Sat. Apr 17th, 2021

The New Orleans Pelicans are finalizing a deal to send guard Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for a package that includes Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and three first-round picks, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The trade also includes a pair of pick swaps and will ultimately amount to something similar to what the Pelicans received from the Lakers last season in the deal that sent Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.

Holiday, 30, was an All-Defensive first-team selection in 2017-18 and a second-team selection in 2018-19. He just missed being named to the team last season.

Holiday has a reputation around the league as being one of the best defenders in the league and the best two-way guard. He averaged 19.1 points and 6.7 assists last season.

Holiday is set to be paid $25.4 million for the 2020-21 season and holds a player option for $26.3 million for the following year.

For Milwaukee, this deal tries to add another piece to the puzzle to help convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign the supermax extension for which he is eligible. The Bucks are now able to pair the two-time reigning MVP with All-Star Khris Middleton and Holiday.

New Orleans, meanwhile, adds to its pick war chest, which includes the Lakers’ 2021 reverse lottery-protected pick (8-30) that becomes unprotected in 2022, the right to a 2023 Lakers first-round pick swap and a swap in 2024 or 2025 for another first-rounder.

The draft selections give the team even more flexibility as New Orleans looks to build for the future around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, who is a restricted free agent but someone the Pelicans view as a key building block going forward.

Holiday spent the past seven seasons in New Orleans, which acquired him in a draft-night deal from the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013, following his lone All-Star season. His first three years in New Orleans were wrought with injuries, but in the past four seasons, he solidified his status as one of the top defenders in the league.

That status was backed up by several NBA stars this past offseason. Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard told Holiday’s New Orleans Pelicans teammate JJ Redick that Holiday was “the best defender in the league” in August during an appearance on Redick’s “The Old Man & The Three” podcast.

In September, again on Redick’s podcast, Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant called Holiday “probably the best defender in the league at the guard position.”

Bledsoe, who will turn 31 before the season starts, played nearly three seasons in Milwaukee and averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds last year as the Bucks’ starting point guard. Bledsoe was a first-team All-Defensive selection in 2018-19 and was a second-team selection last season.

He had three years left on a four-year, $70 million extension he signed prior to the 2019-20 season. Bledsoe is owed $16.9 million in 2020-21, $18.1 million in 2021-22 and $19.4 million for 2022-23, though the final year is only partially guaranteed, at $3.9 million.

Hill, 34, has two years left on his contract. He’s set to be paid $9.6 million next season and $10 million the following year, though as with Bledsoe, the last year is only partially guaranteed, at $1.3 million.

Hill led the NBA after shooting 46.0% from 3-point range last season — just ahead of Redick’s 45.3%. Hill averaged 9.4 points per game as a key reserve for Milwaukee last season.

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