The Celtics traded for Jrue Holiday in a transformative deal on the day before training camp begins with media day in Boston, sending Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams III, the 2024 Warriors first-rounder from the Marcus Smart trade and an unprotected 2029 Celtics first-round selection to the Trail Blazers.
Boston will instantly emerge as championship favorites by uniting all-defensive guards Holiday and Derrick White alongside stars Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kristaps Porziņģis. Depth becomes a question, as do financial considerations into the future, but few, if any lineups can match the two-way potency of that group, which now includes post size and scoring, along with on-ball defense and playmaking last year’s group lacked. For those concerned about losing Smart, Holiday would top the list of contenders for that role. He also joins a group vying to challenge his former Milwaukee Bucks, who traded Holiday for Damian Lillard last week.
Here are the 10 biggest takeaways from the trade:
- Holiday becomes a perfect Celtic and reportedly wanted to join Boston once the Lillard trade landed him in Portland. The 33-year-old made his third All-Defensive First Team as part of the Bucks’ NBA-best unit last season while also averaging 19.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game while hitting 38.4% of his three-pointers. The 538 RAPTOR metric ranked his offense tied for 22nd and his defense tied for 32nd, making him one of the best two-way players in basketball and arguably the league’s top role player.
- Brad Stevens undoubtedly labored over a difficult decision to trade a valuable first-round pick and important big man to the present and future of the roster in Williams III, a favorite teammate of Tatum, the day before camp began. Holiday proved too enticing to solidifying the team’s championship hopes, while addressing any lingering concerns about what the team lost in Smart. The trade also dealt a devastating blow to east rivals like the 76ers, who considered Holiday as part of resolving the James Harden trade demand, and the Heat, who could’ve used Holiday after falling short in the Lillard sweepstakes, but apparently never pursued him. Milwaukee might also regret freeing Holiday to join their top eastern conference opponent. This trade likely rocked contending front offices across the NBA.
- The Celtics, however, lost some roster flexibility that previously stood as their advantage over other rosters. Boston could pair two big men across every lineup, returning to the defensive posture of their 2022 NBA Finals run. Stevens originally described the Porziņģis trade as a way to turn excess back court depth into an additional impact center after stability at that position became a weakness last year. Given Porziņģis’ injury-proneness and Al Horford turning 37 this summer, questions return to the position where only Luke Kornet and two-way signing Neemias Queta remain as big depth. The team also signed former Lakers big Wenyen Gabriel to a training camp deal, and will continue searching for help.
- The trade also removed the second unit’s main scoring punch in Brogdon, who hadn’t reported to the Celtics’ facility as all of his teammates did over the past month. Multiple reports indicated the team couldn’t fully reestablish the relationship damaged when Boston nearly traded him to the Clippers in the original Porziņģis trade. Brogdon scored nearly half of the Celtics’ bench points last year, and projected to team up with staggered stars and a big man to balance Boston’s lineups this year.
- Uncertainty regarding Brogdon’s health further clouded his ability to do that. The Athletic reporting a lower-body concern combined with his elbow injury to nix the LA deal. The Celtics searched for a deal throughout the summer, and consolidating him with Williams III into a more reliable piece made more sense than dumping his contract or trading for a downgrade at the guard spot. He’s also on a two-year deal that would’ve needed addressing over the next year. Brogdon will land on a new team when the Blazers can find a trade — the Heat an obvious destination but splintering between Miami and Portland casts some doubt on a deal getting done there. The Clippers make sense too, given their previous interest in the guard, who’s reportedly ready for camp.
- Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser and Horford remain as likely second unit contributors, along with an array of minimum signings. There’ll be some debate over whether it’d make more sense to keep Horford next to Porziņģis to guard the perimeter and stay in the lineup he’s comfortable in. White spent part of last year and most of his first season with the Celtics coming off the bench, and would accept that role again, but an empowered year with the starters led to his breakout. It’s a better bet to keep him there, especially since starting Horford would enhance questions about the team’s center depth.
- Porziņģis’ reliability as a post defender and health become the biggest swing factor on the team. It’s easy to imagine him having difficulty guarding the Lillard-Giannis Antetokounmpo pick-and-roll. Boston can manage the center position during the regular season. An injury to Horford or Porziņģis could now prove devastating to the team’s championship hopes, whereas Williams III could’ve filled in for either as valuable insurance to Horford’s age and Porziņģis’ career-long issues with lower-body ailments.
- Money becomes a long-term consideration. Holiday could earn over $50-million with 8% raises in an extension Boston and his agent Jason Glushon, who also represents Brown, Horford and Hauser, will get to work on. Perhaps Holiday could provide some relief as Porziņģis did to a team no all-in on winning multiple championships. Doing so could secure White’s future with the team, who can now extend starting at $27-million with 8% raises when his contract ends in 2025. Pritchard needs a new contract sooner, likely starting close to the mid-level exception next year, while Tatum will join Brown in super max land in 2025.
- That could push out one of the players mentioned above out later if the Celtics need to cut costs. Wyc Grousbeck committed to paying considerable tax last year. The 2026 tax bill could reach astronomical levels. Having big salaries helps, but dollar-for-dollar money matching for second apron teams next year makes them a nightmare to pull off, along with other penalties coming to pressure teams like Boston. Some flexibility remains before it triggers: a $6-million+ Grant Williams trade exception, first-round picks in 2025 and 2027, along with swaps in 2024, 2026 and 2030, and boatloads of second-rounders. If the Celtics want to keep adding like the Suns and Bucks did, now’s the time to do it. Keep an eye on the center market.
- It’ll all be worth it if banner 18 arrives next summer, and the prospect of playmakers everywhere, defenders covering every position and enough depth to remain competitive and flexible across multiple lineups should suffice in delivering it if everyone stays healthy. Holiday will become beloved in Boston much like Smart did, and while his age, contract situation and interior depth could all prevent a ring, the Celtics reached a point where they had to say it’s now-or-never. It’s easy to buy into this group. They have a little bit of everything, and Joe Mazzulla’s coaching staff is better-equipped to utilize the roster’s many part.