The New Orleans Pelicans already have a talented team with Zion Williamson, CJ McCollum, and Brandon Ingram headlining a team brimming with potential. However, the Pelicans could be even better next season. Internal development aside, they possess one asset that could eventually help push them over the top: the right to swap picks with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2023 NBA draft.
The Lakers are currently 3-10 and have the third-worst record in the NBA, despite having one of the greatest players ever in LeBron James and eight-time all-star Anthony Davis. Assuming that they stay among the bottom teams, that would give the Pelicans as good a chance as any to select either first or second in the 2023 NBA draft.
The 2023 NBA draft has two likely superstars at the top, and the New Orleans Pelicans can land one of them via the Lakers.
7’4 center Victor Wembanyama and 6’2 point guard Scoot Henderson are expected to be the top two picks in next year’s draft, and the Lakers finishing in the bottom three of the league standings would give them a 14% chance at the number one pick, and a 13.4% chance at the second pick.
Of course, as a result of the trade that sent Davis to the Lakers, the Pelicans reserve the right to swap selections, which they’ll certainly do if it means they’ll get a 27.4% chance of selecting a superstar. That scenario seems almost too good to be true since Williamson, when healthy, is a superstar while Ingram is at the very least a star.
Meanwhile, McCollum has been a borderline all-star for years; imagine adding a generational talent like Wembanyama or an elite guard prospect to the mix. That could immediately make the Pelicans the most talented roster in the NBA. The Lakers, on the other hand, have no incentive to help them by delivering them a high lottery pick, but they may not have a choice.
They have actually been trying to win games, but their lack of shooting has sabotaged their offense and made it incredibly difficult to outscore opponents. They could always make a trade involving Russell Westbrook, but that might not guarantee them a much better result, and it would cost them at least one of their two remaining tradeable first-round picks.
They may ultimately decide to sit tight and ride out the rest of the season and try to reload in the offseason when they will have significant cap space to retool around James and Davis. No matter what they decide to do, the Pelicans will still have the ability to switch picks, and that is reportedly a major concern for the Lakers.
Not only would it make them look worse than they already do, but they desperately need a top pick to try and help salvage a poorly built roster.
All in all, if the Lakers continue to struggle, as they have, the New Orleans Pelicans can greatly benefit from their failure due to their ability to swap picks. While we won’t know for a while where the Lakers’ pick will ultimately land, it could result in the Pelicans adding a future superstar to an already impressive core.