The dust has finally settled on what was one of the more exciting NBA Finals in recent memory. After the smoke cleared, the Milwaukee Bucks emerged as the champions of the 2020-21 NBA season. The coronation on Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum would likely not have happened if not for an all-in trade that landed Jrue Holiday in Milwaukee this past offseason. Coming off two straight playoff disappointments in 2019 and 2020, the Bucks cashed in everything to acquire the underrated two-way guard from the New Orleans Pelicans.
With that, let's look back at the franchise-altering deal that essentially won Milwaukee its first NBA championship in 50 years. In order to get Holiday from New Orleans, the Bucks needed to pay the steep price the Pelicans asked for their star guard. In the four-team deal also involving the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee gave up two future first-round picks, two pick swaps, their 24th overall pick in 2020 that turned into RJ Hampton, veteran guard George Hill, and starting point guard Eric Bledsoe. In return, the Bucks received Holiday along with Sam Merrill, the last pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
When the trade went down, some people scoffed at just how much the Bucks gave up to acquire a player who last made the All-Star team in 2013. They pretty much threw the kitchen sink deal to New Orleans, a package many believed was reserved for superstar-caliber players, not for borderline All-Stars like Jrue Holiday.
Nevertheless, the Bucks viewed Holiday as their “missing piece.” They saw the 6-foot-4 guard as the guy who would form their formidable Big Three with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
In addition, Holiday was also seen as a massive upgrade from Eric Bledsoe, who was largely disappointing in their past two playoff runs. The one-time All-Star is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and brought another capable playmaker and shot creator to the Bucks.
From the moment he stepped foot in Milwaukee, Jrue Holiday felt this group had a chance to accomplish something special:
“I want a chance to put a ring on my finger,” Holiday said at the time when the deal went down in December, via The Associated Press. “I feel like you can see it in their eyes, that they want that too.”
Milwaukee did not dominate the regular season like it did the last couple of years. Giannis Antetokounmpo did not get love for MVP. The Bucks sort of flew under the radar over the course of the season. Perhaps a lot of it had to do with their two disappointing playoff exits the last couple of years. But, somehow, with Holiday now in the fray, it felt like they were more equipped for a real chance at a championship run this time around.
Holiday certainly proved his worth in the playoffs. Most importantly, he proved that the hefty price the Bucks gave up for him was all worth it. Sure, there were times when Holiday struggled mightily to put the ball in the basket. That even happened in the title-clinching win in Game 6 in which Holiday shot just 4-of-19 from the field. He shot 4-of-20 in the Game 4.
Nonetheless, despite his shooting woes throughout the playoffs, Jrue Holiday never hung his head and let it affect his game overall. He remained aggressive and continued to play the game the right way. Even if his shot wasn't going down, he still offered positives on the offensive end with his timely playmaking, setting up his teammates for easier shots.
Most importantly, Holiday continued to play tenacious championship-level defense throughout the postseason. From Kevin Durant in the second round to Trae Young in the Eastern Conference Finals to Devin Booker and Chris Paul in the championship round, Holiday's defense against those elite offensive talents became one of the reasons why Milwaukee can finally call itself a city of champions once again.
So, yes, the Bucks paid the most premium price to land Jrue Holiday. But that got them the most premium of rewards: basketball immortality with a championship.