The last piece of the puzzle costs more

The Bucks’ crazy bet for Jrue Holiday makes sense


In the Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn needs a T-14 hyperdrive generator to fly away from Tatooine and save the world. He visits the junk dealer Watto, who says “you’re in luck! I’m the only one hereabout who has one. But you might as well buy a new ship. It would be cheaper I think, uh?”

They’re out in the middle of nowhere, Qui-Gon has 97 percent of a functioning ship and a need to get places. Qui-Gon must have that hyperdrive and he must have it now. Watto knows leverage. 

Qui-Gon is like the Milwaukee Bucks—just one part short of dreams coming true. Jrue Holiday is the T-14 hyperdrive. The Pelicans’ David Griffin is Watto.

The Bucks are reportedly sending the Pelicans Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, three first-round picks, and the right for the Pelicans to twice trade picks. The Bucks absolutely lost that trade. The Pelicans got way more parts, but the Bucks got the piece they believe they need to re-sign Giannis, to win a title, to make this whole project worthwhile.

This is a slightly discounted version of the Clippers’ trade for Paul George, which came with Kawhi. The final pieces cost more. 

Besides, Jrue Holiday is proof that winning trades isn’t the same as winning.

The Pelicans “won” every deal of Holiday’s career, but never achieved the liftoff. Like most of the NBA, they’re still stuck in the mediocre middle of Tatooine. Yay?

This is everyone doing their job. Winning lots of deals is the perfect way for a 30-win team like the Pelicans to build toward the day they can be a hyperdrive away. Until then, they need a lot of parts. Meanwhile, going all in for one surgical deal is exactly how a 56-win small-market team like the Bucks can elbow their way into the pantheon. 

Is it risky? It’s risky as hell. 

Interestingly, Qui-Gon never agreed to Watto’s crazy price. Instead he bet with him, on the Boonta Eve Classic, a wild-and-woolly race between 18 different pod racers. It’s a lot like the NBA season. Most of the pods crash. Some have bolts fall off, or billow smoke. There’s a cheating guy named Sebulba. It came terrifyingly close to disaster. 

But it worked this one time. That’s the Bucks’ plan.

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