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New Orleans Pelicans

Trade destinations for New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday

Kevin Love isn't the only high-profile player who is reportedly available in trade talks.

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday is no longer untouchable. Stein added that it would cost a "significant amount to pry him away," but there will likely be a lot of interest for Holiday around the league if he is indeed available.

While Holiday's numbers are down this season, he's still a 29-year-old averaging 19.4 points, 6.6 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He's capable of playing either guard position and he's known to be one of the best defenders in the league. He was recognized as such in each of the last two seasons - an All-Defensive First Team selection in 2017-18, followed by an All-Defensive Second Team selection in 2018-19.

That last detail is nothing to be taken lightly. He's the only guard to be named to the All-Defensive team in both 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Holiday wouldn't come cheap, though. He is making $26.1 million this season and he'll make the same amount next season. He then has a player option in 2021-22 worth $27.0 million.

Whether or not Holiday picks up that option might come down to his health. He's been relatively healthy lately, but he's dealt with several injuries throughout his career. Considering his age, 2021 could be his last opportunity for a big payday, making it a possibility that he's only under contract for this season and next.

With all that in mind, which teams make sense for Holiday?

Toronto Raptors

There are two ways the Raptors can go about pursuing Holiday. Either they build a package around Kyle Lowry or they build one around Fred VanVleet.

Of the two, I lean towards the second option making the most sense for both sides. If the Raptors do trade Lowry, I'm guessing they move him to a team that is closer to competing - the Miami Heat being the one team that comes to mind - not one that is closer to rebuilding to do right by him.

Trading VanVleet would obviously hurt - he played a huge role in their title run last season and has been destined to be Lowry's successor in Toronto for several years now - but he might be the team's best asset if we're operating under the assumption that Lowry and Siakam are off the table - in this particular situation, at least.

If it isn't VanVleet, it's OG Anunoby. I'm just not sure Anunoby, plus one of Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol to make salaries work - moves the needle enough for the Pelicans to trade Holiday to the Raptors.

The kicker for the Pelicans is that VanVleet will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. They'd, therefore, be looking to pay both him and Brandon Ingram, who will be a restricted free agent, which could cost them as much as $50 million annually for the foreseeable future. There have been rumours that VanVleet will make upwards of $20 million per year on his next contract while Ingram is expected to get maxed out. They are both great players, but that's a lot of money to commit to the two of them without knowing how they fit specifically with Zion Williamson.

The kicker for the Raptors is that in addition to losing their point guard of the future, trading for Holiday could eat into their cap space in 2021 when they are expected to pursue Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Raptors might ultimately decide that they're better off keeping their options open by standing pat, especially if the Pelicans would want VanVleet and Anunoby, but there's no denying that Holiday would fit in well with Siakam and the team's culture.

Miami Heat

It's safe to assume that the Heat will be a destination for any max-level player who becomes available between now and the trade deadline.

The reason why? They're one of the few teams in the league who won't have a hard time matching salaries.

The Heat have seven players on the roster who are making at least $11 million this season. One of those players is Jimmy Butler, who almost certainly won't be traded, but Miami can get in the $22-$34 million range with two of Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard.

Beyond them, the Heat have a couple of players on team-friendly contracts who could be of interest to teams, such as Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn. Bam Adebayo is an option as well, but he's almost certainly untouchable now with the way he's played so far this season.

Miami's payroll (via Basketball-Reference)
Player Age 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
Jimmy Butler 30 $32,742,000 $34,379,100 $36,016,200 $37,653,300
Goran Dragić 33 $19,217,900 - - -
James Johnson 32 $15,349,400 $16,047,100 - -
Justise Winslow 23 $13,000,000 $13,000,000 $13,000,000 -
Dion Waiters 28 $12,100,000 $12,650,000 - -
Kelly Olynyk 28 $11,667,885 $12,198,243 - -
Meyers Leonard 27 $11,286,515 - - -
Tyler Herro 19 $3,640,200 $3,822,240 $4,004,280 $5,722,116
Bam Adebayo 22 $3,454,080 $5,115,492 - -
Udonis Haslem 39 $2,564,753 - - -
Derrick Jones 22 $1,645,357 - - -
Kendrick Nunn 24 $1,416,852 $1,663,861 - -
Duncan Robinson 25 $1,416,852 $1,663,861 - -
KZ Okpala 20 $898,310 $1,517,981 $1,782,621 -

For the Heat, parting ways with some combination of those players for Holiday would give them a better opportunity to compete this season. They're already one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, but Holiday would give them a much-needed secondary creator in the backcourt who can take some pressure off of Butler, who is currently sporting the second-highest usage rate of his career.

Holiday would also fit in well with what the Heat are building, being a hard-nosed, defensive-minded player.

As is the case with Love, how realistic the Heat are as a destination for Holiday might come down to their willingness to include Winslow or Herro in a trade, as they're the two players a team like the Pelicans would want in return - Winslow because of his playmaking and defence, Herro for his upside as a scorer.

If they are willing to include either of them in a deal, it probably signals that the Heat believe Holiday can take them to the next level.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets have been one of the better teams in the league record-wise this season, but they're clearly not at the same level as the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers at the top of the Western Conference standings.

Even though they're in less of a need to make a win-now move than the Heat - Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are both under the age of 25, whereas Butler celebrated his 30th birthday not long ago - Holiday could be what the Nuggets need to establish themselves as legitimate contenders, both this season and beyond.

The best way to look at it is through the lens of Holiday being Gary Harris' replacement in the starting lineup, as Harris would likely be at the centre of any deal for the one-time All-Star. Harris is a superior 3-point shooter, but Holiday is better in just about every other area, from scoring and passing to rebounding and defence.

Holiday's ability to run the offence would be particularly beneficial to Jokic and Murray. Jokic would no longer have to create everything and Murray would be able to slide into more of an off-ball role, turning him into more of a shooting guard rather than a point guard.

Harris alone wouldn't be enough, of course. The Nuggets would have to sacrifice some of the depth that has helped them rise up the Western Conference standings by including as much as two more players to match salaries, such as Michael Porter Jr. and Juancho Hernangomez or Malik Beasley and Monte Morris.

Porter is reportedly untouchable, but maybe the Nuggets change their mind if it's the difference between them getting Holiday and not.

Milwaukee Bucks

Despite the fact that the Bucks have been the best team in the Eastern Conference so far this season, there are still ways they can improve. Most notably, they could do with another shooter and another ball handler.

Holiday ticks both of those boxes.

He's not a lights-out shooter, but Holiday is an improvement over Eric Bledsoe in that regard. Even though Bledsoe's 3-point shooting numbers are up this season, he's still much more comfortable shooting off the dribble than he is spotting-up. According to NBA.com, he's made 37.5 percent of his 3-point pull-ups compared to 26.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s this season. He posted similar splits last season.

That will likely rear its head again in the playoffs when teams will help off of Bledsoe aggressively to load up on Antetokounmpo, much like the Raptors did in last season's Eastern Conference Finals. Teams wouldn't be able to do that nearly as with Holiday on the court, as he's a greater threat from the perimeter.

Additionally, Holiday can do a lot of the same things Bledsoe can on offence and defence, so the Bucks wouldn't lose much (if anything) in swapping Bledsoe for Holiday.

And it would have to be a swap for this to be a possibility because Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are the only players on Milwaukee's roster making $10-plus million this season. They're obviously not trading Antetokounmpo and both Middleton and Lopez are too important to what they do on both ends of the court, leaving Bledsoe as their best shot at matching Holiday's salary.

The question is, is something along the lines of Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova and the first-round pick the Bucks acquired in the Malcolm Brogdon trade enough for the Pelicans to move on from Holiday? Maybe not, but the thought of Holiday next to Antetokounmpo on the same team is enough for the Bucks to be included on this list.

Honourable Mention

Minnesota Timberwolves - The Timberwolves need a point guard. It's that simple. They still have Jeff Teague, but he will be an unrestricted free agent this upcoming summer. Plus, he hasn't even been their full-time starter at point this season, partly due to injury. The Timberwolves would probably be better off getting a younger player who better fits the timeline of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but complementing them with Holiday would give Minnesota a trio capable of making the playoffs.

Orlando Magic - Basically the same reason as to why the Timberwolves are an option: Orlando needs a point guard. Their rotation right now is Markelle Fultz, D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams. The only concern with trading for Holiday is that it could eat into Fultz's opportunities, but Holiday is versatile enough to play next to the 21-year-old.

Philadelphia 76ers - Perhaps the most interesting trade destination for Holiday. If the 76ers decide Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid would be better off on different teams, would they be willing to trade Simmons to New Orleans for a package built around Holiday? Holiday could solve some of Philadelphia's issues on the offensive end without sacrificing much on defence while Simmons would give New Orleans another young prospect to pair with Zion Williamson. But this is probably an option in the offseason, not now, because Simmons is making $8.1 million this season compared to $29.3 million next season.

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