Milwaukee Bucks: The Jrue Holiday extension happened too early

The Milwaukee Bucks signed Jrue Holiday to a long-term extension on April 4th. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Holiday will receive $135 million over four seasons starting in 2021-22.

Holiday has an opportunity to earn an extra $25 million in bonuses throughout the contract with Milwaukee. But did Milwaukee make the right decision by giving Holiday an extension? Not right now as he has been misused this season. Budenholzer has implemented an offensive system revolving around transition, isolation, and post-up possessions.

Why the Milwaukee Bucks made a mistake giving Jrue Holiday an extension right now

The Bucks are currently leading the league in transition possessions averaging 22.8 per game in 49 outings. Budenholzer has handed 31.1 percent of the team’s transition possessions to Giannis Antetokounmpo as he is averaging 7.1 per game. The Bucks are also 5th in the league in isolation possessions averaging 9.2 per game.

Antetokounmpo has taken 48.9 percent of the isolation possessions, averaging 4.5 per game in 44 appearances. Lastly, Milwaukee is currently 4th in post-up possessions averaging 7.5 per game. Milwaukee has given 50 percent of the team’s post-up possessions averaging 3.5 per game.

The Bucks offense has put most players on the roster in a spot where they have to spend a significant amount of time as floor spacers. For example, Holiday stood on the left-wing for an entire possession early in the first quarter of a road game against Portland.

While Holiday stood on the left wing, Antetokounmpo dribbled the ball to the 3-point line. Once he got there, Antetokounmpo drove to the basket and made the layup to end the possession.

 

Holiday’s role contributed to him taking a career-high 36 percent of his shots from behind the arc averaging 4.8 per game. 47.9 percent of those attempts were catch and shoots as he averaged 2.3 per game.

Holiday has performed well in the role this season, converting 38.6 percent of his catch and shoots. The catch and shoots have boosted his 3-point percentage as he is shooting 39 percent over his first 38 games.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that he can maintain the 3-point performance long term as he has been inconsistent on catch and shoots before this season. Holiday converted 35.6,30.1 39.5,35.4 and 36.4 percent respectively of his catch and shoot field goals from 2015-16 to 2019-2020 on an average of 1.7 attempts.

Catch and shoot inconsistency contributed to him shooting 34.1 percent behind the arc from 2015-16 to 2019-2020 on 4.7 attempts per game.

How the Milwaukee Bucks can optimize Jrue Holiday’s skills

If Milwaukee wants the extension to be considered successful, Budenholzer needs to give Holiday more time in the role of ball handler. Before joining the team, Holiday shot 43.7 percent from the field as a pick and roll ball handler from 2015 to 2020 on 6 attempts per game. The field goal percentage helped him generate 6.4 points per game on 7.7 possessions, 35 percent of his scoring output.

Holiday’s pick and roll possessions have declined by 44.1 percent as he is averaging 4.3 per game. Holiday is currently responsible for 26.2 percent of the team’s pick and roll possessions as they are 28th in the category averaging 16.4 per game.

More importantly, Budenholzer has misused players who thrive in the pick and roll in the past. Eric Bledsoe shot 46.3 percent as a pick and roll ball handler before the arrival of Budenholzer on 5.9 attempts per game. The field goal percentage helped him generate 8 points per game on 8 possessions, 41 percent of his scoring output.

After Budenholzer’s arrival, Bledsoe’s pick and roll possessions declined by 46.9 percent as he averaged 4.25 per game. Unless Budenholzer alters the offense or part ways with the team, Holiday will continue to be in this role, making it difficult for the extension to be deemed a success.

If neither of these two things happens, Holiday would likely begin to hear similar criticism to Bledsoe solely because he isn’t performing to expectations as a floor spacer in future seasons. Therefore, both sides should have waited until the offseason for an extension. They would have had a better perspective on what the future of the franchise would look like.

If the Milwaukee Bucks decided to maintain the status quo, both sides could have worked out a sign and trade to a destination of Holiday’s choosing. The team could have asked for a better floor spacer or a trade exception to acquire a better-equipped player right away or in the future.