The player responsible for putting The Process in motion could be returning to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Guard Jrue Holiday, who was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in July 2013 in exchange for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick, is slated to become a free agent this summer, and the Sixers are expected to be one of his suitors.
From ESPN’s Zach Lowe:
That would leave only Sacramento, Philadelphia, New York, and perhaps Orlando as big-money suitors in dire need of a point guard. The Sixers will take a hard look at Holiday, sources say; he fits what they need around Ben Simmons, and the hilariousness of Philly bringing Holiday back after flipping him to start The Process is irresistible.
Holiday, 26, is currently averaging 13.9 points and 7.1 assists while shooting 42.1 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.
As Lowe alluded to, bringing back the Sixers’ first-round pick in 2009 makes perfect sense from a fit perspective. Holiday is a perfect secondary ball handler, someone who can create looks for himself or knock down shots as a spot-up shooter. He currently sits tenth in the NBA in assists per game (although he’s not qualified to be on the leaderboard because he hasn’t played enough games yet), which could add a really unique dynamic with Simmons.
Imagine the Sixers running a one-two pick-and-roll with Holiday dishing and Simmons diving to the rim. Or utilizing a horns set with Holiday handling the ball where Simmons rolls into the lane while Joel Embiid pops for a three. There’s so many ways the Sixers could experiment here.
But for all the positives that this relationship could bring, the one issue that could derail it all would be Holiday’s health. If you’ll recall, the old Sixers regime was fined $3 million for not fully disclosing his injury history to the Pelicans when the trade went down, as Holiday had apparently been dealing with a stress fracture in his last season in Philadelphia.
The right leg injury followed Holiday to New Orleans, and cost him 90 out of 162 possible games in his first two seasons with the Pelicans. Last season, he missed the final 17 games with a right interior orbital wall fracture. Lowe’s article indicates this is the healthiest Holiday has been in a considerable amount of time, but someone who already has a pattern of lower body injuries may not live up to his worth as he steadily approaches 30.
Considering that teams are still adjusting the massive jump in cap space, no real pattern for free-agent contracts has been established, but players cut from a similar cloth signed deals last summer similar to what Holiday is getting now. Jordan Clarkson, Jeremy Lin, and Tyler Johnson are receiving average salaries in the ballpark of $11-12.5 million, although Johnson’s poison pill deal will pay him $38 million over the final two years.
Despite the injuries, Holiday is a much more proven entity than guys like Clarkson and Johnson, which will likely lead him to receiving more average money than his counterparts. The market will certainly dictate what Holiday receives, so if the Knicks hold onto Derrick Rose and the Magic are happy with Elfrid Payton’s development, maybe the seven-year veteran would be more agreeable to a team friendly deal. But If a bidding war for Holiday’s services were to break out amongst Philadelphia, New York, and Orlando, throwing $16-20 million a year at him should give Colangelo some pause.
If the Sixers are somehow able to entertain Holiday with an offer in the $12-14 million range annually, then it’s worth taking the chance on him being able to sustain his current level of health and play. Philadelphia has the most cap space in the NBA, so even if a potential Holiday deal doesn’t work out as anticipated, his signing won’t necessarily impact Bryan Colangelo’s ability to bring in other high-level free agents.
On paper, signing Holiday makes a good amount of sense, and he would definitely have a lot of worth to this Sixers core. However, his salary demands will be the main reason he returns to Philadelphia, or finds a home elsewhere.