The Jrue Holiday, Damian Lillard debate is Bucks basketball discourse at its laziest

Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks
Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The Milwaukee Bucks made one of the biggest trades in franchise history last off-season by landing superstar guard Damian Lillard in a massive deal.

To acquire one of the NBA's 75 greatest players of all time, the Bucks had to part ways with franchise point guard Jrue Holiday. Given how much of an impact Holiday had on the franchise over the prior three years, including helping the team win its first title in 50 years, it was certainly tough not only for the fans but also for management, ownership and particularly the players.

To rub salt in the wound, Holiday was rerouted to the Boston Celtics, a prominent Milwaukee rival. Since the deal went down, "discourse" has raged on about whether or not the deal was the wrong move for the Milwaukee Bucks and if they should have just kept Holiday. Discourse is in quotes because most of it cannot even be considered that, as it's mostly just schlock between fanbases.

Yet, it's gotten bad enough that ESPN's Kendrick Perkins, someone with a massive platform, went on television and delivered a rant without an ounce of context on why the Bucks are "losing sleep" after letting Holiday go. This came a day after Holiday had an excellent performance to put Boston up 2-0 in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

Even with the Celtics on the verge of winning the NBA Finals, let's dissect a few reasons why this debate is pretty silly when given the proper context, especially regarding Perkins' "point." First and foremost, we won't even bring up Milwaukee throwing together their roster at the last minute, their hectic coaching situation or their vast amount of injuries that impacted their title hunt.

Jrue Holiday's role in Boston is far different than it was in Milwaukee

Imagine if the Bucks traded Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton for LA Clippers forward Paul George. Rather than being the first or second scoring option, he'd arguably now be the third or fourth on the Bucks, taking sizeable pressure off of him compared to the role he is used to being in. He'd be more of a luxury than a depended-on star player. That's what happened with Jrue Holiday in Boston.

The Bucks were relying on Holiday as their second-leading scorer last season, while he was the fifth option for Boston this season. There's a massive difference between needing a player to score and it being nice when that player scores. Averaging the second-fewest points and field goal attempts per game of his career in 2023-24, Holiday was not asked to be the same player he was in Milwaukee.

That is especially true for the NBA Playoffs, where the Bucks needed Holiday to play a larger role, especially over the final two trips when the team dealt with a major injury. In back-to-back early exits in 2022 and 2023, Holiday struggled mightily for Milwaukee because they needed him to embrace a next-man-up mentality, and he simply could not, averaging more field goal attempts than points.

To look at the statistics, Behind the Buck Pass' own Nathan Marzion put together a graphic to show just how much Holiday's role has shrunk since he got to Boston. In the playoffs with the Bucks, he got 17.7 field goal attempts per game. In Boston, he's at 10. In Milwaukee, 23.4 was his usage rate. With the Celtics, it's at 14.6.

The same pressure to perform offensively just isn't there. Even the defensive pressure is dialed back quite a bit, as Boston has Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Derrick White to help out on that side of the ball. Again, some can fault Milwaukee's roster construction for that, but that's beside the point. He doesn't have to guard the top players like he did with the Bucks.

There's no denying that having a second option as your fifth is a luxury for Boston, and they deserve proper credit for swooping in and acquiring Holiday when they could. However, using that against the Bucks when they'd be dead in the water if Holiday averaged 12.5 points for an entire season is silly. It's flat-out foolish to compare the two vastly different situations.

Right now, with the Boston Celtics leading the NBA Finals and the Milwaukee Bucks at home after an early exit, the former certainly looks like the winner here. However, both teams certainly have the right to believe they were justified in making their move.

For Boston, they got a star guard to play a lesser role for them, an option that not a lot of teams can say they have. He's played great basketball in the role and has helped this team make it back to the NBA Finals. If they go all the way, Holiday will undoubtedly have played a part, but it's foolish to say that the Bucks should have kept him based on this run when he's playing a far different role than what they needed from him.

On Milwaukee's end, they landed one of the best point guards to ever play the game. That's certainly nothing to scoff at. Year one didn't go quite as planned, but the Bucks should (hopefully) be in a much better position next season with an off-season to put together a better-fitting roster and allow stars to get healthy.

If this debate is going to rage on, context does matter. It can all be summed up by saying that Boston's Jrue Holiday is not the Jrue Holiday the Bucks needed, so there's very little point in comparing them. To be clear, none of this is to throw shade at Holiday. He's a Milwaukee legend for his effort in 2021, and this city still has plenty of love for him and always will.

The moral of the story is that the Celtics have a masterfully crafted roster, and the Milwaukee Bucks need to get busy this off-season to address their needs and then return to the NBA's mountaintop.

If people, especially those with a massive platform on the most prominent sports network out there, are going to talk about this situation, the least they could do is use meaningful context.

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