New Orleans Pelicans
It’s hard to be considered a “winner” as the team trading away a top-five superstar and perennial MVP candidate who’s still only 26 years old, but the Pelicans come pretty close here.
Losing a player who just averaged 25.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per game on .517/.331/.794 shooting splits in a “down year” is a blow no matter how you look at it, but the Pelicans’ hands were tied. AD didn’t want to be there anymore, he wasn’t going to re-sign in 2020 and they did the right thing building for the future around Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson, who they’ll take No. 1 in the upcoming draft.
While Griffin had been searching for deals that would loop in a third team to provide the requisite talent, young potential and draft picks for a player of Davis’ caliber, the Lakers wound up satisfying all his requirements by surrendering a boatload of assets that could somehow make this team even more exciting than it was with the Brow.
While Brandon Ingram has yet to take that superstar step after three years with the Lakers, including this past season when many thought he was due for a breakout campaign playing alongside LeBron James, he’ll get the chance to flourish with a change of scenery and a young but established core in NOLA.
Even without making “the leap” this season, Ingram posted a career-high 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game on 49.7 percent shooting. His 3-point efficiency plummeted from 39 percent the year before to 33 percent, but he also missed 30 games due to injury problems and played for a Lakers team devoid of floor-spacing (or chemistry) in general.
As for Lonzo Ball, while there are no guarantees he stays in the Big Easy as the Pelicans explore other deals that could include their newly acquired No. 4 overall pick in the upcoming draft, if he does stick there, he could wind up being their point guard of the future.
Remember, Holiday is most effective at the 2, and Lonzo’s court vision and transition passing would be a perfect fit for head coach Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo offense. Ball needed a change of scenery as badly as anyone, and the prospect of him running an offense with Holiday and Ingram, not to mention throwing lobs to Zion in transition, is one worth salivating over.
If Ball and Ingram can both stay healthy, New Orleans could be the place where they both take the next step toward stardom. Between Ball, Holiday, Ingram, Zion and Josh Hart — no mere throw-in as a terrific, young 3-and-D weapon off the bench — the Pelicans’ defense has the makings of an elite unit.
The Pelicans have more options from here too. They can flip Lonzo and/or that No. 4 overall pick for more assets, or they can keep both, allowing Ball to run the offense and adding to a tantalizing young core in the draft with someone like Jarrett Culver (imagine him, Lonzo and Holiday on the defensive end!) or De’Andre Hunter (same!) on the wing.
Throw in three first round picks and the rights to swap another first-rounder and it’s amazing what Griffin was able to reel in from the Lakers.
Moving on from Anthony Davis is a bitter pill to swallow, but if a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the Lakers just sent over a 10-pound bag. Between that and the luck of winning the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, the Pelicans are sitting about as pretty as one could hope for after agreeing to trade away a top-five player.