Con: Pushing the timeline further out
No matter how good Zion is, he’ll need time to adjust to the NBA. History shows us that even the best players take years to reach the end rounds of the playoffs. History also shows us that it is never smart to trade away one of the top-10 players in the league — those trades are hard to win by definition.
A Big 3 of Zion-Davis-Jrue Holiday would be the best defensive trio in the league, bar none, and a scary good offensive one too. By holding on to Davis, you buy Zion time to grow into an alpha role, and likely guarantee a playoff appearance — and who knows what else? While the Pelicans’ cap inflexibility and nonexistent depth make it hard to imagine a jump above 55 wins next season with that Big 3, the team’s defense would mesmerize.
In his lone year at Duke, Zion posted a 3.9 percent steal percentage (above Kawhi Leonard‘s career 2.9 percent rate) and a 5.8 block percentage (above AD’s career 5.6 percent rate). Adding that kind of menace alongside Davis and Holiday would turn New Orleans into one of the scariest teams in the league.
Dealing Davis will not net equal present-day value, meaning the Pelicans are taking title contention off the board for 2019-20. While the playoffs and roughly 45 wins would still be a possibility, that might be a stretch considering how good the Western Conference is every year.
Months ago, before taking the head honcho position in the Pelicans front office, David Griffin noted he’d want this in any AD trade:
The Pelicans have multiple teams lined up that could provide that package, but it would involve massively shifting the franchise’s timeline for competing. If that were to happen, holding onto Jrue Holiday would be hard to justify given his current value. NBA insider and loudest man alive Stephen A. Smith has even noted he’s heard whispers about Jrue wanting out of New Orleans if AD is dealt, which only complicates things further.
If New Orleans does trade Davis, it’ll need to readjust its franchise outlook, which could lead to trading Holiday as well to maximize the team’s future championship aspirations. If that does come to pass, can one of the smallest markets in the NBA withstand a rebuild, even with multiple blue chippers?