The Jrue Holiday sweepstakes have officially begun as Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin all but confirmed that New Orleans is considering offers for their former All-Star guard. Yahoo's Vincent Goodwill reported last month that 10 teams were interested in adding Holiday this offseason, and that number might be a bit low. Holiday's shooting, defense and overall preference for playing off the ball makes him a fit on practically any roster.
So let's go through the destinations that make any amount of sense. Some are far likelier than others, but in total, 14 teams should be considered at least somewhat viable partners for the Pelicans in a Holiday trade. Those teams span the entire contention spectrum, literally including the champion Lakers and the top-pick holding Timberwolves. That is how versatile and valuable the 30-year-old still is.
Brooklyn Nets: There isn't a better fit for Holiday on the board than the Nets. He'd solve their perimeter defensive woes, provide some degree of insurance against another Kyrie Irving injury, and functions well off the ball, a necessity given Brooklyn's talent. Caris LeVert would be the base of this deal, but the Pelicans may not be particularly interested. LeVert's injury history poses plenty of risk for a team that already has Zion Williamson, and his poor 3-point shooting may be untenable given the current New Orleans roster. This might have to be a three-team trade, but fortunately, there are plenty of teams that would love LeVert. The asset base is here and so is the interest. That makes a deal plausible, and maybe even likely.
Golden State Warriors: If the Warriors go all-in, they win. It's highly unlikely that any other contender offers a rebuilding asset as valuable as the No. 2 overall pick, even with the harmful contract of Andrew Wiggins attached. The question for Golden State is interest. Holiday and Klay Thompson can both defend small forwards, but it isn't the optimal use for either. Holiday can shoot, but he's not exactly a Splash Brother, and given how few touches there are to go around here, adding him might be a case of diminishing returns. If the Warriors are desperate to deal now, Holiday is the best player they can get. If they choose to wait out the Bradley Beal situation? New Orleans loses its best theoretical offer.
Indiana Pacers: Last season, the Pacers had a monopoly on the NBA's supply of T.J.s by employing T.J Leaf, T.J. McConnell and T.J. Warren. Could they do the same with the Holiday brothers next season? It's a distinct possibility. Aaron is under contract, and Justin is a free agent whom they have Non-Bird rights on. Myles Turner is the perfect long-term center for New Orleans. His combination of shooting and defense at the age of 24 could make him Williamson's frontcourt partner of the future. If the Pelicans agree, they'll likely favor an Indiana package over all others. There are two major holdups here. The first is age. Holiday has six years on Turner. The second is cost. Holiday makes around $8 million more than Turner, and the Pacers, owned by mall magnate Herb Simon, aren't in a position to pay the tax next season. These are surmountable issues. If the Pacers are dedicated to breaking up the Turner-Domantas Sabonis frontcourt, this is the deal they should make. Even without his rim protection, the point-of-attack defense of Holiday, Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo would give the Pacers a strong overall unit.
Denver Nuggets: Reports have already linked Holiday to the Nuggets, and as a two-way upgrade over Gary Harris, he could help close the gap against the Lakers in the Western Conference. What are the Nuggets giving up, though? Harris works as salary filler, but what are the assets heading to New Orleans? Surely Michael Porter Jr. has played his way out of trade talks. That leaves Bol Bol, Monte Morris and draft picks as candidates. Denver is pick-neutral and can afford to give one or two up in this sort of deal, but there are also cash concerns. Can the Nuggets afford to pay Holiday, Porter, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray near-max salaries in two years? It would mean paying the tax, something this ownership has never been willing to do.
Phoenix Suns: The Suns are gearing up to do something. Rumors have pointed toward them trying to clear cap space. Fred VanVleet would be the logical target as a defensive complement to Devin Booker, but Holiday fits the same mold. He is also the better player and comes with a shorter contract. If the Suns are willing to put the No. 10 pick on the table, their cap space gives them a major advantage in that the Pelicans wouldn't need to take on any bad money. Kelly Oubre Jr.'s expiring contract would more than suffice and save the Pelicans more than $10 million next season, before factoring in any picks. But Oubre is a good player and the Suns are still a young team. If they think they can nab VanVleet, he's probably a better fit for their core based purely on age (26).
New York Knicks: The Knicks want stars. Holiday doesn't quite have Chris Paul's branding, and he'll never match Russell Westbrook's trophy case, but he's a more valuable asset than either based on age and contract. The Knicks have three extra first-round picks to deal and the cap space to absorb Holiday without sending a single dollar in salary back to the Pelicans. They belong in the conversation if they want to be there, but for now, the safer assumption is that they plan their offseason conservatively.
Have the interest, lack the assets
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers might have the assets for this sort of trade in a vacuum. Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, salary filler and two first-round picks isn't half bad, and rumors were somewhat mixed on David Griffin's interest in Kuzma during the Anthony Davis negotiations. If he liked him more than we realize, there might be something here. But the truth is that the Lakers won't be able to squeak by here. The Pelicans aren't sending them another star unless their offer is overwhelming. It can't be because of how much they gave up for Davis. Expect the Lakers to ask, but the Pelicans to look elsewhere.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Lakers at least have young assets to work with. The Clippers don't have a single tradable first-round pick, thanks to the Paul George blockbuster. They have precisely two rotation players under the age of 29: Ivica Zubac and Landry Shamet. The Pelicans might like Shamet. They have no need for Zubac. Shamet and salary filler isn't getting this done. The Clippers would need to extract some value of a veteran and then flip those assets to the Pelicans. They don't have a clear path to doing so.
Dallas Mavericks: Dallas reportedly wants a third star, and they couldn't find a better fit for Holiday. They posted the most efficient offense in NBA history last season, but finished 18th in defense. Holiday fixes that. The complications here are numerous. The Mavericks owe two first-round picks to the Knicks, but because of the way they're protected, they only have one first-round pick that is tradable: their 2027 selection. Beyond their two incumbent stars, Dallas doesn't have much tradable young talent either. Jalen Brunson is a nice player. He isn't the centerpiece of this sort of trade. Oh, and hovering over all of this is that pesky player option on Holiday's contract. Most teams would prefer he pick it up. Dallas, hoping for max space in 2021, can't risk the possibility that he does. Imagine a scenario in which the Mavericks miss out on Giannis Antetokounmpo because they acquire Holiday, he gets hurt and they can't trade him. Fortunately, Dallas doesn't have the chips for Holiday regardless.
Philadelphia 76ers: There's some fun symmetry here. Sam Hinkie's first move in Philadelphia was to send Holiday to New Orleans. His mentor, Daryl Morey, could kick off his 76ers tenure by bringing him back. The problem is finding a workable trade. Assets aren't the issue here. Matisse Thybulle and first-round picks could get this done. Where this deal crumbles is in the matching salary component. The Pelicans probably aren't taking on a long-term deal unless they're also getting a top five pick out of it. That rules out Al Horford or Tobias Harris, and if that's the case, finding something that works both financially and in basketball terms is difficult. Holiday for Thybulle, Josh Richardson, Zhaire Smith and Mike Scott technically works, but that's selling awfully low on Richardson and, to a lesser extent, Smith. This shouldn't be ruled out entirely, but it's unlikely unless New Orleans likes Horford far more than we suspect. Given his shooting and defense, that isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Utah Jazz: The salary component is simple here. Mike Conley's expiring contract for Holiday almost works. Guaranteeing Darius Miller's $7 million to include in the deal pushes it over the top. The question is assets. The Jazz owe a first-round pick to Memphis from the Conley deal. That trade cost them Grayson Allen, their only talented youngster outside of Donovan Mitchell. It's just hard to believe the Jazz could find enough value to upgrade Conley into Holiday.
Milwaukee Bucks: Milwaukee's primary source of matching salary would be Eric Bledsoe. The Pelicans already have an inconsistent point guard in Lonzo Ball. Donte DiVincenzo isn't worthy of being a centerpiece in this sort of trade. The Bucks have only one tradable first-round pick at the moment. This one just isn't happening unless the Bucks put Khris Middleton on the table for a third team. That's probably a lateral move, so the Bucks aren't realistically in this conversation.
Have the assets, lack the interest
Miami Heat: The Heat could guarantee themselves Holiday by offering Tyler Herro. They won't do that. They could put themselves in good shape with Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn. They probably aren't doing that either. Like Dallas, the Heat are fixated on Giannis in 2021 free agency, and they aren't going to punt away that chance for what would probably be a somewhat modest upgrade over Goran Dragic.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves could top the entire field by offering the No. 1 pick. They fulfill most of the salary requirement with James Johnson's expiring deal. There's a real argument in favor of hitting the fast-forward button here. The Timberwolves don't have their first-round pick next season, so there's no benefit to playing things slowly. Karl-Anthony Towns is four years away from free agency, but in modern terms, that means the Timberwolves are two years away from having to start worrying about a trade request. He's won only one playoff game in his entire career. Can the Timberwolves afford to wait for the No. 1 pick to develop? Even if that player develops properly, will he be more valuable to them than Holiday would be right now? Considering the very real chance that they have the NBA's worst defense next season without making a trade, the answer might be no. The Timberwolves probably aren't going to take this route. Trading a No. 1 overall pick for a 30-year-old seven years removed from the All-Star Game would be unheard of, even if it makes sense in this instance.