Point guard Jrue Holiday is being traded from New Orleans to Milwaukee, which is aiming to give two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the improved roster that he seeks with the decision on his supermax contract extension looming, a person with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday.
The Pelicans are getting Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and a package of future first-round draft picks from the Bucks, the person told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no deal had been finalized.
ESPN, The Athletic and The New York Times first reported details of the Holiday trade. ESPN also said the Bucks were executing a second trade with Sacramento, with Bogdan Bogdanovic and Justin James going to Milwaukee for Donte DiVincenzo, D.J. Wilson and Ersan Ilyasova.
The trade of Holiday was the second blockbuster involving a point guard since the league allowed transactions to begin again Monday. Chris Paul was traded to the Phoenix Suns by the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier Monday; Paul and Holiday had been mentioned throughout the offseason as point guards who could be moved and were expected to be in high demand.
Hours after the Paul deal got done, Holiday was headed to Milwaukee. The Bucks’ message is clear: They want to win a title, and they want to give Antetokounmpo enough incentive to sign his supermax extension — one that will be worth more than $200 million for five years — before Dec. 21. When Antetokounmpo was announced as the back-to-back MVP in September, he stated his intention openly.
“I’m happy for this, I’m happy for this award,” Antetokounmpo said at the time. “But I want more. … I’ve got to keep getting better. I want to be a champion.”
Bucks general manager Jon Horst, speaking to reporters earlier Monday about the draft and the free-agent period that starts Friday, seemed to drop hints that the Bucks expected to put together a roster that would be better than the one they had last season — when Milwaukee had the NBA’s best regular-season record for the second consecutive season, but fell short of making the NBA Finals anyway. This past season, they were ousted by the Miami Heat in the second round.
“Fun, busy, exciting time of the year,” Horst said. “We are heavily focused on continuing to improve the team. … A lot of action. A lot of activity. And really looking forward to improving the team and getting the season going in early December.”
Holiday will almost certainly make them better. Widely considered one of the best defenders in the NBA, he averaged 19.1 points and 6.7 assists last season and now joins Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton on a Milwaukee roster that will obviously look very different than it did this past season.
Holiday is due to earn $25.4 million this season and holds a $26.3 million player option for next season. Therein lies the gamble for the Bucks: There’s no guarantee that Holiday will stay more than a year, and Antetokounmpo’s future in Milwaukee remains in at least some question as well. And it’s now almost certain that the Bucks will have to fill out their roster for this season with several minimum-salary players, since they’ll owe about $86 million to just Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday this season.
It is the second consecutive offseason in which New Orleans traded a standout for a haul of players and draft picks. In 2019, it was Anthony Davis to the Lakers in a move that saw reigning Most Improved Player Brandon Ingram and more coming to New Orleans; now, it’s Holiday to the Bucks.
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