Jrue Holiday Extension: Addressing His Impact on the Milwaukee Bucks
On Easter Sunday, Shams Charania broke the news that Jrue Holiday and the Milwaukee Bucks agreed on a four-year extension worth up to $160 million. This may strike some as an overpay for a one-time All-Star, that appearance being in 2013. However, Jrue is worth every penny of this max contract. Let’s dive into why this is the case.
Jrue Holiday is one of the League’s Best Two-Way Players
In November 2020, Jrue Holiday was traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Bucks. On the surface, you see that Jrue is averaging 17.0 points, 5.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and a league-leading 1.8 steals per game for the 2020-21 season. These are great averages, but nothing that jumps off the page at you. However, the box score numbers do not show the impact he is having offensively and defensively on Milwaukee’s success.
This has been Jrue Holiday’s most efficient shooting season: 50.9 percent from the field, 39.0 percent from the three-point range on 4.8 attempts per game, and a 60.1 percent true shooting percentage (all career highs). This is perfect for playing alongside superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Jrue’s improved shooting ability maximizes floor spacing, spreading the defense out, and allowing Giannis to operate in the paint.
In case Giannis and/or Khris Middleton are having an off-night shooting, Jrue is another player whose hands the ball can be in to get the Bucks scores. For example, he already has one game-winner this season, that coming against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 4th.
Jrue had his best scoring game of the season just this past Saturday against the Sacramento Kings. He put up 33 points on 61 percent from the field and 60 percent from the three-point range. He also racked up 11 assists and seven rebounds.
Jrue is great as a playmaker and a facilitator. Through his vision and high basketball IQ, he can smoothly operate in the pick and roll (most useful with Giannis as the roller), and he knows how to set up three-point shooters off drive-and-kicks for wide-open looks. One more thing about Jrue offensively—he can play off the ball well when needed to. He is a terrific cutter and good at getting to open spots.
Jrue Holiday has been one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA for several years now. In fact, he has two All-Defensive Team selections: First Team in 2018 and Second Team in 2019. He is great as an individual defender and as a team defender. Even though he is only 6’3” and 205 pounds, he can stay in front of most players. Almost every shot contest he makes is a good shot contest, whether it be on the perimeter or at the rim.
The most notable example of his stellar one-on-one defense came in the first round of the 2018 playoffs. Jrue Holiday drew star player Damian Lillard‘s assignment and completely silenced him. He simply would not allow Dame to get into any sort of groove or rhythm whatsoever. Jrue’s New Orleans Pelicans swept the three-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
In this four-game series, Dame averaged 18.5 points per game on 35.2 percent shooting from the field and 30.0 percent on three-pointers. For reference, the numbers for Dame in the 2017-18 regular season were 26.9 points per game on 43.9 from the field and 36.1 percent on three-pointers.
Jrue is just as good of an off-ball defender as he is an on-ball defender. Year-in and year-out, he ranks towards the top of the league in both steals and deflections per game. As I mentioned earlier, he is leading the league in steals per game this season.
He is phenomenal at reading passing lanes and getting in the way. He does it in a way that lulls the passer right into it. Jrue’s high basketball IQ makes him a great help defender. If one of his teammates gets beat off the dribble, he is often an impenetrable second line of defense.
What Does the Jrue Holiday Extension Mean for the Bucks?
Until at least 2023, the Bucks have now locked up three top 30 NBA players. They have vastly widened their championship window with Giannis as their focal point. Over the coming years, they have the personnel to match up with the Eastern Conference juggernaut, Brooklyn Nets. Jrue Holiday is an elite defender that they can throw at any of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, or Kevin Durant. Also, he is performing at his peak right now. He won his first Player of the Week award (March 29th to April 4th).
Yes, the Bucks will not have much cap space to work with outside of this “big three.” However, they can just follow in the 2019-20 Lakers footsteps and surround their stars with cheap players who can simply shoot and/or play good defense.
The Bucks made the right move by agreeing to the Jrue Holiday extension, even if it came with a large price tag. As a result, their chances of winning championships during the coming years have increased a significant amount.
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