The New Orleans Pelicans were swept out of the NBA Playoffs largely due to injuries, sure. Brandon Ingram was not quite at 100% when returning from a knee issue suffered a month before the postseason tipped off. Zion Williamson went days just days before a possible NBA Playoffs debut, pulling up with a hamstring problem three-quarters of the way through a 40-point game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Still, a point guard and a better-fitting big man would have helped against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Dyson Daniels was drafted to be the lead guard for the Pelicans. The long yet stocky Austrailian's defense-first mindset is paired with an above-average passing ability. His 6'8” frame provides a vision window that makes traditional point guards like Chris Paul jealous. Unfortunately, the former eighth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft has been outplayed by Jose Alvarado over the last two seasons.

The franchise's lottery pick-level investment has not quite paid off for New Orleans but there is still time to cash in on the 21-year-old's potential.

  • The Good
    • tied for 13th among all NBA players in steals at 1.4 per game
    • 2.3 thefts per 36 minutes ranked 3rd in the NBA
    • Under team control for $13.7 million over the next 2 seasons
    • Most steals (85) among second-year players
    • 22nd in Deflections in 2023-24
    • 3rd in Deflections per 36 minutes
    • 2.78: 1 assists to turnover ratio
    • +7.9 year-over-year increase in Offensive Rating
  • The Bad
    • 31% from three-point range
    • 45th in three-pointer percentage among second-year players
    • 64% from the free throw line
    • only 53 free throw attempts in 60 games
    • 35.6% on pull-up shots
    • 52% Effective Field Goal Percentage
    • -4 drop in Defensive Rating
    • 4 points and 0 assists in 17 minutes during NBA Playoffs
    • only scored more than 10 points 5 times all season

Give Daniels credit for coming into a crowded situation and adjusting to life halfway around the world from home.

“I think I took a step from last year in defending, being able to play with a presence, playing with the ball, playmaker for my teammates,” Daniels said. “Growth in a little bit of everything in my game. There’s a lot more growth I have left in me. I’m looking forward to showing that in year three.”

Where will Daniels call home during Year Three though? That's still dependent on a bunch of moving parts.

Pelicans dangling Dyson Daniels in trade talks

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) moves around New Orleans Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels (11) during the second half of game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center.
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The trade market around Brandon Ingram is still shaping up but the stock forecast for Daniels is a bit easier to gauge. More importantly, so is his value to the Pelicans. The young point-of-attack dynamo has NBA All-Defense potential. The only thing suppressing his market is a lack of offensive firepower. However, the Pelicans are chasing the postseason with a clearly defined ballhandling hierarchy. There is only so much time on the ball to go around.

Zion Williamson will operate as a ballhandler more often next season. CJ McCollum will have his moments. The Pelicans could get creative in keeping Ingram. The undrafted Jose Alvarado is in line to lead the reserve or third-string unit for at least one more season. 2023-24 rookie Jordan Hawkins will need more playing time as well. So where does that leave Daniels, who is in line to make just over $6 million next season?

It leaves him dangled as trade bait, basically, an asset to be used in furtherance of the larger goal. The Pelicans are rumored to be actively shopping Ingram, who reportedly has a better market than Trae Young. Adding Daniels and picks to any deal including Ingram would net practically any All-NBA player on the market. Nickeil Alexander-Walker took the same path through the CJ McCollum trade and is now fighting for an NBA Finals spot with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Some sportsbooks are putting out futures bets with the Pelicans in the lead for Darius Garland's next team. That would push Daniels further down the pecking order if not out of the team. Of course, the Pelicans could use Daniels next season. Daniels and Herb Jones terrorized Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in limited minutes sharing the court.

Willie Green just did not trust Daniels enough to let those two pair up for long stretches. Daniels and Jones flanking Williamson and Trey Murphy III is a recipe for success. Daniels just has to make more shots and the front office has to find a flexible big man.

Betting on Daniels to pan out is reasonable but comes with considerable risks. He is still a net-positive asset though. The Pelicans can kick the financial can down the road with a trade and restart the clock on another 2024 NBA Draft prospect on June 26. New Orleans could also net a few extra second-rounders back in the deal to restock those coffers.