The New Orleans Pelicans are big winners after last night’s NBA draft. The Pelicans are slated to enter the 2019-2020 season with Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Jahlil Okafor, and Texas center Jaxson Hayes.
That is an absurdly talented young nucleus, and throw in Jrue Holiday, a premier two-wing veteran guard, and the Pelicans have the chance to be a playoff team in Zion’s first year.
Think of all the lobs. Think of all the highlights. Think of all the celebrations for a team that has won only two playoff series in 17 years.
The Pelicans had a dark cloud hanging over them the entire 2018-2019 NBA season. When Anthony Davis and his agent, Rich Paul, declared that Davis wanted a trade, the Pelicans were thrown into a whirlwind of speculation, demands, and uncertainty.
On June 15, the questions surrounding Davis’ position with the team were solved.
The Pelicans have agreed to a deal to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks – including the No. 4 overall in 2019 Draft, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2019
Having Davis on the team entering the 2019-2020 season would have burdened the Pelicans with a lot of unnecessary controversies. Instead, they got a clean slate, and an absolute haul of a return on their previous franchise cornerstone.
Lonzo Ball has gotten injured in both of his first two seasons thus far, but when he has been healthy his playmaking ability and defense have been strong indicators of a long and successful career.
Similarly, Brandon Ingram has had injury issues in his brief time in the league, going down last season with deep vein thrombosis in his arm, a blood clot issue that could become troublesome moving forward.
That being said, Ingram is a talented scorer and defender, with all signs pointing to him only getting better. Josh Hart serves as a solid 3-and-D wing at a cheap cost. While the Pelicans can be happy with their incoming players from the Lakers, the most exciting move for the franchise came on May 14, when the Pelicans won the first pick in the NBA draft lottery after only having a 7 percent chance.
In essence, they won the Zion sweepstakes. After all, the 6 foot 7, 285-pound monster is the most highly-sought-after NBA prospect since Lebron James.
Yeah. Big deal.
Zion Williamson Official Duke Blue Devils Highlights pic.twitter.com/njwiE5a0F9
— Zion Williamson Videos (@ZionWillVideos) June 13, 2019
David Griffin, the new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the New Orleans Pelicans (essentially the one running the show), has a good reputation around the NBA.
In 2016, his moves for the Cleveland Cavaliers helped them win their first championship in franchise history. Even after dealing with Anthony Davis, Griffin wasn’t done making moves.
Hours before the draft, he made another move.
Atlanta has acquired New Orleans No. 4 pick in the draft for No. 8 and 17 and 35, league sources tell ESPN. Pelicans are sending Solomon Hill, No. 57 pick and a future second-round pick.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2019
The Pelicans traded down in a draft where experts saw little to no difference in players expected to be picked between 4 and 10. The team also received a protected first-round pick for next year and they unloaded the dreadful Solomon Hill contract off their books.
The Pelicans picked Texas center Jaxson Hayes for the eighth pick, a high-flying, athletic big man at a position of need, and by trading away Hill, Griffin has the opportunity to sign one or two veterans to help teach and develop the team’s young core.
Winning the Zion sweepstakes undoubtedly made it easier for the Pelicans to trade Davis. If Davis hadn’t asked for a trade last season and been subsequently put on a minutes restriction, the Pelicans would have won many more games, and not been in a position to win or even enter the draft lottery.
So in a weird way, Pelicans fans should be thanking Davis. How’s that for irony?
With Griffin at the helm, Pelicans fans should be excited for the rest of this summer, and the years ahead. Zion is not just a ready-made star, but he is box office. And after his emotional interview last night, how can you not like the young man? He is one of the first superstars in recent memory to seemingly have no ego.
He is exactly what you want in a franchise cornerstone.
If you haven't seen Zion's emotional reaction to being the No. 1 pick yet, you should: pic.twitter.com/HxLqIIoC9S
— ESPN (@espn) June 21, 2019
Jrue Holiday will serve as a great mentor for Zion. Plus, he’ll always be able to look to Lonzo Ball for advice on how to deal with extreme media attention.
Still, winning and cohesion may take some time, as well as attendance in a city that heavily favors football, but one thing is abundantly clear: The Pelicans are going to be a joy to watch.