Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday was meant to be the missing piece to the puzzle when he was acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans in an off-season trade that sent the guard to his third team in twelve seasons. After flaming out early in the NBA bubble, it became apparent that the duo of Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo would not be enough to win an NBA championship. By trading for Holiday, the Bucks became instant favorites in the Eastern Conference. Then, a mid-season trade sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets while the Philadelphia 76ers claimed the top seed in the East, and suddenly the Bucks were an afterthought.
Fast forward a few months, and the Milwaukee Bucks are the NBA champions. Giannis was fantastic throughout this postseason, and Khris Middleton was not always great but made big plays when it mattered. Many times, when doubts of the Bucks’ championship hopes were rising, the basketball world began to wait on Jrue Holiday to have a big game. Jrue has had his fair share of struggles on the offensive end in these playoffs, but as he told Malika Andrews, the Bucks’ confidence in him never wavered due to his ability to impact the game in so many ways.
“Giannis always tells us before the game to be stars in our roles and that’s what I’ve been doing.”Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks Trophy Presentation
Jrue Holiday was more than just a role player despite struggling from the field in several playoff games this year. What never left him, though, was his defense and leadership on the floor. The point totals do not show it, but one glaring stat shows how great Jrue was for the Bucks this postseason. Holiday registered the highest overall plus-minus throughout these playoffs, which means that he was the most effective player when it came to generating a lead for his team.
The stats say one thing, but to anyone who was watching this series, the tables turned on the Phoenix Suns as soon as Jrue Holiday started picking up Chris Paul full court. Chris has looked fatigued in the fourth quarter since the adjustment was made, and Phoenix had not won a game since. Along with that, Jrue also switched on to Devin Booker in the closing minutes of games. Save for that magnificent fade-away three Booker hit in game five, the young star was also a non-factor down the stretch in the Bucks’ four consecutive NBA Finals wins.
Like his backcourt running mate Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. His physical presence on both ends on the floor wears down opposing guards, and it may not look sexy, but over time you could see the effect he had on Devin Booker’s ability to win the game for his team down the stretch.
This Bucks team winning the championship is a refreshing sight because, like many of his teammates, this ring validates their commitment to playing the game the right way and focusing on what the team needs. The Milwaukee Bucks were not the team with the impeccable, beautiful brand of basketball, but their beauty came in their commitment to work and did all the little things necessary to come away with big wins in these finals.
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