The New Orleans Pelicans caught a big break during the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery. Going in, the Pels had a 6.0% chance to win what is essentially labeled as the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. Well, luck was on their side (depending on who you ask) and the Pelicans have a shot to correct mistakes that were made in the past and build for a brighter future.
But the issue with the Pelicans does not begin with a decision on whom to draft. The No. 1 pick just may be the start of a dynasty in New Orleans. But all this depends on what happens with current star, Anthony Davis. Or does it?
According to reports, Davis still wants out of New Orleans. But has Davis actually came out and stated this his mindset is still on a departure? Let’s play the role of devil’s advocate here and say he decides to stay. Then what?
The Pelicans’ roster has talent. Davis averaged 25.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game in 2018. Normal numbers for Davis but there were others who stepped up as well. In the same frontcourt, in what may have been the steal of the 2018 offseason, Julius Randle had a remarkable year for the Pelicans.
Randle, coming over from the Los Angeles Lakers averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds in 2018. That’s not all. The Pelicans also have a reliable scorer in the backcourt in Jrue Holiday (21.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 7.7 assists). The roster, when healthy, will feature three 20 point scorers on the floor. And this is before grabbing the No. 1 pick.
Now, the big issue will come if the Pelicans do decide to grab Williamson. Where would he play? Anthony can play either PF or C and the same goes for Randle. However, Zion Williamson fits into the same mold. In 2018, Randle was the Pelicans 6th Man. Is that the same role he wants heading into 2019 or did his play earn him the right to become a full-time starter?
Instead of giving in to Davis, the Pelicans should be trying to sell him on the future. To build a powerhouse, it does take time and some luck. For years, many wondered if Stephen Curry would be a bust due to his issues with his ankles. It’s time the Pelicans prove to Davis they have a plan. And what might that plan be?
For starters, fight to keep Davis, Holiday, Randle and draft either Ja Morant or R.J. Barrett. Yes, passing on Williamson may be huge but his game is not what the Pelicans need at this time. They need perimeter play and Williamson is not that guy. What Davis needs are players who can play their roles.
Another option the Pelicans can go is to trade that No. 1 pick along with either Davis, Holiday or Randle and build toward the future in one offseason. If Davis is indeed out, now is the time to start thinking about possibly drafting Williamson and building around him.
Either way the Pelicans decide to go, they have plenty of options to build a powerhouse. The No. 1 pick this offseason is great but what if they can’t get it going in 2019? What this does is set them up for two straight years of high-profile players. Then, with salary cap relief on it’s way, this is how they will be able to build from the ground up.
It will take time no matter the direction they decide to go in.
Trading Davis will force the Pelicans to part with the face of their franchise. He’s arguably one of the top 5 players in the NBA but his time may be up in the Big Easy due to the constant loosing. By moving Davis and drafting Williamson (if that’s the route) the Pelicans should gain a good 3-4 players and possibly future first-round picks along the way.
Think back to the Lakers’ offer last trade deadline when Magic Johnson put Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma on the table but the Pels declined. If the Lakers were to make that same offer this offseason, imagine where the Pelicans could be in 2019.
There’s no need for the Pelicans to panic. The free agent class this season is loaded with talent with players such as Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Tobias Harris, and Kawhi Leonard. If Davis is moved, the Lakers could use some of that cap space to go after one of those players.
Building a powerhouse will not happen overnight but who’s to say that adding that No. 1 pick is not the start of something special. The Davis issue must still be resolved, however, his departure may be the blessing in disguise the team needs to move forward.
The right free agent here, the right draft pick there, and best of all, the right trade could have the New Orleans Pelicans atop the Western Conference in just a matter of two years.