The New Orleans Pelicans franchise appeared to be in an as enviable a position as any other team in the NBA as we entered the 2020s. They had a future superstar in Zion Williamson, a wing on the rise in Brandon Ingram, and a very deep arsenal of draft picks. Alas, this has not resulted in much success for them up to this point. All they have to show for it over the past four seasons are two playoff wins which all came in one playoff run (2022).

Thus, major changes may be coming for a Pelicans team that's becoming expensive really quickly. With Ingram entering the final year of his contract, he appears to be the team's most logical trade candidate. Two teams in particular have been floated as a possible destination for the former All-Star, with those teams being the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

While he didn't exactly cover himself in glory during the Pelicans' short-lived stint in the 2024 NBA playoffs, Brandon Ingram is still an enticing player for teams in need of wing upgrades to pursue, especially after taking into account the fact that he averaged 21-5-6 this past season in 64 games — the most he has suited up in for a single season since his rookie campaign.

The Rockets have long been rumored to be in pursuit of a win-now trade for a star on the wing; they have been setting their sights on Mikal Bridges for the past year or so, and it makes a bit of sense for the Pelicans to try and talk to them regarding a potential Ingram trade instead as he could be available for a lower price due to his contract situation. Alas, the hypothetical swap mentioned was one that involved Alperen Sengun, and justifiably, the Rockets reportedly have “no interest” in such a deal.

Meanwhile, the 76ers' desire to add a third star in this year's offseason may be the worst-kept secret in the entire NBA. Joel Embiid did everything but tamper during his appearance on the ESPN booth during the NBA Finals alongside Paul George, signaling the 76ers' intentions to shoot for the stars.

Whatever the case may be, it's looking very likely that the Pelicans start next season without Brandon Ingram on the roster. The only question now is which jersey will Ingram be donning for the 2024-25 campaign?

Rockets attempt to expedite their rebuild

The Rockets, after finishing with the worst cumulative record from the 2020-21 to 2022-23 season (59-177, 25 percent win rate), improved astronomically this past season. After adding Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks and hiring Ime Udoka to be their next head coach, the Rockets experienced major gains, winning 41 games and making the Golden State Warriors sweat in the race for a play-in tournament spot.

It also helped that the Rockets have drafted well over the past few seasons; Alperen Sengun has been a gem who has flourished as the centerpiece of the team's offense, Jalen Green burst onto the scene as one of the best scorers in the NBA to end the 2023-24 season, while Amen Thompson functioned as a swiss-army knife who was a major plus on the defensive end as well as on the glass.

However, the Rockets, as an organization, appear to have a directive to win now. They reportedly offered a boatload of picks for Mikal Bridges, which suggests that they would want a stellar complementary player with elite defense on the wing.

Bridges, however, seems to be untouchable. The Rockets, however, have the assets to stick to their guns and pursue the player they really like. It appears as though they aren't too keen on Brandon Ingram, as they want to double down on the team's identity of defensive grit to surround Alperen Sengun and Jalen Green, not exactly good defenders for their respective positions, with pieces that complement them perfectly.

Is a trade with the Pelicans the 76ers' Plan B?

The 76ers know that the time for them to go big on the trade market or in free agency is now. They can delay signing Tyrese Maxey to a huge contract so they could fit in another max contract to bolster their Joel Embiid-led core. But in terms of asset management, signing Paul George seems to be the best option, as they won't have to give up any draft assets to add him.

But if the Clippers re-sign George, the 76ers will be faced with a difficult decision. The Pelicans loom as a potential trade partner, with Brandon Ingram coming in and becoming their max guy on the wing, but if there is a trade to be made, expect it to happen once the first wave of signings in free agency has come and gone.