The NBA Draft Combine is a wrap and the postseason is down to the final four teams. Every other franchise is scheduling private workouts and starting to push for information to use in the trade market. The New Orleans Pelicans are in the middle of action with many league media members assuming Brandon Ingram will be moved this offseason.

Sure, the Pelicans could get creative with a contract extension for Ingram. Still, EVP David Griffin promised fans will “see a real sense of urgency” from the front office over the next few months. Marc Stein is reporting that has been translated into an aggressive shopping of Ingram by the rest of the league. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the main partner mentioned but there are several under-the-radar moves the front office needs to explore before the NBA Draft night mayhem begins.

Pelicans building Bridges to Nets

First, the Brooklyn Nets need to strike out in free agency and fail to find a new home for Ben Simmons. Then they'd have no choice but to listen to offers for Mikal Bridges. Brandon Ingram and Dyson Daniels for Bridges and Nicolas Claxton would hinge on draft picks. The Pelicans should insist on a first-rounder, a couple of swap rights, and also try to get two second-rounders back in return. New Orleans is the team giving up a younger All-Star after all.

The amount of picks might come down to Ingram's willingness to sign an extension with the Nets. Bridges (27 – August 30) is almost exactly one year older than Ingram (26 – September 2) but has yet to make an NBA All-Star team. Bridges was named to the 2022 NBA All-Defense First Team but that is the lone individual honor as a professional for the two-time NCAA champion out of Villanova.

Brooklyn's marquee star averaged 19.6 points on 15.8 shots per game last season. Bridges added 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists to the stat sheet along with one steal to two turnovers per game. He shot 43.6% from the field and 37.2% from three-point range. Ingram posted 20.8 points on 49.2% from the field and 35.5% from beyond the arc. Bridges attempted over seven threes per game while Ingram hovered around three.

Claxton, who will hopefully agree to a sign-and-trade deal worth no more than $65 million over three years. Jarrett Allen is only getting $20 million, so add a small sweetener for inflation and small market inconveniences. The Nets would get a defensively inconsistent, offensively minded All-Star who averages better stats and a flyer on Daniels. The Pelicans would get a near-elite defender with above-average offensive weapons and a backup center to pair with Zion Williamson.

Kings get outfoxed for All-Star

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) dribbles against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) during the second half of game four of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Smoothie King Center.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Wise executives trade away All-Stars a year early and draft picks before they become actual players. Those looking to be clever may try to convince a smart front office to out-think itself. That's the approach with an Ingram for De'Aaron Fox deal.

Fox and Domantas Sabonis have hit a ceiling, or so EVP David Griffin will tell the Kings. Sabonis and Ingram fit better together and the Pelicans will put in some draft assets as well. The Western Conference will be impossible next season. Sacramento will get to start a small, one-year reset around two All-Stars with cap room and picks to burn. The Kings won't even have to pay a luxury tax. New Orleans is literally trying to give Sacramento some money and a way out of a tough, dead-end-road ramp to nowhere with the Fox-Sabonis tandem.

At least that's the pitch. The New Orleans-born Fox averaged 26.6 points, 6.8 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game last season. He shot 48.4% from the field and 33.8% from three-point range but was constantly taking tough shots. One has to imagine more open looks and better averages for Fox playing with Williamson and being closer to home cooking. The Pelicans just have to outfox another inconsistent if not unproven front office.

Pairing up with Portland, again

The Pelicans need a big man to replace Jonas Valanciunas. DeAndre Ayton needs a redemption story to counter the current career narratives. These two franchises went down this road before, except it was for shooting guard CJ McCollum. This proposition would see McCollum and Ayton become teammates just two years after battling in the NBA Playoffs.

Ayton has two years remaining on his contract worth $69.5 million. The 25-year-old seemed to turn a corner leading a young squad last season, averaging 23.2 points and 12.4 rebounds over the final 15 games. Ayton's 57% field goal mark was 15th best in the league and his shot chart included plenty of midrange looks.

Ingram and the 21st pick in 2024 for Ayton and the seventh pick in 2024 would be the basis of the deal. Honestly, Nikola Topic to the Pelicans would likely have to happen at least one pick sooner if he is indeed the trade-up target. If not, the deal gets more complicated due to draft compensation or a third team getting involved.

In the Saddle with Spurs

Zach Collins for Ingram would help the Pelicans find a big man and restock the draft coffers. The Spurs are stocked with extra picks from the Atlanta Hawks thanks to the Dejounte Murray deal. San Antonio also has the cap space to absorb Ingram's contract, saving New Orleans about $20 million in cap space. That sizable trade exception created and a replenished draft war chest would be huge at the trade deadline as well.

Victor Wembanyama needs a bail-out bucket-getter on the wing. Ingram is one of the best in the world in that regard, no matter the doubts about the rest of his mid-range-based offensive-minded game. Collins, Larry Nance Jr., and Karlo Matkovic would be the core of the front court's reserve unit when Zion Williamson or Herb Jones is not playing the paint-patroling five spot.

The problem with trading for Collins is a decrease in overall roster talent and a big gamble of future draft picks being in the lottery. The Hawks and Spurs could both regroup rather quickly, leaving the Pelicans holding a bunch of picks with diminishing value.

Grinding down deals with Grizzlies

Marcus Smart and Brandon Clarke for Ingram would add a bit more fuel to a growing rivalry. Memphis and New Orleans are musical cities that both lay claim to some globally-recognized culinary greatness. The Crescent City versus Grind City get-togethers would be slightly more amped up with Ingram switching uniforms from Big Easy to Beale Street blue.

But this kind of deal might have to be done. Memphis is looking to mix things up according to several reports. Ja Morant's return means Smart could be deemed surplus to requirements. The Grizzlies paid a pretty penny for his services last summer, but that was when Morant's suspension had to be factored in. Mornat will squeeze Smart for minutes next season, as will Desmond Bane.

Ingram slots in perfectly between Morant, Bane, GG Jackson, and Jaren Jackson Jr. Getting Smart into Willie Green's system is a recipe for defensive success. Smart's offensive game would fit well next to Williamson, Trey Murphy III, Herb Jones, and CJ McCollum. However, this deal still feels like the Pelicans will need a bit more to get it over the line.