NBA: The Pelicans Are Better Off Now

Last week, the NBA landscape completely flipped after a major trade finally happened. After months of speculation the New Orleans Pelicans pulled the trigger and traded one of the best talents in the NBA.

The Trade

Anthony Davis was traded from the Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and three first-round draft picks (including the fourth pick in 2019, which they ended up flipping for the 8th, 17th and 35th pick.)

I think the trade was worth the risk for a team that has an aging Lebron James on it. It was clear that the young players didn’t mesh with King James. His agent Rich Paul made it no secret that Lebron wanted to play with Davis, no matter the cost on the current roster. I think it’s definitely a short-term win for the Lakers by pairing two top-five players together.

And when he’s healthy, Davis is unquestionable a top-three player in the league. He finished second behind James Harden in last year’s MVP voting. He’s also a six-time All-star and three-time first-team All-NBA selection; he has a career average of 25.9 points, 12 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.4 steals. Those numbers are Hall-of-Fame worthy, and if he remains somewhat healthy for the rest of his career he will get there.

Yet, despite all of his success and accolades he’s received, he’s been very prone to getting hurt. Davis has had a multitude of nagging problems, accumulating 39 injuries in only seven years. That’s a lot of nicks for a near-7-foot man. Although he is still relatively young at 26, perhaps his body will age quicker than he does.

The fact that the Pelicans got rid of an injury-prone player, who didn’t want to play for them anymore, is a win on its own. Now, they are much better off, thanks in large part due to the massive haul they received in return for Davis. They got some great young pieces that can contribute now.

The Return

Ball and Ingram are both still young, high-ceiling players that can develop into All-stars. They were picked second overall by the Lakers in back-to-back drafts. For Ingram, he showed major potential last season, averaging 18.3 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. His growth shown in his third year was evident, but he suffered from a devastating arm injury. Ball, meanwhile, struggled with injuries as well, and was benched behind Rajon Rondo last year. It was a regression for Lonzo in his second season, but he can surely bounce back as the go-to starter for the Pelicans with a brand new squad. I see both Ingram and Ball coming back strong under Coach Alvin Gentry‘s offense.

Furthermore, they still have very good veterans like Jrue Holiday and Jahlil Okafor that will help the younger players transition. Holiday is one of the best two-way players in the NBA and Okafor had a resurgence last year, starting at center for the Pelicans when Davis sat out. If they manage to resign Julius Randle and keep him in the mix, the Pelicans will be a dangerous team for years to come.

Plus, the Pelicans had already received a pretty good consolation prize by winning the draft lottery for the chance to draft Zion Williamson.

Zion was absolutely thrilling to watch in his one-and-done year at Duke. Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks. He was a walking highlight reel that displayed versatility as a big-man. He can potentially be a point-forward for the Pelicans, much like Draymond Green. As a professional now, Mount Zion will have the chance to back up the hype by leading a young, promising Pelicans core to NBA relevancy.

The Future

The 2019-2020 Pelicans will undoubtedly be very fun to watch. With a potential starting five of Ball-Holiday-Ingram-Randle-Williamson. This lineup would be a menace to face on both sides of the court. Their combined length would be a defensive force and is perfect for modern-day position-less basketball. And on the offensive end: just imagine Ball throwing alley-oops to Zion and Randle, while Jrue and Brandon space the floor with their jump-shooting ability. They can mix-and-match lineups depending on the matchup.

However, there is no doubt that they could use some more pure shooters on the floor. Getting someone like J.J. Redick in free agency on a short contract would be great for the Pelicans. The Pelicans needs to get this move done in order to gain depth in their rotation. They’d also have players like Hart, Elfrid Payton and E’Twaun Moore coming off the bench. Nonetheless, they still need an elite three-point shooter if they want to consistently win in the NBA. Redick would solve this issue, but the Pelicans are also banking on Ball to finally find his shooter’s touch. If Ball can regain his shooting form, New Orleans will be deadly in both the paint and on the perimeter.

Whatever view you have on the Davis trade, there is no doubt that the future looks very bright for New Orleans. They have a young phenom in Zion, and a young, versatile supporting cast to boot. If they use their cap space to retain Randle or get a good free agent, then they’ll be set for the next decade. The Pelicans may just be in the championship discussion within the next three years.

Considering that the Pelicans might have had to let a superstar walk for free, I think the trade was a win for them. They either had to wait a year and hope that a player didn’t want to stay, or trade him for value in return. While no one in that trade may ever live up to Davis’ career, they may prove to be vital pieces in a Pelicans lineup that will centered around Zion.

In the end, the Pelicans will end up winning in the long-term. The Lakers may end up making the finals in the next two years with Lebron and AD. However, the Pelicans are more set for success in the years to come and into the 2020s. They might become the newest NBA dynasty with the young, athletic lineup that they’ll put out every night.

At this moment, New Orleans would be a fringe playoff team in the West, even without Davis. If they add one more piece, then you’re looking at a Finals contender. Not too bad for a team that just traded its franchise superstar.

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