Many pundits view the Milwaukee Bucks as one of this offseason’s biggest winners following their trade for Damian Lillard. However, there are some who believe Milwaukee will regret giving up Jrue Holiday.
Former Bucks coach George Karl may be one of them. The Hall of Famer was recently asked if his former team might miss Holiday’s defense in the playoffs and answered in the affirmative.
"In the playoffs, [Jrue] Holiday might be better than [Damian] Lillard."
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) September 30, 2023
“I agree 100 percent,” Karl said of the idea that the Bucks may miss Holiday’s defense in the playoffs. “I talked to someone last night about it. I think Lillard probably makes them more exciting, more explosive. I think he’ll go in there with some excitement being on a team that can win the championship. But to be honest with you, in the playoffs, Holiday might be better than Lillard. I know statistically that won’t prove out, but the intangibles that Holiday brings to the game, that’s what wins playoff games — the little things, the defensive ability to move around and cover different players. And I think you got to give Holiday some credit. He became a pretty good offensive player last year.”
Some folks might find it tough to disagree with Karl’s assertion. After all, Holiday is two years removed from helping Milwaukee win a title.
The 2021 playoffs saw the veteran guard give the Bucks a necessary third star alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Across 23 contests in the postseason, Holiday averaged 17.3 points, 8.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game, making a major impact on the defensive end.
The five-time All-Defensive team selection proved to be a great fit with Antetokounmpo during his time with the Bucks, even if his offensive efficiency could have used some work in the playoffs each year.
Unfortunately for Holiday, Lillard’s availability clearly changed Milwaukee’s plans and got the pesky defender shipped to the Portland Trail Blazers, an organization that may soon trade him elsewhere.
It’s still unclear how the Bucks will address the loss of one of their top defenders, but they likely feel that Lillard will bring enough on the offensive end to make them better overall.
Lillard is arguably the best teammate Antetokounmpo has ever had, and his offensive brilliance is expected to lighten the two-time MVP’s nightly load. More importantly, Milwaukee’s front office may have proven to its franchise cornerstone that the organization is willing to do whatever it takes to build a winner around him.
In addition, Lillard’s stellar play in his last playoff appearance may cause some to question Karl’s view.
Across six playoff games in 2021, the former Rookie of the Year averaged 34.3 points, 10.2 assists and 5.8 3-pointers per contest. One can only imagine how the 33-year-old will fare now that he will go to battle with a player of Antetokounmpo’s caliber.
But Karl’s stance is certainly worth noting, and time will tell if he is right.