The Milwaukee Bucks blew up the NBA on Wednesday, trading for Damian Lillard in a deal involving several moving pieces. One moving piece was Jrue Holiday, the two-time All-Star and 2021 NBA champion who, only days earlier, expressed a desire to retire in Milwaukee.
We can finally put to bed all the "Miami had the better offer!!!" takes, which is nice. As we sink into this blissful internet silence and await the start of NBA training camp, let's break open the grade book to see who won this trade.
NBA trade grades: Celtics trade for Jrue Holiday
The Celtics basically had to do this. Boston was on the NBA Finals doorstep last season, but it was abundantly clear the roster was flawed. Joe Mazzulla remains unproven in the head coach's chair, but Brad Stevens has been hammering the phone lines all summer to improve the roster.
First, it was the Kristaps Porzingis trade. Now, it's Holiday, who provides a much-needed playmaking presence in the Celtics' backcourt while replacing, to a degree, Marcus Smart's defense on the perimeter. The Celtics now have the best defensive personnel in the NBA, full stop. Holiday and Derrick White will smother opposing backcourts, Jayson Tatum is an elite wing defender, and the combined defensive skill sets of Porzingis and Al Horford should keep the frontcourt airtight.
Holiday averaged 19.3 points and 7.4 assists on 58.6 TS% last season with the Bucks. He's not a 3-point bomber, but neither was Smart. Holiday is an upgrade as a facilitator and a scorer, though, and his offense scales easily to fit around other stars. He should have no problem finding a comfortable niche behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the Celtics' offensive pecking order.
The Bucks' trade for Lillard established them as the obvious favorites in the East. Boston isn't quite one-upping Milwaukee here, but Holiday does get Boston back on the same level. Plus, Holiday is probably the best Dame stopper in the league, with a clear motivation to help his new team stop the Lillard parade in its tracks.
NBA trade grades: Blazers add Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams III
Another home-run outcome for the Blazers, who have now transformed Lillard into quite the collection of players and draft picks. And, Portland may not be finished dealing. The team plans to keep Robert Williams to pair with Deandre Ayton in the frontcourt, per Woj, but Malcolm Brogdon doesn't fit the team's timeline. Expect contenders from all over the league to call about him, too.
Williams and Ayton make a funky pair on offense, but Williams is only one year removed from All-Defense status. His 2022-23 campaign was riddled with injuries, but he's a top-shelf rim protector with enough mobility to guard the perimeter and the outlier athleticism to change the geometry of opposing offenses.
Whether he's a backup to Ayton, a frontcourt running mate, or even the superior center (not out of the question), Williams should deliver on a fairly modest contract (roughly three years, $36 million left).
Brogdon is fresh off winning Sixth Man of the Year. There are injury concerns following him into the new season, but he's an established starting-level point guard who would benefit a number of contenders around the association. One has to imagine the Blazers can at least get another first-round pick out of him. If not, he's the perfect backup and mentor to Scoot Henderson — a seasoned vet nicknamed 'The President' for his stoic demeanor and selfless attitude.
Portland gets Boston's unprotected 2029 first-round pick, which is huge. There's no guarantee this Boston core holds together that long, so there's a lot of potential value there. Holiday is a great player and the Blazers perhaps coud have gotten more with a patient approach, but the opposite is also true. Hold on too long, and the market could vanish. Credit to Joe Cronin for striking while the iron is hot and getting real value for a 33-year-old guard in the final year of his contract (and with no interest in staying in Portland).