Despite Anthony Davis' trade request rocking the NBA landscape this week, there's a different Pelicans All-Star that the Sixers, just a week before the league's trade deadline, should be targeting: guard Jrue Holiday.
The Sixers three main weaknesses at this moment are (in order) point-of-attack defense, secondary ball-handling, and lack of spacing. Holiday is a competent enough shooter (35.6 percent from deep for his career) to keep opposing defenses at ease while Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler cook with the ball in their hands. He's more than capable of running the team's offense while Simmons works as a roll man at the 4 or Butler cuts off ball. Most importantly, he's an elite on-ball defender, landing on the All-Defensive First Team last year, filling a massive hole left vacant after Robert Covington's departure back in November.
Acquiring Holiday serves the team's most pressing on-court needs while also providing the additional benefit of shutting up your one uncle who hasn't stopped complaining about "Scam Hinkie" trading away Holiday six years ago at every family holiday dinner. His departure from Philadelphia kicked off the franchise's rebuilding plan, so it's only fitting that The Process comes full circle with Holiday in Sixers red, white and blue once again.
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia 76ers and their rivals in the NBA from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Here are three different ways the Sixers could catapult in the Eastern Conference standings and land Holiday:
Trade Option #1
Sixers receive: G Jrue Holiday
Pelicans receive: F Wilson Chandler, G Markelle Fultz, 2019 Sixers first rounder, 2021 Heat first rounder (via Sixers)
New Orleans begins their massive teardown a bit early ahead of their eventual Davis trade, as they acquire two future first rounders, including a juicy unprotected first from Miami in 2021, as well as Markelle Fultz, who I have no idea how to properly value at this point, but who presents head coach Alvin Gentry with a massive reclamation project.
Trade Option #2
Hawks receive: G Furkan Korkmaz, G Frank Jackson, 2019 Kings second rounder (via Sixers), 2020 Sixers second rounder
Sixers receive: G Jrue Holiday, F Nikola Mirotic, G Justin Anderson
Pelicans receive: F Wilson Chandler, G Markelle Fultz, G Zhaire Smith, F/C Mike Muscala, C Justin Patton, 2019 Sixers first rounder, 2020 Mavericks second rounder (via Sixers), 2021 Heat first rounder (via Sixers)
Things get a little dicier when trying to incorporate Mirotic's salary and be realistic about roster spots, but this three-team deal gets the job done.
While the Sixers should be hesitant to add any players who could be turnstiles defensively, Brett Brown and, more importantly, Joel Embiid seem keen on having a stretch big man on the roster. Mirotic would be an easy upgrade on both ends of the court over Mike Muscala in that Ersan Ilyasova-patented role. Mirotic may not draw as many charges as Ilyasova does on defense, but he can best the former Sixer offensively.
The Sixers loved blitzing teams without Embiid on the court during last season's stretch run with lineups centered around Simmons and multiple shooters. Mirotic is shooting 36.8 percent on his three-pointers this year and Ilyasova is making just 34.5 percent of his. What makes that difference even more remarkable is that Mirotic is shooting three times as many threes per game than Ilyasova (7.2 compared to 2.4).
A squad of Simmons, Landry Shamet, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Mirotic would be two transition three-pointers away from blowing the roof off the Wells Fargo Center in an April playoff game. Add in a 4th quarter pick-and-roll alley-oop from Holiday to Simmons too and you'll have me shirtless in the mezzanine level.
The Pelicans get a larger package in return this time around that includes a young lottery pick from last summer in Smith and a future pick from Dallas. The Hawks snag a couple of second rounders to take swings on for their help with moving salaries.
Trade Option #3
Lakers receive: F/C Anthony Davis, F Darius Miles
Sixers receive: G Jrue Holiday
Pelicans receive: F Wilson Chandler, G Markelle Fultz, G Lonzo Ball, G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, F Brandon Ingram, 2019 Sixers first rounder, 2019 Lakers first rounder, 2021 Heat first rounder (via Sixers), 2201 Lakers first rounder, 2023 Lakers first rounder
Let's call this one "The Klutch Sports Special." Davis gets what appears to be his preferred destination in Los Angeles alongside LeBron James. The Sixers, home to Klutch Sports client Ben Simmons, help engineer this league-altering move by boosting their own Finals chances with Holiday back in the picture. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, yet another Kutch Sports-backed player, waives his no-trade clause to facilitate the deal in terms of salary matching.
The Lakers (through shadow general manager LeBron) smash the emergency button and get Davis for this spring's playoff push, throwing three first rounders at New Orleans in addition to thrusting Ball and Ingram into immediate starting roles in The Big Easy. Losing two All-Stars is a rough look for a floundering franchise, but recouping five first rounders and young key contributors is about as good of a deal as the Pelicans are going to get.