Philadelphia 76ers get: C Nerlens Noel, 2014 protected first-round draft pick
New Orleans Pelicans get: PG Jrue Holiday, PG Pierre Jackson (2013 42nd overall pick)
There were around a dozen trades last night, and similar to the Nets-Celtics deal, this pact between the Sixers and newly christened Pelicans declared a direction for both franchises.
The Sixers, a team one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals two seasons ago, were blowing it up.
The Pelicans meanwhile, are looking for their rebuilding movement to bear fruit just two years after it started.
Whether or not this deal is labeled a win or a bust for Philly completely depends on what you think of Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans’ first ever starting point guard just finished his breakthrough season, leading the Sixers in scoring (17.7 ppg) and assists (8.0 apg) and making his first All-Star game appearance. He was one of the lone bright spots for an awful year in Philadelphia in which Evan Turner’s development once again stagnated, coach Doug Collins resigned and all Andrew Bynum headlines revolved around his hair. Holiday was a very good, though perhaps not elite, two-way player whose excellent defensive chops resembled how well he orchestrated a limited Philly offense.
Personally, I view Holiday as that very same rare commodity: a top-15 NBA point guard that can hold his own on both ends of the court. Instead of looking at Jrue as a solid player with good statistics on a bad team, I see that same below par Sixers squad as the limitation holding back his on-court creativity with their noticeable lack of talent. Philly had one of the slowest, lowest scoring teams in the league, who besides Thaddeus Young and merciless scheme killer Nick Young, couldn’t execute on a fast break. Given the proper athletes, I believe that Holiday could exceed the modest framework for success that his previous team had set up for him.
More importantly, Jrue is all these things on a great NBA All-Star contract: a four year, $44 million dollar pact he signed just last summer. At the time, I wasn’t quite sold on Holiday’s potential as a playmaker for his teammates, though I sprinkled in the caveat that he could indeed grow into his contract. I didn’t foresee that it would in fact be one of the better deals in the league just one year later.
That all being said, the Sixers made a declaration last night that they didn’t believe building around Jrue Holiday wasn’t a direction that could turn them into title contenders. Instead, they opted to build around Nerlens Noel, their own draft pick, point guard Michael Carter-Williams, and whoever their 2014 future draft pick would bring from New Orleans.
I don’t fault the Sixers for their thinking, but as I wrote, Holiday is a proven NBA commodity with All-Star talent. Is he a franchise cornerstone-type player? No, probably not. But he is the best type of second banana star that any team would want: a generally respectful, hard working, “second” star whose attitude and ego doesn’t seem to overweigh his actual talent. In keeping Holiday, the Sixers wouldn’t necessarily be building around him, but instead keeping him as a very important piece going towards a championship future. He’s not potential, but rather tangible production on an appropriate contract. Philly is taking a giant risk here, especially in building around an injured Noel, a future pick that might not even be in the lottery and Carter-Williams. Of course, the Sixers will be absolutely terrible next season, so they’ll have a very high draft pick of their own to supplement the assets the got from NO. It’s not a terrible strategy, but new GM Sam Hinkie must be a very confident man to believe that he can build a better future all by himself rather than the parts that were already in place. The Sixers got a lot of assets here, so grading this trade on their behalf is really more about if you believe in the new front office regime than anything else.
For the Pelicans, suffering through another season of mediocrity obviously wasn’t in the cards. They surely didn’t expect Noel to drop all the way to the number 6 pick, but considering how quickly he was dealt, I suspect that the Sixers had their eyes on dealing whomever they picked if it were indeed a high level talent (such as Noel, Ben McLemore or Otto Porter). Pairing Noel with Anthony Davis could have been a fantastic defensive stronghold in the paint, but there is some logic to the fact that the two could be a bit redundant. Still, giving up a blue chip talent had to hurt.
With Holiday in the fold, New Orleans is building around him, last year’s number 1 pick Davis and shooting guard Eric Gordon. If Davis can turn into a transformative superstar, then this deal could ensure an extremely formidable 1-2 inside-outside punch from two superstars that can’t even borrow a rental car yet. The Pelicans didn’t want to keep on gambling on the future and wasting time. They gave up a lot to get Holiday, but because of his very affordable contract, I really like this deal for New Orleans.