Could the Pelicans land Zion & Ja Morant?

It's not as far fetched as you might think

Seth Dunlap
May 21, 2019 - 6:17 pm
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The moment NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum announced the Pelicans had claimed the top pick in this year's NBA draft it was a forgone conclusion that Zion Williamson would be headed to New Orleans.  The Pelicans, already savoring their fortune at landing the No. 1 selection, shouldn't be content at landing Zion; they have a real opportunity to come out of the draft with both of this year's top prospects.

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Right behind Williamson on most draft boards is Ja Morant, the ultra-skilled point guard from Murray State who is widely regarded as the second best player in the draft.  The No. 2 selection belongs to the Memphis Grizzlies, and reports indicate they are fully prepared, and excited, to take Morant with that pick.  The Grizzlies won't be involved in the looming bidding war for Anthony Davis, or even Jrue Holiday, if the Pelicans make him available.  So how exactly could the Pelicans snag Ja and Zion this summer?

 

The Knicks (Pick No. 3) and Lakers (Pick No. 4) sit directly behind Memphis in the draft.  Those franchises are two of the leading contenders to trade for Davis this summer, with both teams reportedly willing to offer multiple young players and future draft picks to the Pelicans in return.  The Pelicans should turn the negotiations with those teams into potential three-way deals that involve the Grizzlies. There are multiple scenarios where the Pelicans trade away Davis and come up with Morant in return.

The Knicks have assets, perhaps Mitchell Robinson, that the Pelicans may be hesitant to take on in return.  New York also has an intriguing young point guard already on their roster in Dennis Smith Jr. that would likely be part of any trade package for Anthony Davis.  The Pelicans could send Anthony Davis to the Knicks, who would then send Smith Jr., Robinson and the rights to likely third-overall selection R.J. Barrett to Memphis, with the Grizzlies sending Morant to New Orleans in return.  There would undoubtedly be more ancillary pieces around that core deal, but not only does the trade look possible, it may even be probable.  The Grizzles are entering what is likely to be an extended rebuilding period.  If they can get multiple young players and picks in return it would make sense to swap Morant for Barrett.  

With the Lakers, things become a bit more complicated.  Williamson, Morant, and Barrett are seen as the three best prospects in this class. Exchanging Morant for Barrett, both considered fairly cant-miss prospects, is an easier sell that it would be to swap Morant for anybody else drafted behind him.  Still, the Lakers are widely expected to part with their fourth overall selection as they try to build a contender immediately around an aging LeBron James.  Would the Grizzles move Morant for whoever the Lakers select, plus a return that could include Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, plus future picks?  That also seems like a winning deal for Memphis.

While the game of musical chairs at the top of the draft is still being played, it's not unfathomable to project both top prospects in this year's draft playing in New Orleans next season.  The duo of Williamson and Morant would be an incredible foundation to build around as this new era of Pelicans basketball begins.

Also on-line: Pelicans should look to Warriors for championship blueprint

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