By 750 THE GAME STAFF
The New Orleans Pelicans have been oddly open about their fascination with Scoot Henderson.
As a result, reports over the past week say the Pels are looking to trade up with Charlotte at No. 2 or Portland at No. 3 overall to land Henderson come draft night.
New Orleans has the No. 14 pick in the draft.
To get to No. 2 or No. 3, the Pelicans may very well have to deal Zion Williamson, their former number-one overall pick in 2019.
Williamson is averaging 25.8 points and 7.0 rebounds a game while shooting over 60% from the floor in his first four seasons in the NBA. But injuries are a problem, limiting him to playing in just 37% of the Pelicans games in that stretch (111 games played in 308 games).
With a name like Zion in trade rumors, and a team like Portland willing to package the No. 3 overall pick, ESPN did a panel giving their best Zion-related trades for 5 teams who could be in the mix.
Kevin Pelton did the Blazers mock trade and gave his reasoning for why a Zion trade makes sense.
The Blazers face a dilemma with the No. 3 pick: trade it for veteran help on star guard Lillard’s timetable, or pick somebody who can lead the franchise in the post-Dame era? Dealing for Williamson could allow them to split the difference. If healthy — key if — Williamson is the All-Star teammate Lillard hasn’t had since LaMarcus Aldridge left in free agency eight years ago.
Williamson, despite the injury history, has already made two All-Star games, and won’t even turn 23 years old until July.
Meanwhile, at 22, Zion wouldn’t be much older than 2022 lottery pick Shaedon Sharpe. The cost for the Blazers, besides the No. 3 pick, is starting guard Simons. Sharpe’s emergence late in the season makes the smaller Simons more expendable, though Portland would need to add ballhandling depth with the No. 23 pick or through free agency.
Now, to the details of the trade, Pelton loops in a third team, the Brooklyn Nets, to make it all work.
Portland gets: Zion.
Portland trades: No. 3 overall pick to New Orleans.
Portland trades: Anfernee Simons, Keon Johnson to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn trades: Patty Milles, Dorrian Finney-Smith, Royce O’Neal to New Orleans.
Simons doesn’t make much sense for the Pelicans, who already have their own former Lillard backcourt-mate in CJ McCollum, so this construction flips him to Brooklyn as a lead playmaker in exchange for 3-and-D wings Finney-Smith and O’Neale. With Herb Jones already in that role, New Orleans could try to trade one of them for draft picks in a separate deal.
Sean Highkin of the Rose Garden Report told 750 The Game earlier in the week that Joe Cronin is prioritizing the highest possible upside with any movement leading up to, or during, the draft. That would seemingly eliminate dealing the third pick for Brandon Ingram, another name being floated out of New Orleans’ trade camp.
Read the other trade scenarios for Zion from ESPN’s exercise, here (Note: ESPN + Subscription required).