The New Orleans Pelicans are holders of the 2024 NBA Draft's 21st overall pick but the front office is most assuredly on the clock. The Western Conference is wide open for all takers next season and Zion Williamson will be back for another run. The front office is operating with an urgency to improve according to EVP David Griffin which means everyone but Williamson is fair game in trade negotiations. Dyson Daniels tops the list of recent lottery picks being dangled on the trade market.

The now 21-year-old Daniels was always projected to be a long-term investment as a teenage draftee in 2022. Unfortunately, the Pelicans need a new center and more production for the point guard position immediately. They are currently the odds-on favorite to land Darius Garland this summer. Daniels is likely the odd man out in the backcourt rotation in that situation, but he could be packaged with Larry Nance Jr. to acquire a new frontcourt face to replace Jonas Valanciunas.

Regardless of how any particular negotiation shakes out, there are options on the table that require the team to move on from the former eighth-overall pick. A change of scenery in the CJ McCollum deal helped Nickiel Alexander-Walker find a better footing in the NBA game. Daniels might need the same shock to the system to find the right fit and role in the future. Thankfully for the Pelicans, the 20-year-old Austrailian still has a positive value in the current trade market.

Make Memphis say no to a Dyson Daniels trade

Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (35) matches up against New Orleans Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels (11) during the second half at Footprint Center.
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies are considering a major shake-up that will include their 2024 NBA Draft pick (9th overall) according to ESPN's Bobby Marks. Memphis is making those moves to avoid the luxury tax per Marks. Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley has the Grizzlies using Marcus Smart to move up in the draft. The Pelicans have to get in touch with the Memphis decision-makers to find out the truth.

Asking uncomfortable questions is part of any interview or dating process. Make Memphis have to say no to a deal. That's part of Griffin's job this offseason. Swing for the fences first.

Dyson Daniels and Larry Nance Jr. for Marcus Smart with Nance Jr. and the ninth overall pick being traded elsewhere would clear out the roster and financial logjams for both franchises.

Smart is a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year and three-time NBA Hustle Award winner. Daniels has that potential but the 30-year-old will be in All-Defensive Team conversations for the next few years. His two-year, $20 million-a-season deal comes with 14.5 points and 4.8 assists per game too. That's a package Willie Green can work with without sacrificing offense, as is the case with Daniels.

Just get Jazz singing about Lauri Markkanen

Offering Daniels, Nance Jr., and a handful of first-round picks for Lauri Markkanen is perhaps the biggest home run swing Griffin can muster this summer. If Danny Ainge is indeed looking to make a deal for Markkanen the Pelicans have to at least know the price. New Orleans also has to be willing to pay it should the Jazz want just four first-round selections back in the swap.

The toughest part of negotiations would be working out a contract extension. Markkanen would be a free agent next summer. The Pelicans could not risk losing what is most likely Brandon Ingram's replacement for nothing after just one season.

Hashing out a deal with the Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks seem determined to split up Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. However, the Pelicans may not get their future point guard from the rebuilding Hawks. Daniels and Nance Jr. for Onyeka Okongwu aids both teams with their goals. New Orleans gets a big man to pair with Zion Williamson. Atlanta gets a young, cost-controlled asset in the backcourt and can move Nance Jr. at the trade deadline.

Okongwu has proven a capable backup to Clint Capela and there is reason to believe a bigger role would not be too much to ask. The 240-pound, 6'8” center does have an injury history though. He also has logged more than 30 minutes a mere 28 times so far in a 262-game NBA career  Still, Okongwu and Karlo Matkovic would be a nice one-two frontcourt punch to change the pace behind Williamson if everything works out.

There would be no worries about a contract extension either. Okongwu just inked a 4-year, $62 million deal last summer.

Waving a wand at the Wizards

The Washington Wizards have 19-year-old Balil Coulibaly, the second pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, and a new front office coming in to start a rebuild. Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma are known quantities on expensive contracts, making Deni Avdija their most valuable asset.

The 23-year-old ended the 2023-24 campaign with a 56% Effective Field Goal Percentage, shot 37.4% from three-point range, and converted 73.7% of all at-rim attempts. Avdija attempted a career-high 33.6% of all field goal attempts within three feet of the rim according to Basketball-Reference.

Avdija is locked up on a team-friendly contract for the next four years. He is on the same age and contract timeline as Williamson, Trey Murphy III, and Herb Jones. Avdija has improved by leaps and bounds in all four of his NBA seasons. Acquiring the young potential All-Star would put pressure on the Western Conference and keep some international flavor in the locker room to replace the humor of Jonas Valanciunas.

Pelicans workshopping with Warriors

Swapping Daniels for Kevin Looney helps, well, everyone. Golden State needs some fresh legs behind Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Daniels will get to take notes backing up a Hall-of-Famer. Looney gets more minutes than the Warriors can offer. The Pelicans get a reliable rebounder to replace Nance Jr. at a cheaper rate. Looney's salary cap hit is $3.2 million cheaper than Nance Jr., who would be moved elsewhere.

Both teams would save money while bringing in a better roster fit personnel-wise. Those are the moves a highly scrutinized front office needs to consider. The Pelicans selected Daniels over Jalen Williams and Jalen Duren. New Orleans elected not to trade back for Christian Braun or Walker Kessler.

Now the front office is facing a big decision on Daniels, whose third-year option for just over $6 million will be picked up. Where Daniels will be cashing those game checks next October is still in doubt though.