As the dust has begun to settle from the blockbuster Damian Lillard trade, eyes have turned toward the Portland Trail Blazers and their expected cash out of the well-respected, highly-talented Jrue Holiday. Understandably, alongside every other fan base of every other team hoping to contend in the 2024 postseason, Kings fans and media personalities have begun to ask themselves the same question. Should the Kings get in on the Jrue Holiday sweepstakes?
From a talent perspective, Holiday fits exactly what the Kings should be seeking in an upgrade, albeit in the slightly awkward position as an off-guard, rather than the permanent wing that Monte McNair would likely prefer. However, positional fit aside, the soon-to-be former Trail Blazer is one of the most underrated contributors in the league, and despite some fans’ most optimistic view of Davion Mitchell, Holiday is much, much, much closer to a De’Aaron Fox-level player than anyone else on the roster. Last season, he put up 19.3 points, 5.1 boards, and 7.4 assists while knocking down 38% of his 6.1 three-point attempts per game. Add in his stellar perimeter defense, and the vision of a Fox-Holiday shooting, sprinting, and stealing backcourt quite easily comes into focus. There’s no doubt he would offer a significant increase in abilities over Kevin Huerter, the exact sort of upgrade fans hoped for after Sacramento’s first round exit last season.
Of course, talent isn’t everything, and a few concerns exist when contemplating a pre-holidays Holiday addition to the roster. The first, and least important, is Holiday’s age, especially when considering Sacramento’s young core. At 33 years old, he would easily be the oldest member of the core, although not every young team needs to be entirely young. A player of Holiday’s caliber and experience could provide another steady hand when things get tough on and off the court, providing Sacramento with another well-respected veteran presence in the locker room. He may end up overpaid in the latter years of his production over the course of his next contract, but two to three years of high-caliber play would be worth the possible transformation into a potential contender for the Kings.
Another cautionary aspect of entering trade negotiations would, in fact, be those trade negotiations. Alongside Deandre Ayton, the Portland Trail Blazers likely view their return on Holiday as their primary return for a top-5 NBA player in Damian Lillard. Put simply, Holiday is not going to come cheap. Thankfully, the Kings have plenty of tradeable assets that may be attractive to a rebuilding team such as the Blazers. A young, locked-up shooter such as Kevin Huerter could hold some interest and Davion Mitchell would certainly be available, while the Kings could also write in some verbiage to include multiple first round draft picks once their obligation to the Atlanta Hawks expires. If the Blazers aren’t interested in Huerter, the Kings could likely ship their sharpshooter to a contending team for additional assets in a three-way deal. Suffice it to say that Sacramento’s front office could likely meet the demand of a young prospect and picks, with Keegan Murray obviously untouchable, although it would remain to be seen if Monte McNair would be willing to meet a high price for a 33-year old.
Beyond the age and trade cost factors of adding Jrue Holiday, the Kings have one truly significant barrier in their way of acquiring the ultra-talented guard – he makes a lot of money. Holiday is owed about $76 million over the next two seasons, with his 2023-2024 salary coming in around $37 million, and the Kings don’t have many paths toward reaching the needed outgoing cash to make a deal legal. As ironic as it sounds, the dead salary of Richaun Holmes would actually be quite the asset in negotiations at the moment.
According to NBA trade rules, the Kings need to send out just a hair over $30 million in salary to absorb Holiday’s contract. Assuming that De’Aaron Fox and Keegan Murray are off the table, and with Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, Trey Lyles, Sasha Vezenkov, JaVale McGee, and Alex Len ineligible for trades due to their recent signings, the Kings have very few paths forward, assuming that Portland isn’t willing to wait around until December 15th for recently-signed free agents to become available. If that’s the case, even a five-to-one player deal of Davion Mitchell, Kevin Huerter, Chris Duarte, Colby Jones, and Kessler Edwards wouldn’t be enough salary to acquire Holiday. As of this moment, with the assumptions included above, the only way to trade for Holiday would be to give up Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk, and Davion Mitchell, a package that would both strip the Kings of all guard depth, as well as hold little interest for a rebuilding Blazers squad. And while the Kings certainly could shop Huerter and Monk to contending teams for other trade chips, the resulting chaos on the roster and in the locker room may not be worth it, even for a player of Holiday’s caliber and reputation.
In theory, Jrue Holiday fills quite a few gaps for a Kings squad that still has a few holes to fill, but the practicality of his acquisition, at least at the moment, is near zero. If the Blazers are willing to wait a few months for trade fervor to heat up even more, the Kings could re-enter the conversation with Harrison Barnes added as a $17 million salary ballast, but for now, the Kings are likely out of the Holiday race.