By Ray Kuhn
The time is now for the Milwaukee Bucks to win. As evidenced by the Miami Heat’s trip to the NBA finals just a few short months ago the Eastern Conference is wide open. Milwaukee is also in a bit of a time crunch as Giannis Antetokounmpo is slated to be a free agent after this season and it goes without saying that the goal is to ensure he stays in a Bucks uniform for as long as possible. Antetokounmpo is just as valuable to Milwaukee as he is to DFS owners and the objective is to maximize this and reap the benefits for as long as possible.
With Jrue Holiday looking to exit a rebuilding situation in New Orleans and play for a winner we had a perfect storm situation as the Bucks made a large commitment to their new point guard based on his trade cost in players (Eric Bledsoe and George Hill) and draft picks (three first-round picks and the option to swap two more picks). This is not a move to be taken lightly and DFS owners should be paying attention as well with Holiday moving to a larger stage.
Before going any further the most important thing to note is that, as impossible as it may seem, this can only serve to give a slight boost to Antetokounmpo’s value although it is hard to see how he can be any better.
From the perspective of Holiday though, at the risk of being overly bullish, this might push him further into the elite tier of DFS point guards. Holiday goes from a young team that was struggling to find their identity, and who played the majority of the season without a go to player, to a team that already knows how to win and has a generational talent along with other capable scoring options such as Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez.
There is no doubting the ability of Holiday who averaged 19.1 points, 6.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game but any time a transaction of this magnitude takes place there are going to be some questions and concerns that need to be addressed.
Last season we saw Holiday at the apex of what he has shown as a scorer to this point with his career high in points per game (21.2) coming in the year prior with New Orleans. In fact each of the last three seasons with the Pelicans all were the best scoring efforts of Holiday’s career as it was driven by necessity based on the lack of other options. It was a good sign to see Holiday ready, willing, and able to take on that burden but an even better sign is the fact that it corresponding with his three most efficient seasons from a field goal percentage perspective.
The natural question then is how will this translate to a team that has a superstar of Antetokounmpo’s stature and ability. Last season Bledsoe, who while he is a solid player is certainly below Holiday’s ability and career production, averaged 14.9 points per game. We can’t do a straight comparison between the two for multiple reasons with one of which being that Bledsoe averaged just 27 minutes a game compared to the 35 minutes a game Holiday played last season. If you have any questions regarding the difference between the two players you don’t have to look much further than the price Milwaukee had a pay to acquire their new point guard.
What stands out to me though as the reason why there really shouldn’t be any concern for Holiday and instead be optimistic is usage rate. Last season Bledsoe had a 24.1% percent usage rate with the Bucks compared to Holiday’s 24.6% usage rate. Given Holiday is the better player we shouldn’t be concerned about that changing which in reality means the only place for his production to go is up.
While Milwaukee isn’t in the position to rely on his scoring to the same degree New Orleans did, the fact they are a better offense will lead to an increase in scoring opportunities as Holiday defaults to at least the second, if not third option behind Antetokounmpo and Middleton. Opposing defenses can only do so much and Holiday will have more room to operate. And with the improved supporting cast, the assists will come as well.
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