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Are the Knicks in the mix to trade for Jrue Holiday?

Should they be?

Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Only recently, articles were written about Jrue’s impending retirement. Would he sunset his career in Milwaukee with the Bucks? Now, in light of his trade to Portland for Damian Lillard, the inevitable scuttlebutt has started: Will the New York Knicks consider trading RJ Barrett for the 33-year-old veteran?

The general consensus is that the Trail Blazers, who are in the middle of a youth rebuild, will seek to turn Holiday into another young player and further assets. In yesterday’s article, Brain Windhost wrote about how the Knicks are in a good position to trade for Holiday: “[The New York Knicks] have eight tradeable first-round picks, plus a perfect contract to use in the expiring deal of Evan Fournier. New York is in a position to make two star-player trades if managed properly. Getting a possible Tom Thibodeau favorite in Holiday could be a big step in attracting another big star down the line, and provides a perfect backcourt mate for Jalen Brunson.”

The first question when considering a player is often, what problem does he solve?

The Knicks are a solid defensive team, thanks to the obsessive nature of Tom Thibodeau and the grit of Quentin Grimes, Josh Hart, and Immanuel Quickley. As Tim Bontemps said on yesterday’s Hoop Collective podcast, “Do you think Tom Thibodeau would like to coach Jrue Holiday?” Sure, he would. But, although adding another Thibs-type guy would satisfy all our defensive cravings, it is not an essential need.

Holiday has played in big games and even won a title in Milwaukee. He also has a legendarily calm presence. But, New York has veteran leadership in Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, and Julius Randle (quiet in the back, I hear you). No one can suggest that immaturity is an issue with our team, despite being one of the league’s youngest squads. So, his leadership would be a nice-to-have, but again, not essential.

Shooting has been a need, for sure. New York tried to address that this off-season with the addition of Donte DiVincenzo. Holiday would bring more accuracy to the party, for sure. A starting backcourt of Holiday and Brunson would give the Knicks two fantastic ball-handlers and shot-creators. To wit, Tim MacMahon said on the H.C. podcast, “[Jrue] is the exact kind of fit that you want alongside Jalen Brunson.”

But Jalen’s current backcourt mate, Quentin Grimes, while not on par with Holiday’s point guard skills, is not incompetent with the ball in his hands and has a nice shooting stroke and plays tough defense. If an RJ-for-Jrue swap were to occur, Grimes would move to small forward in the starting line-up, presumably. That doesn’t feel like an ideal spot for the young shooting guard, entering his third season and about to take a giant leap (presumably).

MacMahon asked on the podcast: “Is cashing somebody in for Jrue Holiday and diminishing your odds of being able to pull off a Joel Embiid deal worth it for the Knicks?” It’s a relevant question. The front office has held firm while waiting for a star player to become available. They refused to overpay for Donovan Mitchell last season. Should we expect them to prematurely pull the trigger on Holiday, who, while certainly a star and maybe (at times) the best two-way guard in the league, is not of Embiid’s caliber?

Windhorst countered, “Maybe they wouldn’t be diminishing it. Maybe they’d be strengthening it.” Meaning, one assumes, that Embiid might be more interested in joining the Knicks if Holiday was on the roster. Windy added, “Immanuel Quickley is an incredible potential sweetener” that could be added to draft picks in a Holiday swap. (He must have meant in place of RJ because trading Barrett and Quickley for Holiday would be bonkers.)

“I think the Knicks have the ammunition to make two star trades,” said Windhorst.

No matter the talent, Jrue’s age and history must be considered. Holiday has only eclipsed 70 games in a season three times in 14 years. He has played for the Bucks, Pelicans, and 76ers, and averaged 16.4 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in 906 regular-season games. He’s appeared in 2 All-Star games and was a key factor in the Bucks winning the 2021 NBA championship.

In four seasons for the New York Knicks, the 23-year-old Barrett (third pick in the 2019 Draft, remember) has averaged 18.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He appeared in over 70 games for three of those four years. Shooting remains a problem, though. His career shooting from deep is only 34%, and he regressed last year, canning a woeful 31%.

On the contrary, Holiday is a lifetime 37% shooter from behind the arc. (Advantage, Jrue.)

Although Holiday didn’t have the best Playoff series against Miami this year, he is a consistent, winning player. RJ played well for the Knicks this past postseason but has yet to show that he can be relied upon to carry the team to victory. His promising play with Team Canada this summer was encouraging, but he was still not as dominant as one would hope for a player of his size, strength, skill, and experience.

The Knicks aren’t the only team who might be salivating about trading for Jrue Holiday. The consensus on the Hoop Collective was that Holiday would fit nicely on any of the top Eastern Conference teams (specifically Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, and New York). While unlikely to make a panic trade for Holiday, the Knicks front office might want to get into the mix to block or complicate deals with other Eastern Conference teams.

Tim Bontemps argued that the Boston Celtics have draft picks and Robert Williams, who might seen as expendable with the addition of Kristaps Porziņģis, to send in a deal; Windhorst argued that Portland wouldn’t need Williams with Deandre Ayton and Jerami Grant on their roster, and would be more keen on Derrick White. But, he added, “If the Celtics could come out of this holding Derrick White and Jrue Holiday, holy smokes. That would be a freaking squad.”

The Philadelphia 76ers are still dealing with the James Harden drama. They are due to pay him $9M on Monday, but Windy wondered aloud if the 76ers should wait to see if Harden comes to training camp before cutting the check. The consensus was that Holiday, who started his career in Philly, would be an ideal fit if he landed back there. Windhorst suggested that a three-team trade with the LA Clippers could be done, with Harden finally routed to his preferred destination in California.

As for Miami . . . I only just now stopped laughing at their misery over whiffing on Damian Lillard. I do shudder at the thought of them bringing in Jrue Holiday, maybe in a Tyler Herro plus picks deal. He would be a clear upgrade from Kyle Lowry, would be well-utilized by Erik Spoelstra, and could push the Heat ahead of the Knicks in the standings by the end of the regular season.

Based on recent behavior, do not expect the Knicks to do something rash like trade RJ, IQ, and picks for a very talented, but aging player. However, if Leon Rose can strike a deal that he deems reasonable and believes that bringing in Holiday would improve the chances of attracting Embiid, Leon Rose just might bite, and Jrue might wear orange and blue this season.