The Milwaukee Bucks have acquired guard Jrue Holiday and the draft rights to 2020 second round pick Sam Merrill (60th overall) from the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a four-team deal that includes the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets. The Bucks will send guard Eric Bledsoe, two first round draft picks (2025, 2027) and the right to swap first round draft picks (New Orleans’ own for Milwaukee’s own) in 2024 and 2026 to the Pelicans. Milwaukee also conveys guard George Hill to the Thunder and the draft rights to 2020 first round pick R.J. Hampton (24th overall) to Denver in the trade.
Holiday, who is entering his 12th season in the NBA, is a two-time All-NBA Defensive Team honoree (2017-18, 2018-19) and 2013 NBA All-Star who has appeared in more than 700 career games with New Orleans and Philadelphia. He spent the last seven seasons with the Pelicans where he averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals over 415 games (364 starts) and leaves as the franchise’s all-time leader in career three-pointers made with 628.
“Jrue is an incredibly high character person and one of the premier guards in the NBA,” said Bucks General Manager Jon Horst. “He will make us better on both ends of the floor, as he’s an elite defender and a proven playmaker on offense with the ability to score, shoot and facilitate. His experience will help our team and we are thrilled to welcome him and his family to Milwaukee.”
A 6-4 guard, Holiday started all 61 games for New Orleans during the 2019-20 season and held averages of 19.1 points, 6.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 45.5% from the field and 35.3% from three. He was named the 2019-20 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year last season, which is voted on by NBA players and recognizes the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.
Overall, Holiday holds career averages of 15.9 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 713 career games (640 starts) and is a career 45.3% shooter from the field, 35.4% from three and 77.7% from the free-throw line. Originally selected by the 76ers with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft out of UCLA, Holiday played the first four seasons of his career in Philadelphia, earning an All-Star selection in his final season.
Holiday has also appeared in 30 playoff games throughout his career, making 27 starts, with both the 76ers and Pelicans. In the postseason, Holiday is averaging 17.0 points, 5.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest.
A 6-5 guard from Utah State, Merrill was a two-time All-Mountain West First Team selection (2018-19, 2019-20), the 2018-19 Mountain West Player of the Year and a two-time Mountain West Tournament MVP (2019, 2020) in his career with the Aggies. As a senior last season, Merrill ranked second in the Mountain West with 19.7 points per game to go with 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists, while shooting 46.1% from the field and 41.0% from three. In his four seasons at Utah State, Merrill knocked down 42.0% of his 3-point attempts, 47.0% of his shots overall and 89.1% of his free-throw attempts, while averaging 16.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists over 131 games.
“Sam is someone we’ve had our eye on over his last couple seasons at Utah State,” Horst said. “He has demonstrated the ability to shoot at a high percentage and we like his size and overall feel for the game. We’re excited to get him into camp and watch him compete at this level.”
Bledsoe, who was originally acquired by the Bucks from the Suns in a trade on Nov. 7, 2017, appeared in 210 games (all starts) with the Bucks over the last three seasons and averaged 16.3 points, 5.3 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He also played in and started 31 playoff games for Milwaukee and averaged 13.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds per contest.
Hill played in 106 games (2 starts) with the Bucks after being acquired from the Cavaliers as part of a three-team trade in December of 2018. He averaged 8.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game with the Bucks while shooting 47.9% from the field and 38.5% from three. Hill also appeared in 25 postseason games with Milwaukee where he averaged 10.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
“Eric and George were major contributors to our winning culture in Milwaukee,” Horst added. “They are talented players but even better people. We thank them and their families, and we wish them great success moving forward.”
To complete the trade, Milwaukee will send the draft rights to 2020 first round pick R.J. Hampton to Denver. A 19-year old point guard from Little Elm, Texas, Hampton last played for the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League.