The Zion Williams saga with the New Orleans Pelicans continues to draw headlines. Most of us were expecting Williamson to be ready for the start of the season. He even said as much in late September. That obviously was not the case. About a month into the season, the Pelicans announced a slight step back but that he should return soon. A month later, it was reported that Williamson was rehabbing away from the team.
During the All-Star break, news broke that newly acquired CJ McCollum had not even spoken with Williamson since his trade to New Orleans. That set off a whole new firestorm, calling into question Williamson's ability to work with others. With all of the drama, it might just make sense for both the Pelicans and Williamson to move on from one another.
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3 Best Trade Destinations for Zion Williamson and New Orleans Pelicans
The Pacers have already cashed out all of their chips. They are clearly in rebuilding mode. Prior to the NBA trade deadline, they sent Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings and got back Tyrese Haliburton. With Haliburton's presence in the lineup, it makes Malcolm Brogdon somewhat expendable.
If the Pacers package together Brogdon with a couple of draft picks, I think this trade would make sense both ways. The Pelicans can then move McCollum back to his true position as a shooting guard. Brandon Ingram can shift to the three spot as a wing. It gives New Orleans one of the better backcourts in the NBA, in a guard-driven league.
Meanwhile, Williamson gets a fresh start with the Pacers. With Sabonis out, there's an obvious hole to fill. Their games are very similar. They dominate in the paint, shoot an incredibly high percentage, and can rebound at an elite level. It's a win-win trade.
Similar to the Pacers, the Trail Blazers are playing for the future. Williamson is still only 21 years old. He still has plenty left in the tank, assuming he can get healthy.
Portland can make a package centered on the expiring contract of Jusuf Nurkic. The Pelicans could acquire him and maybe a draft pick or two. The trade, assuming NOLA does not re-sign Nurkic, would give the squad tons of cap space for free agency.
Whenever you lose a franchise-type player like Williamson, you need another to secure your fanbase. Although the 2022 free agent class is not spectacular, Bradley Beal and Kyrie Irving will be out there. The Pelicans would have enough money to fit one of them under the cap and provide a new future.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers would suddenly have a very imposing starting lineup next season. Anfernee Simmons played so well, they were able to move McCollum. Damian Lillard should be back next season. If you pair those two guards with Zion Williamson, that's formidable.
The Knicks make sense as a possible destination for Williamson for many reasons. One particular reason is he would be happy. A player with the celebrity status and stardom such as the former no. 1 overall pick would obviously shine in the mecca of basketball, New York City.
He also would be reunited with his former college teammates RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish. Barrett, Reddish, and Williamson dominated college basketball at Duke only a few years ago.
New York has a handful of expendable veterans on the roster, including Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, and Obi Toppin. Although this deal would not land a potential superstar in return for the Pelicans, it would bring with them a lot of draft flexibility.
Logically, New Orleans' first option for the future would generally be to keep Williamson for his entire career. But even the marketing department seems to have moved on from that idea. Both Williamson's camp and the Pelicans seem hellbent on not working together or communicating. Instead of holding on to a potential Ben Simmons-type situation, it might make the most sense for the Pelicans to deal their once-franchise player.
If that is the case, these three teams would at least provide an avenue for the squad moving forward.