replaced him in Milwaukee via the trade route.
Lillard, who was third in the league, scoring just over 30 points a game while with the Portland Trail Blazers last season, wanted out of the Rose City, stating that his preferred destination was the Miami Heat. The Heat needed help to pull off a deal with the Blazers. But the Bucks did it. That part of history opened the door for Holiday to become a Boston Celtic.
The Blazers are considered big winners in what is now known as the Lillard sweepstakes. The final haul in the Damian Lillard trade deal netted them center Deandre Ayton from Phoenix, Robert Williams III and Malcolm Brogdon from Boston as well as first-round draft picks in 2024 from Golden State, in 2029 from the Celtics and the Bucks and two pick swaps with the Bucks in 2028 and 2030.
Boston and the Milwaukee Bucks are now considered front-runners as the two dominant teams in the Eastern Conference and strong candidates for an NBA title.
Something to keep an eye on is how fast the Celtics move to sign Holiday, who becomes a free agent at the end of the upcoming season, to a contract extension. He played injured last season and still put up all-star numbers. Barring any unforeseen happening, the Celtics have solidified the point guard position for the immediate future. Holiday could be the final piece of the championship puzzle.