A little over two decades into their existence, life in the NBA hasn't always been easy for the New Orleans Pelicans. They've won just two playoff series in that time and have made the playoffs just three times since transforming from the Hornets into the Pelicans ahead of the 2013-14 season. Being a small market team is never easy, but a few moves which have missed the mark certainly haven't helped them in their quest to be consistently competitive, either. But while it hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows for the Pelicans, there have been a few moves on the trade table which have proved beneficial for the organization. These are 6 of the best in New Orleans franchise history.
5. 2012. Pelicans acquire Ryan Anderson from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Gustavo Ayon
This was a pretty straightforward swap, and it's one that the Pelicans won quite comfortably. Anderson was four seasons into his NBA career and had improved substantially in the 2011-12 season, and he continued on his merry way for the Pelicans. During his four-year tenure with the team he became an excellent floor-spacer, maxing out at 40.9% from three during his second season in New Orleans, a season in which he also averaged 19.8 points. In all, he played 280 games for the team, averaging 16.1 points and 5.9 boards in that time. Adding to the success of this trade was the lack of it enjoyed by Gustavo Ayon. He played only 43 games with the Magic and only 81 in total in the NBA after being traded by New Orleans, averaging about four points in that time.
4. 2017. Pelicans acquire DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi from Sacramento Kings in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Gallaway, a first-round pick and a second-round pick
The famous Boogie Cousins deal. This one rocked the NBA world, with DeMarcus Cousins, at the time one of the most dominant forces in the league, leaving the Sacramento Kings after seven seasons to pair up with another of the most dominant big men in Anthony Davis. It was an extraordinary move and one which had the potential to create one of the great 4-5 tandems in league history. Unfortunately, that didn't quite work out. Boogie ruptured his Achilles halfway through his first full season with the team, but his presence early helped them to a 48-win season which ultimately saw them win just their second playoff series ever. The hope was obviously that he would stick around or at least that his acquisition would help to convince Davis to stay – neither of those happened, but for what they gave up few could argue with the logic behind this trade, and for a small market team as consistently mediocre as the Pelicans had been, anything that contributed to making them more relevant could be seen as a win.
3. 2013. Pelicans acquire Jrue Holiday and a second-round pick from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Nerlens Noel and a first-round pick.
For the 76ers, this move was a clear sign of their intentions the following season, as The Process continued. For the Pelicans, it essentially brought a player who would go on to have one of the best careers in the young franchise's history for an early draft pick who never amount to a whole lot at all. Nerlens Noel's career, nearly ten years after he was drafted, has never really taken off, and he's developed into a back-up five – if that. Holiday, meanwhile, spent seven seasons in New Orleans, and in that time was an NBA All-Star, a 2x member of the All-NBA Defensive First or Second Team, and a winner of the NBA Teammate of the Year Award. His elite defense, high basketball IQ and ability to score and facilitate efficiently made him a key player for the Pelicans, and though they didn't enjoy a great deal of success while he was there, this trade was a clear win.
2. 2022. Pelicans acquire CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr and Tony Snell from Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomas Satoransky, Marcos Louzada Silva, a protected first-round pick and two future second-round picks
Maybe it's premature to put this one so high, but for Pelicans fans, this one will hopefully be looked back on as a trade which helped to usher in their most successful era. With the Blazers finally growing tired of their Lillard/McCollum backcourt, CJ was on the trade table, and the Pelicans pounced. With a core consisting of the ever-improving Brandon Ingram and the prodigiously talented Zion Williamson, adding a player of McCollum's caliber gave them a potential line-up which is capable of doing some serious damage – like, beyond the second round which they've never advanced past type damage. Potential, however, is the key word. Williamson played just 29 games in McCollum's first season with the team, and they fell just short of the playoffs with 42 wins. But that was just the first season in what will hopefully be a long and industrious partnership between these three. Winning 42 games largely without the man who should be their best player is certainly no disaster, and if Williamson can overcome his injury woes then this trade may well be ultimately viewed as the one which solidified their path towards championship contention.
1. 2019. Pelicans acquire Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and three first-round picks from Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Anthony Davis
A trade which sees one of the best players in the league leave your team wouldn't typically be at the top of the tree in terms of best trades in franchise history, but this is a) testament to how much the Pelicans got out of the trade and b) reflective of a young franchise without many great trades in its history. When Davis was traded to the Lakers in 2019, he had outwardly shown his lack of desire for remaining in New Orleans, and there didn't appear to be a whole lot they could do about it. A trade was inevitable, and with that being the case they got about as much as they could have hoped for in the deal. Brandon Ingram is developing into one of the best players in their short history, Josh Hart was a large reason they were able to pick up CJ McCollum, as were a few other parts of this trade which were ultimately shipped around the league. The Lakers won the championship in 2020 with AD playing a major role, so from their perspective that alone is sufficient to keep them somewhat happy with the trade. But in the long-term, this is a trade which looks set to keep the Pelicans very competitive for many years to come, and for a small market team which hasn't enjoyed a whole lot of success, that is a huge win.