The make-believe label for the rest of this season’s “most important non–All-Star” has several fun candidates. Jamal Murray, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, CJ McCollum, Deandre Ayton, Mike Conley, Kemba Walker, Tobias Harris, Kristaps Porzingis, and half of Toronto’s starting five are all in position to affect the title race.
Jrue Holiday might not even be the first nominee on his own team (Khris Middleton was robbed!) but he’s the only one out of every name mentioned who can claim to be that elusive missing piece. Back in November, the Bucks traded Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, three first-round draft picks (including R.J. Hampton) and two pick swaps (in 2024 and 2026) for the 30-year-old one-time All-Star and free-agent-to-be who famously eviscerated Damian Lillard’s Blazers the last time he competed in the playoffs.
Now, two months into his Bucks tenure, recently returned from a 10-game coronavirus-related absence, Holiday’s impact in Milwaukee has been a steady (albeit subdued) delight. When their hopeful difference maker was out, the Bucks were mediocre, 5–5 with the 10th-ranked offense, 17th-ranked defense, and an unimpressive +2.8 net rating.
But before that point, the Bucks were a league-best +10.0; Holiday thrived with fewer offensive demands and was never more efficient or accurate scoring inside the arc (somewhat thanks to a career-high 49% of his shots being assisted). His usage is still the lowest it’s been since he was a rookie and his assist-to-turnover ratio has never been better. Going back to 2014, when pull-up threes started being tracked, the 38.6% he's knocking down are a high.