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Why the Jrue Holiday trade makes the Celtics favorites in the East

Apr 19, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) looks to shoot during the third quarter against the Miami Heat during game two of the 2023 NBA Playoffs at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics were heavily impacted by the Damian Lillard trade and they responded perfectly by trading for Jrue Holiday four days later. The Lillard trade certainly made the Bucks favorites however the Holiday trade may have shifted East Favorites back to Boston once more. In this article, I’ll make the case that the Celtics are Eastern Conference favorites and explain why they match up great with the Bucks.  


Why the Jrue Holiday trade makes the Celtics favorites in the East


Defending Giannis: 

While can fully stop Giannis Antetokounmpo, you can try to contain him. The Celtics have been one of the better teams at containing him over the past few years. Losing Robert Williams is certainly a big blow for Boston. However, they still have a defense perfectly equipped to defend Giannis. In previous playoff series, the Celtics have proven they can contain Giannis and have had playoff success against Milwaukee. By trading for Kristaps Porznigs the Celtics bolstered their size and found another capable defender against Giannis. Porzingis and the aging yet productive Al Horford can absolutely be a winning combination against Giannis. Furthermore, the addition of Wenyen Gabriel gives the Celtics another rotational big who could get quality minutes against the Bucks. 


Jrue Holiday: The Dame stopper: 

Jrue Holiday is an elite perimeter defender and has the case as the league’s best perimeter defender. Especially due to Holiday’s valuable ability to consistently shut down his matchup. Derrick White has quickly emerged as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders and was named to all-defensive second team last year. Holiday and White is absolutely a winning recipe against Dame. Holiday has a history of shutting down Lillard in the playoffs including a 2018 series where the 6-seed Pelicans upsetted the heavily favored Trail-Blazers in large part due to Holiday’s elite defensive impact and pressure.  


Star Wing Play:

If there has been one weakness for the Bucks over the past few years is elite wing players. This has been amplified by Khris Middleton’s declining play and is a strong reason why Boston often finds success against the Bucks. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are clearly the best wing duo league wide. As a result, they give Milwaukee’s defense struggles. The elite wing play of Tatum and Brown could be even more of a factor this year considering the Js will be surrounded with a more talented roster in years past all while the Bucks wing defense declined. Needless to say, the Bucks need to address the clear flaw of wing defense and wing play to improve their chances at a title.   


Elite on Both Ends: 

The Celtics were the only team last year to rank top 5 in both offense and defense. Their off-season moves give them the chance to replicate this success. Conversely, the Bucks were the 4th-ranked defense and 12th-ranked offense last year. The Lillard trade evaluates their offense significantly while unfortunately hurting their defense. The Bucks will likely be top 10 on both ends of the floor however top 5 feels like a stretch. Ultimately, the Celtics ceiling feels higher on both ends of the floor. That’s not to say they have a more unstoppable two-man game than Milwaukee or that they will crush the Bucks in a series. However, the Celtics ability to consistently play elite at both ends and upside with their elite shooters gives them the upper leg. 

The Last Word on the Celtics: 

Ultimately all-around excellence gives the Celtics a massive advantage. In the Holiday trade, the Celtics upgraded their strengths and perfectly rounded out their already elite core. It may be unfair to call the Celtics title favorites although they might be. However, picking Boston over Milwaukee albeit slightly seems perfectly fair.


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