What the Jrue Holiday extension means for the Milwaukee Bucks and the free agent class of 2021


What does the Jrue Holiday extension mean to him and the Milwaukee Bucks?

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday that Holiday and the Bucks agreed to a four-year extension worth $ 135 million in base salary and up to $ 160 million, including incentives. That ensures that Holiday, who had a player option of $ 27.4 million for the 2021-22 season, will remain in Milwaukee after being acquired in a trade last fall.

With Holiday on a long-term contract alongside two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and All-Star Khris Middleton, where do the Bucks go from here? And what makes Holiday’s decision to roll out into a 2021 free-agent crop that had already been shrunk by multiple veteran extensions? We’ll see.

Milwaukee holds its core together

When the Bucks traded two first-round picks (in 2025 and 2027) and two trades (in 2024 and 2026) to the New Orleans Pelicans for Holiday last November, they were taking a risk on two fronts. At the time, both Antetokounmpo and Holiday were potentially heading toward free agency this summer.

The potential cost of those draft picks became much less terrifying for Milwaukee when Antetokounmpo signed a supermax extension in December. Now, the Bucks have made sure Holiday stays, too. That came at a cost.

With Holiday getting the longest possible extension, a 20% increase from his current base salary of $ 25.1 million, with nearly $ 5 million in additional incentives, Milwaukee joins the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers as one of the four league teams. with three players under contract for at least $ 30 million in salary 2021-22.

After their money-saving trade for PJ Tucker, the Bucks can avoid the luxury tax this season, depending on the current incentives in Holiday’s contract, many of which require him to play 59 games after adjusting the short season. Due to time wasted on NBA health and safety protocols, Holiday needs to play in at least 21 of the team’s 23 remaining games to get there. Holiday also has a $ 1 million bonus if Milwaukee wins the championship and plays at least 75% of the team’s playoff games, plus $ 200K for reaching the NBA Finals.

With raises for both Antetokounmpo and Holiday, the Bucks will almost certainly pay the tax in 2021-22. His tax bill will only go up from there, and starting point guard Donte DiVincenzo must sign a new contract the following season, either through an extension next fall or as a restricted free agent in the summer of 2022.

Milwaukee isn’t scheduled for significant salary relief until the summer of 2023, when starting center Brook Lopez comes to the end of his current contract and Middleton has a player option of $ 40.4 million.

If the Bucks ‘group of owners is willing to pay the tax for a championship contender, this core can stay together during Giannis’ prime. But the big salaries of its stars are likely to force the team to cut corners, which could hamper Milwaukee’s depth. That’s the price of paying for veteran talent in a smaller market.

The value of the vacation is worth it

Compared to Brooklyn’s star-studded trio, Holiday might not seem so obviously worthy of a deal that it could pay you $ 40 million per year if you max out the incentives. Holiday has been an All-Star just once in his career, in 2012-13 with the Philadelphia 76ers. He has never been chosen for the All-NBA team. However, advanced statistics suggest that Holiday is more valuable than his accolades show.

Holiday has been a consistent standout on ESPN’s plus-minus reals, finishing in the top 25 in RPM every season since 2015-16. So far this season, Holiday’s plus-3.7 RPM is ranked 22nd in the entire league. We saw that value reflected during Holiday’s absence from the lineup as they battled COVID-19, during which the Bucks suffered a five-game losing streak and finished 5-5 overall. Since Holiday’s return, Milwaukee is 12-4 to climb back within two games of the Eastern Conference lead.

During the playoffs, Holiday’s value is likely to be amplified due to his ability to excel on both ends of the floor. Holiday will be the Bucks’ best defensive option against opposing perimeter stars, and his combination of shooting and play-making should make it harder for opponents to help in the paint against Antetokounmpo than it was with his predecessor Eric Bledsoe as point guard base.

There’s also the question of what kinds of offers Holiday might have gotten had he made free agency this summer. With Antetokounmpo and All-Stars Paul George and Rudy Gobert signing extensions last fall, Holiday might have been one of the best players available. Kawhi Leonard, a two-time MVP of the Finals, can still be a free agent if he turns down his 2021-22 player option with the Clippers, but Leonard is the only potential unrestricted free agent who is clearly more valuable than Holiday going forward. .

From that point of view, Holiday took a risk by agreeing to an extension rather than testing the market. This is still a good payday for Holiday, who also got a player option that could allow him to reach free agency in 2024, when he will be 34 years old.

Each extension that takes players out of 2021 free agency improves the outlook for those who will be in the market. In particular, having Holiday off the board should be beneficial to the other available point guards, a group led by Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul also has an interesting decision to make about a $ 44.2 million player option for 2021-22. Realistically, Paul wouldn’t get offers of that size in free agency, but he could choose to lock in a multi-year contract while still playing at the All-Star level.

Meanwhile, Holiday’s extension puts in context Los Angeles Lakers point guard Dennis Schroder’s decision to reject an extension offer. Teams looking for point guards in their prime will now have Schroder at the top of the market with no restrictions, with restricted free agent Lonzo Ball also an option.

With Holiday under contract, Milwaukee won’t have to worry about looking for rookies in free agency for years to come. The Bucks have their core in place and are now focused on ensuring the right support pieces are in place for a championship run.

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