The New Orleans Pelicans parted ways with a steady veteran that willingly mentored his younger teammates and effectively defended the league’s top players. But by agreeing to trade Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, the Pelicans also further cemented their commitment to ensuring their young roster flourishes.
While the Bucks acquired Holiday to enhance their championship chances and entice MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign a super-max extension, the Pelicans collected three first-round picks along with guard Eric Bledsoe and forward George Hill. Both players are serviceable, but they could entice other contending teams to sacrifice some of their long-term assets as well.
That gives the Pelicans further flexibility to build their young roster financially and developmentally. Fourth-year forward Brandon Ingram will become a restricted free agent on Friday, and the Pelicans will want to secure him even before an opposing team throws an offer sheet to show they are committed to his long-term growth. They already extended Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart last summer. And though Zion Williamson remains under contract through the 2022-23 season, New Orleans is smart to plan ahead to ensure he stays longer.
Jrue Holiday is headed to Milwaukee to play alongside two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. (Photo: Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports)
Holiday still has two years left on his contract in 2020-21 ($25.4 million) and a player option in 2021-22 ($26.3 million), so the Pelicans figured they may as well receive as many long-term assets as they could for a 30-year-old player. Holiday averaged 19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists last season.
But this is not just about the Pelicans trimming costs. Holiday became a beloved player in New Orleans because of his team-first attitude and his dependable defense. This is also about empowering the team’s young roster. Though the Pelicans benefitted from Holiday's steady backcourt presence, their young roster also appears ready to take the next step.
Williamson will become an All-Star soon. Ingram appears on track to make multiple appearances. Ball has flourished into a dependable passer. Hart has cemented himself as a decent role player. And the Pelicans still have enough veterans in J.J. Redick and new additions Bledsoe and Hill to still guide their young teammates.
And to think, it was only a year-and-a-half ago that Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin compiled a promising young core and a handful of draft picks from the Los Angeles Lakers for Anthony Davis. The Pelicans may not have developed enough to make the playoffs, but Williamson showed improved health. Ingram became the league’s Most Improved Player and Griffin hired a proven veteran coach in Stan Van Gundy to help them reach the next level.
That process will become easier with the deal agreed to Monday, giving the Pelicans assets and cap room to further develop a young team that is already on the rise.
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