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Ranking The Roster: Jrue Holiday Hits Another Three

At times last (regular) season, he looked like the second-best Buck

2021 NBA Finals - Game Six

After a one-day hiatus for Media Day, we’ve reached the formality stage of our yearly exercise as voters decided that Jrue Holiday was the third-most important player to the Bucks’ postseason success.

The most recent addition to the Bucks’ big three, Holiday came as advertised last year by delivering a massive boost to Milwaukee’s backcourt running the point. A 17.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.5 RPG, and 1.6 SPG regular season was further decorated with a First Team All-Defense selection, the second of his career (he’s also taken Second Team honors once). That stat-sheet stuffing line looks even better when you notice that he hit a career-best 50.3% from the field and 39.5% from deep on 5.3 attempts per night.

With apologies to Eric Bledsoe, these numbers still don’t paint the full picture of just how critical Holiday was in the postseason. In fact, his postseason shooting numbers were significantly worse at 40.6% and 30.3%! A career 35.8% shooter from deep, he cratered in the postseason like many Bucks, with the pendulum swinging just as far beneath his regular season average as he was above. His scoring (17.3 PPG) remained constant, though, plus he was more active on the boards (5.7 RPG) and really shone as a facilitator (8.7 APG and a 3.63 assist-to-turnover ratio). As we recall, it was a bit too common during the postseason run to see Holiday put up an absolute stinker on offense, While he did somewhat redeem a few of those performances—notably Game 7 in Brooklyn—as they came to a close, we now know to expect a certain unevenness from him offensively.

You absolutely take the bad with the good, though, since Holiday’s defensive prowess is unmatched among NBA guards. He was able to put one of Chris Paul or Devin Booker in jail during nearly every game of the Finals after figuring out Trae Young the round before. Even when setting aside from The Steal/The Valley Oop, he was still constantly disrupting opposing offenses: per Cleaning The Glass, Holiday generated 3.6% more turnovers from opponents when he was on the floor, leading all PGs in the postseason who played at least 250 minutes.

As with any of these polls, however, we must consider how the given Buck will fare against the Brooklyn Nets. Holiday had little trouble checking a hobbled James Harden towards that series’ end after admirable work on Kyrie Irving earlier in the series, but if—and this “if” gets bigger every day—Brooklyn’s star backcourt is fully healthy, Holiday will need switching help from his teammates. We saw his capability to switch onto Kevin Durant while Khris Middleton or P.J. Tucker moved onto a guard: it wasn’t until the Bucks fully embraced a switching defense in the regular season that Holiday’s defense flourished on his new team.

Like the Nets can’t count on a healthy backcourt, we can’t count on Joe Harris going ice cold from deep over seven games either. With a year of experience plus a full training camp and preseason, there’s ample time to get newcomers Grayson Allen and Semi Ojeleye in sync with Holiday defensively. Until Donte DiVincenzo returns, those two are likely to see heavy minutes dealing with opposing wings alongside Holiday. With the departure of P.J. Tucker, one hopes that the highly active communication Tucker brought really caught on as part of the Bucks’ culture. Tucker constantly talked on the court calling out assignments or facilitating switches to great success. That role may be better filled by Brook Lopez since Tucker did this from a position close to the baseline, but given that switching is still relatively new to the Bucks and that Holiday mastered it before arriving in Milwaukee, Holiday the lynchpin to everything when the Bucks move away from their drop zone.

Holiday is simply the most capable guard the Bucks have had during Giannis’ tenure. His postseason offensive lows aren’t nearly as abysmal as his predecessor’s were and he’s an even more effective defender, whose versatility was key to changing Milwaukee’s defensive scheme to one that could achieve sustained postseason success. His game looks like one that will age well as he moves into his thirties on his new max extension, given continued good health. As a playoff performer, I’m not sure there is another PG in the NBA today who could have the same success alongside the Bucks’ core as Holiday, who is arguably the league’s best two-way guard.

We all know how the final vote is going to shake out, but here it is anyway. Thanks for your votes throughout this entire process!

Poll

The 2nd Most Important Player to Milwaukee’s Postseason Success is...

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Giannis Antetokounmpo
    (28 votes)
  • 91%
    Khris Middleton
    (296 votes)
324 votes total Vote Now

This poll will close at 7 am Central on Wednesday, September 29.