Jrue Holiday is headed for free agency in July, and this puts the New Orleans Pelicans in a precarious place. The point guard is the Pelicans' second-best player, and if they lose him, their thin supporting cast for Anthony Davis will be even slimmer. It's unclear whether Holiday wants to stay, how much he'll make on the open market and what New Orleans could get back in a trade before the Feb. 23 deadline. According to ESPN's Zach Lowe, the team is "worried" about him leaving, and the Philadelphia 76ers are intrigued with the idea of bringing Holiday back:
He hasn't thought about free agency yet -- "not even a little bit," he said. The team is worried he will walk, and that his departure will leave Davis frustrated about the franchise's direction.
The Pelicans will probably ride it out with Holiday, and hope the bidding for him doesn't get $20-million-per-year frothy. They might win that bet. Chicago and Dallas, two obvious suitors, won't have that kind of room unless funky stuff happens with options linked to Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade. The Spurs can't get there unless Pau Gasol opts out.
That would leave only Sacramento, Philadelphia, New York, and perhaps Orlando as big-money suitors in dire need of a point guard. The Sixers will take a hard look at Holiday, sources say; he fits what they need around Ben Simmons, and the hilariousness of Philly bringing Holiday back after flipping him to start The Process is irresistible. Orlando has expressed interest in Dragic, sources have said, but Elfrid Payton has surged over the last month.
A few thoughts:
- Love the idea of Holiday going back to Philadelphia. When the Sixers traded him to New Orleans in 2013, they were a middling team with no upside. Now, they have a clear direction, young building blocks, a stockpile of draft picks and a franchise player in Joel Embiid. Holiday would be a fantastic fit because he can play off the ball when Simmons is running the offense, and, unlike most point guards, he's capable of guarding multiple positions. He'll be 27 by the time he's a free agent, so he shouldn't regress too much over the life of his next contract, as long as he can stay healthy.
- The money is the important variable here. Even the Sixers, with all of their financial flexibility, might not want to pay Holiday an annual salary of $20 million-plus. It only takes one team to drive the price up, though, and I have my eye on the New York Knicks here -- if their relationship with Derrick Rose has soured, then they'll want a replacement, and everybody knows Phil Jackson likes big point guards.
- Lowe mentions the possibility of the Pelicans looking at trading for Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson or Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic. I also wonder if they'd have any interest in Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio, or if they could somehow nab somebody like Cory Joseph from the Toronto Raptors or Cameron Payne from the Oklahoma City Thunder. If there's a significant chance that New Orleans could lose Holiday, it must have a bunch of backup plans. The concern that Davis could be frustrated with where the organization is going is no small thing.