Why Sam Hinkie isn’t a genius for trading away Jrue Holiday, plus analysis of the other traded picks in this year’s draft.
10. Philadelphia (from New Orleans)
Sam Hinkie’s first move as a head GM—trading Jrue Holiday, the youngest All-Star in a storied franchise’s history along with Pierre Jackson (42nd pick in 2013) for Nerlens Noel (sixth pick in 2013) and a top-five protected first-round pick – led the 76ers to what was arguably the most blatant attempt by a front office to lose as many games as possible in hopes of earning a top pick in league history.
Even before 2013-14 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams took the league by storm in the first week of his NBA career, the deal was considered a steal for the Sixers. Hinkie has received no shortage of local praise, having since been called an analytical assassin, diabolical genius, and the Wolf of Broad St. The national media has overwhelmingly agreed that the Pelicans were duped on draft-day.
Still, since Noel and the 10th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft have yet to take the floor for Philly, this swap’s trade grade must be considered incomplete; Holiday had his debut season with New Orleans cut short by a stress fracture in his shin. In 34 games, the soon to be 24-year-old point guard averaged 14.3 points (44.7 FG%, 39.0 3PT%, 81.0 FT%), 7.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 3.1 turnovers in 34 minutes per game.
The Pelicans’ season was too mired by injuries to fairly judge, but they did go 9-6 in the games that featured their future’s four core guys (Holiday, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson) in the lineup.
Tyreke Evans began the year coming off the bench, but the indication is that he’ll replace Eric Gordon in the starting lineup in 2014. During the 30 games Evans played 30 + minutes (17 starts), he posted averages of 20.2 points (49.8 FG), 7.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Gordon is still effective as a catch-and-shoot guy, but he lacks the explosiveness that allowed to him excel as an undersized shooting guard pre-knee injuries—however, this would be news to him; he still thinks he’s a go-to-guy offensively. It’s likely the Pelicans will do everything they can this summer to get rid of Gordon, but if that proves to be impossible Evans and Holiday could very well be the best starting backcourt in the NBA in 2014-15.
Even though Carter-Williams wasn’t included in the trade, much of the media has labeled it a success for the Sixers because he averaged an inflated 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds. However, when we take into account the the Sixers orchestrated the fastest-paced, most inefficient offense in the league (while allowing the most points per game in the NBA), the team failed to win 20 games, and MCW displayed an inability to shoot (40.5 FG%, 26.4 3PT%, 70.3 FT%) or take care of the basketball (3.5 turnovers per game), that 16-6-6 line doesn’t taste so sweet and makes clear why it’s entirely possible he’ll be the subject of another draft-day deal.
While Holiday averaged 19 points and 9 dimes through the All-Star break in Doug Collins’ slow-paced, super-conservative offense during his final season with the Sixers, he has never been a guy who hunts for his stats. He’s all business—substance over style, a win-first, look good later, team-player, whose laid-back, humble California confidence hasn’t turned him into a household name yet; but as the Beatles once wrote, “It won’t be long, yeah.”
Despite Holiday’s All-Star selection and considerable compensation (under contract for another 3 years, $33 million), I believe he’s the single most underrated player in the NBA. Allow me to explain:
In his lone season at UCLA, Holiday’s team-first attitude and versatility were on full display. Although he was the No. 2 high school recruit according to multiple rankings and won the Gatorade 2008 National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award, he accepted a slide to shooting guard given the fact that one of his team’s best players was a smaller point guard in Darren Collison.
Drafted 17th overall in 2009, Holiday showed promise in his rookie year despite the wild, Eddie Jordan-coached Sixers season which saw Allen Iverson make a brief return. With Doug Collins taking over the coaching reins for his second season, the 20-year-old Holiday averaged 14.0 points (44.6 FG%, 36.5 3PT%, 82.3 FT%), 6.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks and 2.7 turnovers in 35 minutes per game and helped lead the 76ers to a win in their first-round series vs. Miami, during which he shot 51.2 percent from downtown and averaged 14.2 points, 5.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.
Holiday’s numbers dipped during the shortened 2011-12 season (13.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 2.1 turnovers in 33.8 minutes), but I believe this season pays tribute to what a great team-first guy Holiday was in his time as a 76er.
While Philly had plenty of playmakers (Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams), Holiday was the only truly reliable catch-and-shoot guy on the roster besides Jodie Meeks (whose defensive shortcomings eventually resulted in Collins reducing his role in the playoffs). The Sixers jumped out to an impressive 20-9 start, but stumbled into the playoffs as the eighth seed with a 35-31 record.
It took an unfortunate injury to Derrick Rose in the closing moments of the Bulls’ Game 1 win, the Sixers won Game 2 in Chicago, defeated the Bulls in six games, and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since Allen Iverson led the red, white and blue over the Baron Davis-led New Orleans Hornets in 2002-03 (Larry Brown’s final year as Philly’s coach).
Iguodala received an All-Star nod and represented Team USA during the 2012 Olympics, but it was Holiday who led the team in points and assists during its surprising playoff run. Even though the Bulls were lauded for being an above-average team without Rose (and proved it last year when they defeated the Nets in Round 1 without him), a Holiday-led Sixers forced a Game 7 versus a Celtics squad that held a 3-2 lead over the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals has been largely belittled and/or ignored by the media due to Rose’s injury.
On the flip side, John Wall and the Wizards’ win over the Rose-less and now Luol Deng-less Bulls was celebrated this year, and Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors’ first-round win over the Danilo Gallinari-less Nuggets earned them a healthy regimen of recognition.
Holiday doesn’t have the freakish athleticism of Wall or Russell Westbrook nor the proclivity to unconsciously bomb away from deep like Curry, but he runs the point guard position as smoothly as anyone in the business. He’s also among the best defensive point guards in the league. At 6-4, 205 he has the size, strength and tenacity to cover both guard positions on the perimeter and in the post.
By mid-January in his final season with the Sixers, Holiday had already delivered two of the seven 30-point, 13-assist games (Iverson-4, Barkley-1) in franchise history (33, 13 vs. Suns, 33, 14 vs. Raptors); and it didn’t even take him half a season to put together a 30-13 performance for the Pelicans (31, 13 vs. Blazers).
“I like him. No, I love Jrue’s game,” Chris Paul told the Philadelphia Inquirer, just days before Holiday was chosen as an All-Star reserve in 2013. “Me and Chauncey Billups actually talk about him all the time. We always talk about the young point guards in the league. I think a lot of times he actually gets overlooked…I love his game, I love his poise, and I love his athleticism. I love the way Jrue plays the game,” said Paul.
While one might expect Holiday would let Paul’s praise and an All-Star berth get to his head, he scored a career-high 35 points in the following game against a Knicks team that won 50 games that year.
The unfortunate aftermath of the Andrew Bynum deal was that Philadelphia had been all riled up by Bynum’s arrival and the 76ers’ 2012 playoff run. For the first time since the Iverson Era, Philly was ready to rally behind the Sixers, but as time went on and bad Bynum news kept coming, the team returned to being Philly’s fourth fiddle (behind the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers), and only the diehards tuned in for Holiday’s breakout campaign.
While the 76ers believe they are slowly rebuilding, they’re a rapidly sinking ship, frantically hoisting up sales, trades and negotiations regarding likely all of their assets (apart from the third pick), and there is no timetable for their return to meaningful and competitive basketball. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have one of the brightest inside-out tandems in Anthony Davis and Holiday to build a winner around out West.
9. Charlotte (from Detroit)
Charlotte traded Corey Maggette for Ben Gordon and a protected first-round pick back in 2012. With the pick being protected throughout the lottery in 2013, the Pistons were able to draft Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
With the pick dropping down to top-eight protected this year, the Hornets now pick ninth despite enjoying a brief trip to the playoffs. Meanwhile the Pistons had a horrible season, and thanks to Cleveland’s lottery luck Stan Van Gundy’s task of turning this team around just became even more daunting.
It’s pretty obvious that Charlotte came out on top in this deal, as Maggette and Gordon were both well beyond their respective primes and had little left to offer.
12. Orlando (from NY via Denver)
The Nuggets got this pick from the Knicks as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal, and then sent it to Orlando in the blockbuster Dwight Howard deal that netted the Nuggets Andre Iguodala. Since Iguodala has gone to Golden State, Howard headed to Houston and Bynum burglarized the 76ers, Cavs and Pacers, the Magic win this deal by default.
As far as trading an antsy and disgruntled All-Star goes, the Magic couldn’t have done much better. Along with this pick, the Magic netted Nikola Vucevic (then-Philly coach Doug Collins and puppeteer of the GM preferred to give up Vuc over Lavoy Allen) and the ever-improving veteran Arron Afflalo from Denver.
16. Chicago (from Charlotte)
This dates all the way back to the infamous Tyrus Thomas trade. Obviously Thomas turned out to be a dud, but given that Charlotte lucked out and got the Pistons pick this year, this deal could’ve been far more painful.
While the pick was protected, Charlotte drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, an excellent perimeter defender, and Cody Zeller a talented, promising power forward.
Grading the trade, it was an awful move by Charlotte, but given the circumstances, it could have been much worse. For Chicago, they managed to at least turn one of their most regrettable draft-day acquisitions (Thomas was traded for LaMarcus Aldridge) into this pick.
17. Boston (from Brooklyn)
Brooklyn GM Billy King mortgaged the future of the franchise for what’s looking like a couple of one-year rentals. Kevin Garnett is under contract for $12 million for 2014-15 but could retire, and Pierce is a free agent and could look to reunite with Doc Rivers or hang up his sneaks.
This is what happens when you hire Billy King—he makes reckless decisions (see tenure with 76ers, where he signed Sammy Dalembert to a multi-year deal at over $10 million per, traded for a washed-up, post-surgery and post-allergic Chris Webber, etc.).
This year marks the beginning of the bleeding for Brooklyn, whose first-round picks in 2016 and 2018 will also be shipped to Boston. The Celtics also have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in 2017.
The only positive is they were able to get rid of Gerald Wallace’s two-year, $20 million contract. Apart from that, Deron Williams looks past his prime, Brook Lopez has health issues and is a defensive liability and Joe Johnson boasts an overblown contract.
This trade cripples them in the short and long term, while simultaneously providing a plethora of possibilities for the Celtics on their road to rebuilding a contender. Of all the deals involving a traded first-round pick in this year’s draft, this one might be the most lopsided.
18. Phoenix (from Washington)
Washington used the expiring contract of Emeka Okafor and this pick to snag Marcin Gortat, whom the Wizards are likely to re-sign this summer after he helped lead the team into the second round of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, it’s possible the Suns would have made the playoffs had they kept Gortat instead of falling short. Phoenix’s front office surely never envisioned it would be half as close to making the playoffs in the loaded West, so it’s likely it traded him expecting to get a few extra ping-pong balls.
Have to love this trade if you’re Washington, but if you’re Phoenix you have to wonder whether you’ll be able to get someone as good as Gortat with the 18th pick. It’s possible he would have signed elsewhere this summer anyway, but now we’ll never know what could’ve been.
21. Oklahoma City (from Dallas via Houston & LAL)
This pick goes to OKC as a result of the James Harden trade. While Thunder fans would’ve loved to keep Harden, it was likely they would have lost him for nothing the following summer (they couldn’t afford to pay KD, Westbrook and Ibaka), and so they figured they’d better get something in return for “The Beard.”
There’s no doubt the Thunder could have found a better price for Harden, and it’s a shame Kevin Martin wasn’t a better fit for OKC. However, with Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams making quality contributions at least they did get a few solid young guys in the deal.
23. Utah (from Golden State)
This swap was a result of the multi-team sign-and-trade deal that sent Andre Iguodala to the Warriors. The Jazz received Golden State’s first-round picks in 2014 and 2017, and second-round picks in 2016 and 2017. Utah also acquired Denver’s second-round pick in 2018.
The Jazz made out very well in this deal considering how little they gave up, while the Nuggets did it simply so they would get something out of losing Iguodala in free agency.
24. Charlotte (from Portland)
This dates back to 2011, when Charlotte traded the then-face of the franchise, Gerald Wallace, for two first-round draft picks (the first turned out to be Tobias Harris, 19th pick of 2011 who was immediately traded to the Bucks in a three-team deal along with Stephen Jackson which netted Charlotte Corey Maggette and Bismack Biyombo, the seventh pick in 2011).
If I were Charlotte I’d probably forego both the ninth and 24th picks in this year’s draft if I could go back in time and not trade Tobias Harris, but looking beyond that, this was one of the better front-office moves made by His Airness.
As for Portland, it used Gerald Wallace to acquire the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick in 2012 and draft Damian Lillard, so things worked out pretty well for the Blazers thanks to Billy “the willy-nilly pick-dealing” King.
27. Phoenix (from Indiana)
An absolutely awful deal for the Pacers, as the 28-year-old Gerald Green had a breakout season, contributed 15.8 points (44.5 FG, 40.0 3Pt), 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.8 turnovers in 28.4 minutes per game this season. And Miles Plumlee had an impressive sophomore season, averaging 8.1 points (51.7 FG), 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 24.6 minutes.
It’s not that Scola is awful; he’s pretty solid offensively, but on defense he’s a liability, and he’s also 34 years old. This deal, along with trading Danny Granger for Evan Turner, are probably two moves on which Indiana would like to be able to use mulligans. I won’t rub this one in anymore, as the sting of defeat is still raw for the Pacers.