Could a recent blockbuster deal lead to the Sixers reuniting with an old friend?
Just like that, the Damian Lillard trade saga is over. The Milwaukee Bucks landed Lillard in a blockbuster three-team trade that seemed to come out of nowhere. While there were a lot of moving parts, in order to get Lillard in Wisconsin with Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks had to part with two-way point guard Jrue Holiday. Holiday was in Milwaukee since he was traded in 2020 and helped lead the Bucks to a championship in 2021. He was an integral part of taking down the Phoenix Suns, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals.
With Holiday being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, they are expected to trade the veteran point guard as his services do not align with their rebuilding timeline and group of young guards. According to many NBA insiders, contenders around the league, including the Sixers, are interested in the All-Star guard. With the Sixers having an interest in Holiday, could they pull off a trade to reunite with the guard who was traded to start the process? Take a look at two trades that could bring Holiday back to Philly:
It Takes Three to Tango
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Jrue Holiday and Nicolas Batum
Los Angeles Clippers receive: James Harden and PJ Tucker
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Amir Coffey, a 2028 lottery-protected first-round pick (LAC), and a 2029 lottery-protected first-round pick (PHI)
In this scenario, the Sixers are able to reunite with Holiday and trade James Harden, who has made it clear he does not want to return to Philly. Daryl Morey and company would get a really good two-way guard who would fit perfectly next to Tyrese Maxey. Of course, they would be losing Harden, who is still a productive star in this league, but they wouldn’t be relegated to receiving just role players in return.
A return of Holiday as the main piece isn’t the superstar that Morey was hoping for, but it is a stopgap that could keep the Sixers in the top tier of the Eastern Conference. One could argue that fit may be better than player at this point, especially in Nick Nurse’s system. Holiday isn’t nearly the playmaker that Harden is, but he did average over seven assists per game last season. The Blazers could also help facilitate Harden’s wish to get to the Clippers while receiving some expiring contracts and draft assets.
With how tight Harden and Tucker are, he would probably be included with Harden in a deal out of Philly, and the Sixers could poach Nicolas Batum away from LA if they really wanted Harden. Batum is past his prime but would be a good locker room vet and knockdown shooter to pair with Embiid.
A Direct Deal for the Sixers
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Jrue Holiday
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Tobias Harris and a First Round Pick (Lottery Protected)
In this scenario, the Sixers trade directly with Portland to get Holiday back to the East Coast. If the Sixers could somehow convince Harden to stay and get Holiday in the mix by flipping Harris, they could be a true contender in the Eastern Conference. Portland may want more draft capital from the Sixers to make this work, but Harris alone is a great asset. The Blazers could flip Harris to a contender for more assets in the short term or long term. Harris could also be a mentor to a young locker room who is going to start a rebuild.
Ultimately, there is smoke that there is mutual interest between Holiday and the Sixers reuniting. If Morey can get it done in a reasonable way, he should pull the trigger. It has been reported that they want cap flexibility for next summer. Well, next summer won’t matter if they don’t find a way to stay in the mix this season with the possibility that Joel Embiid could be asking out. Bring “the Process” full circle and bring Jrue back home.