The New Orleans Pelicans came into the season with high expectations after drafting Zion Williamson first overall last summer, and following that up with a series of savvy, team-friendly signings.
Things haven’t gone according to plan for New Orleans, however, as Williamson got injured just before the start of the regular season and Derrick Favors, one of those aforementioned savvy signings, had injuries and personal issues that have caused him to miss a lot of the campaign. As such, an already lacking frontcourt became rail thin, and the Pelicans haven’t been able to recover.
Now, according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein, New Orleans appears ready to start making moves. Stein reported on Tuesday that although Williamson, Brandon Ingram and JJ Redick are untouchable (Redick less so than the two super prospects), Jrue Holiday, who the Pelicans previously refused to even hear offers for in previous seasons, can now be had for the right price.
This is major news, as Holiday is the type of plug-and-play star who could fit on any playoff contender and immediately make them better.
Below, we break down four potential trade destinations for the 29-year-old floor general.
The Miami Heat have surprised the basketball collective this season after jumping out to a 19-8 record through 27 games, including noteworthy wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks.
Nevertheless, for Miami to reach legit contender status, they’re going to need to find Jimmy Butler some help, as the four-time All-Star’s workload has been getting a little too heavy in recent weeks.
One such player who could provide the Heat with a major boost would be Holiday.
Holiday’s blend of defense and scoring would mesh wonderfully within Miami’s vaunted culture, and his ability to break down defenses would give the Heat a much-needed second scoring option. His three-point shooting (33.8 percent this season) isn’t great, but considering the Heat are the league’s No. 3 team in three-point accuracy anyway at 38.2 percent, that deficiency could be masked pretty easily.
To make a deal happen, Miami could offer New Orleans a deal centered around Tyler Herro, a neutral contract like that of Kelly Olynyk and Justise Winslow (the Pelicans could use the frontcourt help anyway) and bad salaries like James Johnson or Dion Waiters. Losing Herro would hurt, but at least Miami would be getting rid of a bad contract in the process. Meanwhile, New Orleans would be getting what looks like one of the most promising players in the 2019 draft class.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, 10-15, sit 11th in the West despite Karl-Anthony Towns performing at an MVP level and Andrew Wiggins finally, at least somewhat, starting to live up to his draft status.
The one area Minnesota desperately needs help in is their backcourt, where Jeff Teague is struggling and the young tandem of Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver have been horrific offensively (though decent on defense).
A lot of the rumors surrounding the Timberwolves over the past six months have connected them to Golden State Warriors point guard D’Angelo Russell, but Minnesota would be wise to look at Holiday as a potential target as well. Holiday doesn’t need the ball in his hands a ton to excel, meaning he wouldn’t take too many possessions away from Towns and Wiggins, and his defense on the outside is exactly what the Timberwolves could use to turn things around and make a push for the playoffs.
Minnesota could try and entice New Orleans to make a deal by offering a package including draft capital, either Culver or Okogie, as well as Teague or Gorgui Dieng as salary filler. Teague is an expiring deal, so the Pelicans probably wouldn’t be opposed to using him as a rental, considering he can still produce at a decent level.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Holiday originally hails from Southern California and he went to school at UCLA, so it’s only natural that one of the Los Angeles teams could be suitors for the one-time All-Star. And considering the frosty relations between New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers, that leaves us with just one option, the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers are 20-8 so far this season and sit fifth league-wide in net rating at +6.7, so it’s not like they’ve been disappointing following the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but when looking at what their in-city rivals – the Lakers – are doing, there’s a good shot the Clippers are looking for ways to improve ahead of the trade deadline.
Holiday would make a lot of sense for Los Angeles, as his defensive prowess would give the Clippers three outstanding ball-stoppers in Holiday, George and Leonard, while his scoring would be a huge upgrade over what Patrick Beverley is giving the team on that end of the floor.
Any potential Holiday package will need to include Landry Shamet or L.A.’s 2020 first-round pick (it’s not like the Clippers need those with how stacked their roster is), as well as multiple other pieces (like Moe Harkless and Ivica Zubac) to make the salary swaps work. It would be tricky, and New Orleans would probably need to send a second cheap player like Jahlil Okafor or Kenrich Williams in return, but it wouldn’t be impossible.
Like Miami, the Dallas Mavericks have been a pleasant surprise this season, sitting at 18-8 and third in the West through 26 games. Also like the Heat, however, Dallas likely needs at least one more piece to make a legit run at a title this season.
Holiday, like he would in just about any situation, would make Dallas better, a scary proposition considering the Mavs are third in net rating (+8.6) as is.
His scoring would give Luka Doncic a reliable backcourt partner to share the ball with, his pick-and-roll prowess, developed from his time with Anthony Davis, would fit nicely with Kristaps Porzingis’ pick-and-pop stylings, and his defense would allow Dallas to hide Doncic on opposing teams’ weaker scoring options.
A strong offer the Mavericks could package together for Holiday could include a protected first-rounder and reliable two-way guard Delon Wright, along with Courtney Lee’s expiring contract as salary filler.
If Dallas were to make this deal happen, a starting five featuring Holiday, Doncic, Dorian Finney-Smith, Porzingis and Dwight Powell features star power, scoring, defensive prowess and a good mix of role-playing pieces, and could make the Mavericks a team opponents will want to avoid once the postseason arrives.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.