Celtics acquire Jrue Holiday in another Eastern Conference shakeup

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey, right, drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks’ Jrue Holiday during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Another blockbuster NBA trade has the Philadelphia 76ers watching from the sidelines as the Boston Celtics have acquired Jrue Holiday.

With the highly-anticipated Damian Lillard trade that sent the seven-time All-Star to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Eastern Conference has been on edge all week. The Bucks sent former Sixer Jrue Holiday to the Blazers, and it was highly anticipated he would once again be traded. With James Harden holding out in his trade demand, many Sixers fans were holding out hope that a 3-team trade could send him elsewhere and bring Jrue back to Philly.

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) passes the ball behind his back against Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Those hopes were quickly dashed Sunday morning as Adrian Wojnarowski announced the news that Holiday would be traded to the Boston Celtics. Boston, in return, gave up F/C Robert Williams, G Malcolm Brogdon, and first-round picks in 2024 (via GSW) and 2029 (their own, unprotected). 

While it’s a heavy price for the Celtics, Holiday is an ideal replacement for Marcus Smart. Even at 33, Holiday is one of the toughest on-ball defenders in the league, and his shooting over the last few years has become a quiet threat.

During his tenure in Milwaukee, the 6’5” guard made a whopping 39.5 percent of his 5.3 three-point attempts per game. And while questions remain about how fellow off-season pickup Kristaps Porzingis will fill Robert Williams’ roam-and-block role, the move makes it clear that the Celtics are in it to win it right now.

This is obviously not ideal for the Sixers, who are still struggling with the Harden situation and are shilling out the last year of Tobias Harris’s massive contract. While smaller moves, like acquiring Kelly Oubre Jr. and (allegedly) moving Paul Reed to the 4, will help with their wing depth and defense, the team remains without a legitimate starting shooting guard. The team is in a tough bargaining situation, and as Embiid approaches 30, Daryl Morey should be looking to respond urgently.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey speaks during a news conference at the NBA basketball team’s training facility, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Eastern Conference has been highly competitive for the last several years, and the moves this week show that that competition is only getting fiercer. The ball is in the Sixers’ court to shake things up so they can continue to contend.