Giannis Antetokounmpo gets the majority of the headlines that come out of Milwaukee, and rightfully so. But the two-time MVP would be the first to admit none of his success comes without the success of those around him.
Khris Middleton has been with Giannis since The Greek Freak arrived with the franchise. But it was the acquisition of point guard Jrue Holiday from New Orleans that made all the difference for the Bucks.
Without Holiday, Milwaukee was a dominant regular-season team but without a championship to show for it. Then Jrue entered the fray, and in his first season alongside Giannis and Khris, brought the franchise a title.
The team’s starting point guard is constantly underrated and undervalued outside the Cream City. And that’s rearing its embarrassingly ugly head again, this time in the form of the 2021-22 All-Star voting.
Jrue Holiday is a major difference maker for the Milwaukee Bucks
Holiday has been shelved for 13 games this year due to injury and time in the league’s health and safety protocols.
When Jrue is in the lineup, the Bucks are 23-9. Without him, they’re 4-9.
Not sure how much simpler it can get.
Obviously, other factors come into play. It’s not that black and white. But it proves that the Bucks are a different team with their starting point guard on the floor.
Giannis described what Holiday provides the Bucks in a story on The Athletic earlier this season. In short: Everything.
“If you could ask for a perfect point guard to have out there that’s going to play every single game, you cannot ask for somebody better than Jrue,” Antetokounmpo said. “He can defend. He can play make. He can shoot. He can get to the basket. He is a great leader. He’s a great teammate. He is a great guy to be around. He’s always keeping his composure. He always gives everything throughout the game that he has. You cannot ask for nothing more than that.”
The Bucks were the No. 1 seed in the East in both 2019-20 and ’20-21. Antetokounmpo won back-to-back MVPs in those seasons.
But the team was bounced in the playoffs without reaching the NBA Finals. Then they acquired Holiday and became NBA champions.
Holiday is once again proving to be grossly underrated
The former Pelicans stalwart has been named to an NBA All-Defensive team on three different occasions during his 12 years in the league.
Somehow, he’s only been named to one All-Star team — in 2013 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
That trend appears to be continuing based on this year’s All-Star voting. Before the next round of votes on Jan. 20, Holiday is nowhere to be found in the East’s backcourt.
He’s somehow behind James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Derrick Rose.
In a pre-All-Star voting story on The Athletic, John Hollinger and Josh Robbins wrote of Holiday:
“He’s an easy call for a reserve guard spot, and he has a case for starting ahead of (Trae) Young. Still one of the league’s most underrated players despite helping Milwaukee to the championship last season, Holiday’s two-way vitality as a scorer who can also lock down top wings makes him one of the league’s most valuable players.”
Holiday should get significant consideration in both the coach and player voting. His peers know how good of a two-way player the 31-year-old is.
But he’s continuously underrated and undervalued by the NBA voting public.
Even after being exposed nationally via a championship run — in which he made multiple game-changing and game-clinching plays, including one of the most memorable Finals plays of all time — Jrue’s contributions still somehow go unnoticed.
It’s a travesty the 12-year veteran has only one All-Star appearance on his resume
It cost a pretty penny for the organization to bring Holiday into the fold. Multiple players, first-round picks, and pick swaps were involved.
But ask anyone in Milwaukee if it was worth an NBA Championship — the franchise’s first in half a century — and the resounding answer would be “Yes.” (Possibly with a bad word or two in front of it).
“We’re really fortunate to have him,” Bucks head coach Mike Budeholzer said in The Athletic piece.
Yes, Milwaukee is very fortunate to have Holiday. Now it’s time to give Jrue his due.
All statistics unless otherwise noted courtesy of NBA.com.