The 2021 NBA Finals matchup between the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks has been flanked by the storyline of it being Chris Paul‘s first appearance in the final round in his 16 years as an NBA player. While the whole world outside of Milwaukee seems to be rooting for Paul and the Suns to pull it off, the Bucks are no slouch with or without Giannis and, in fact, have a veteran star guard of their own that is making his first NBA Finals appearance.
The Milwaukee Bucks acquired Jrue Holiday in what was an offseason that got off to a very shaky start for the team. The Bucks had reportedly agreed to a deal with the Pelicans that would allow them to virtually send Eric Bledsoe and a few pieces to New Orleans in exchange for a player who some consider being the best defensive guard in the league. Jrue was supposed to be paired with Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanović, giving Milwaukee a backcourt to be envied by contenders around the league.
However, the Bogdan deal fell through after a mishap by the front offices of the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks, but luckily Jrue still managed to make it to Milwaukee. Since then, it’s been eyes on the prize for the Bucks, and once he got there, Jrue knew that there was only one way they wished to end the season.
“It’s every kid’s dream to have the chance to fight for a ring, fight for the trophy. This is what I came to Milwaukee for.”Jrue Holiday, ESPN The Jump
Given that Jrue was traded to the Bucks, it wasn’t solely his choice to move to Milwaukee. Jrue had been such a valuable member of the Pelicans and tried his very hardest to get the Pelicans deep in the playoffs alongside Anthony Davis, however in a tough western conference with a roster that even with Demarcus Cousins seemed to be short on talent, there was a clear ceiling for Jrue and the Pelicans back then.
Now, he is set to compete with elite guards in Chris Paul and Devin Booker for his first championship ring, and with Giannis’ status seemingly unclear, it seems as if the Bucks are going to be looking at Jrue to fill much of the void that might be potentially left by that. Earlier this season, he agreed to a 4-year $135 million contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks, which should be more than enough to compensate him for the massive performance he is going to have to put up to give the Bucks a chance at the chip.
Jrue is arguably this series’ most crucial player, as he will be alternating between the defensive assignments of Chris Paul and Devin Booker in the hopes of slowing down the focal points of a rather potent Phoenix Suns offense. On the other side of the ball, we know Phoenix will look to key in on Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo; if he is available. It will be critical for Jrue to take over playmaking duties and even scoring responsibilities at crucial parts of the game, given his ability to break down the defense off the dribble.
With or without Giannis, the irony of these NBA Finals seems to be resting on the fate of the least talked about star. Jrue says this is what he came to Milwaukee for, and lucky for him, he will get the chance to have a massive impact on the series his first time around.
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