Pelicans debate all-inclusive trade for their best prospect

New Orleans Pelicans clinched 8and choose in the NBA Draft lottery. Now they must extract maximum value from the selection knowing that their roster will be built around Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson. With that in mind, the front office led by David Griffin will always explore an aggressive move to trade in the NBA Draft.

It’s doubtful the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder or Houston Rockets will pass Chet Holmgren, Paola Banchero and Jabari Smith Jr. with the top three picks. Sacramento Kings rumored to explore 4-way tradeand up, but a bidding war is expected. How much will the Pelicans sacrifice for someone who may not have a big role next season?

Big bets versus small investments

The Pelicans have the aces to outbid other teams but the front office should be sold on the prospect. They want to invest in this current roster without betting too much on the future on an unproven prospect. Inexperience might be the only knock on Shaedon Sharpe, for example.

There may not be a player worth the future draft capital the Kings would want. Well, at least not for New Orleans given their roster priorities and season goals for the next two seasons. Swapping places with the Detroit Pistons or Indiana Pacers could cost less while allowing the Pelicans to hit their mark.

A deal with the Portland Trail Blazers would only move the Pelicans up one spot. Maybe another team would make a late push, but then the middle of the draft lottery becomes a high-stakes poker game. The Pelicans could sweeten the pot for Portland or call their bluff, hoping the Trail Blazers hold on to their selection instead of backing down. Any deal with Portland could revolve around Devonte’ Graham and Josh Hart and not just draft compensation.

Possible targets

The Pelicans have their sights set on several top-10 prospects. A case can be made for AJ Griffin Jr., TyTy Washington, Jalen Duren and Johnny Davis. One of them will fall to the Pelicans if they just stay pat, but the front office might not want to settle in just to watch another team rush for their guy.

Jaden Ivey and Keegan Murray are the betting favorites to be selected 4th if the Pelicans trade with the Kings. Both were very impressive in the NBA Draft Combine and could play a starring role with the reserve unit, providing an extra punch off the bench.

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David Griffin watched from the sidelines as Dyson Daniels endured such an impressive workout it could have propelled him into the top five in the NBA Draft. The Pelicans were one of six teams that interviewed Arizona’s G/F Bennedict Mathurin and The Athletic reports that New Orleans took a hard look at Jeremy Sochan.

March 24, 2022; San Antonio, TX, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Bennedict Mathurin (0) reacts after the game against the Houston Cougars in the South Region semifinals of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Possible exchanges

New Orleans could offer Kira Lewis Jr. to the Kings in lieu of any future unprotected supplemental first-round draft picks. Sacramento could give rehab Lewis Jr. time to develop behind De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell. Asking for Alex Len or Trey Lyles in return would fill the New Orleans reserve big man depth chart and balance the salary cap fee.

Trading with the Pistons could bring Frank Jackson back to New Orleans to fill out the roster backstory. A Garrett Temple for Cory Joseph trade could benefit everyone involved. Joseph would give the Pelicans insurance at guard while Temple would get more minutes to help another young team develop.

The Pistons and Kings trades would revolve around end-of-the-bench picks and reserves. A trade to the Pacers could give the Pelicans more upscale value. Indiana has already begun its rebuild around Tyrese Haliburton. Buddy Hield and Myles Turner have been on the radar for years. TJ McConnell and Malcolm Brogdon might not fit their new schedule.

A third team might be needed to secure a title-like deal with the Pacers, but the Pelicans can afford to get creative. They will even present offers for the 8th choice. Will they see these progression offers as worthwhile investments or just pointless gambling after a playoff season?

The team’s due diligence performed now could pay dividends for the rest of the decade or deplete the war chest by keeping the championship window open. The action is there if the Pelicans want to up the ante. They have until the NBA Draft on June 23 to make a decision.

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