Which young core should the New Orleans Pelicans surround Zion Williamson with?

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The smoke has finally cleared, and there is finally a winner of the Zion Williamson sweepstakes.

New Orleans winning the lottery ended a wild night that saw three teams (the Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers) leap from fringe lottery squads to top-five, turning a generally tame event into complete and utter chaos.

The Pelicans entered the draft with very little leverage seeing as Anthony Davis is forcing his way out and they were possibly going to trade Davis to whatever team drafted Zion Williamson, swapping generational talent for generational talent.

But they got the luck of the draw and got the No. 1 pick, which was inarguably the best single trade asset they could have hoped to receive in an Anthony Davis trade.

New Orleans has successfully netted the two best draft prospects of the last decade and has a chance to pair them together. A team of Jrue Holiday, Zion Williamson and Anthony Davis would be amazing but I doubt Davis would want to wait for the young star to fully blossom into the inevitable superstar he will become.

Seeing as though Anthony Davis will be traded this summer we should be more optimistic about the future for the Pelicans.

Many NBA teams have amazing young cores that they are willing to trade away for a chance to contend for an NBA title. In this piece I will be ranking the potential young cores the Pelicans could trade for based on their fit with Zion, and overall talent level.

1. Boston Celtics

One of the teams that have long been rumored to be in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes is the Boston Celtics.

One can assume any and everyone is on the chopping block for the young big man.

The Celtics could realistically offer a combination of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and picks 14, 20, and 22 in the 2019 NBA Draft to land Anthony Davis.

This would jump-start rebuilding around Zion Williamson by giving him an already battle-tested sidekick in Tatum, a guy who has shown promise as a 3&D player with some ability to make plays off the bounce in Brown, an All-NBA Defensive Team candidate in Smart, on top of the forgotten star guard already on the Pelicans roster, Jrue Holiday. 

Zion Williamson
Photo via: USA Today

A small-ball lineup of Smart-Holiday-Brown-Tatum-Williamson would be devastating on defense and I selfishly would like to see it for at least one season.

They have three first round picks to offer in this trade as well, players such as Jontay Porter, Grant Williams, Goga Bitadze, Bol Bol and PJ Washington will be available with those picks, and all are players who would fit seamlessly with Zion in the pros.

This is likely the absolute best outcome for the future. Holiday-Brown-Tatum-Williamson is a very fun team and one that could be making the playoffs sooner rather than later.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

The Lakers’ little brother team, the Los Angeles Clippers, have what is the second best offer for Anthony Davis and in turn, the second best return to surround Zion with.

The deal would almost certainly include Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, Montrezl Harrell and a litany of picks.

Shamet fits the bill of a truly special shooter, in the mold of JJ Redick, and would be an excellent fit playing off of Zion. Gilgeous-Alexander seems to be a prospect who can develop and ironically become a Jrue Holiday like player.

He projects to be an elite multi-positional defender with efficient offense. Gallinari is another floor spacer who played at a borderline All-Star level last season. Harrell is also a young, productive big man. The 2021 Heat draft pick projects to be a good one in a good class.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

The second most talked about team in Anthony Davis trade talks is the Los Angeles Lakers. They have LeBron James and have no time to wait for the young guys to be ready to compete, LeBron is showing signs of aging and as we all know, Father Time is undefeated.

They have a small window of time to compete and the time is now.

The Lakers have a nice young core starring Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram along with the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. This trade getting accepted by the Pelicans will likely hinge upon the status of Brandon Ingram’s health.

Zion Williamson
Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The fit is not seamless as I am not high on Kuzma or Hart and Ball has yet to show any semblance of a workable jump shot.

This is also dependant on who they draft with pick No. 4.

Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart are theoretically good fits to play off of Zion, but neither are real needle movers to me as long term championship contending prospects.

4. New York Knicks

The very worst case scenario for trading Davis to build around Zion is the New York Knicks. Their only real assets, in my opinion, are Mitchell Robinson, and the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft (RJ Barrett+Zion part two)?

I did not mention Dennis Smith Jr. or Kevin Knox because I am not a fan of either as far as true value and projected impact is concerned, but I felt as though I had to mention that they would have to be included in this trade.

I do not believe the Pelicans would be interested in pairing Zion and RJ again and this is clearly the worst offer out of the teams imagined being in the running for Anthony Davis.

 

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