Just 5 months ago, the New Orleans Pelicans sat on top of the Western Conference. Yes, those same Pelicans who lost to the Thunder at home to miss the playoffs. While a lot of this could be blamed on the absence of Zion Williamson, this team was just completely lost. Head Coach Willie Green was making some questionable moves with his rotation, starting with center Jonas Valanciunas getting heavy minutes despite getting absolutely obliterated on defense. CJ McCollum, dealing with a torn ligament in his thumb, continued to play, and not only that, but shoot at a high volume. But, back to what is, or what was thought to be, the future of New Orleans.

Zion played just 24 games in his rookie year, in which he averaged 22 PTS and 6 Rebounds, exciting a lot of Pelicans, and NBA fans, for what’s to come. Next season, Williamson turns into a monster, and makes his 1st All Star appearance at the age of just 22. The Pelicans failed to make the playoffs, as Zion, along with Lonzo Ball, failed to stay healthy. The next season, the Pelicans trade for C.J. McCollum, a proven veteran who is supposed to be an efficient scorer. 

McCollum has gotten a lot of hate for poor shot selection over the second half of the season, however dealing with a torn ligament in his hand was a major factor in this.

This trio that the Pels envisioned to be their future has played just 10 games together. You read that right. Not 10 playoff games, but 10 games in total. This, of course, is large in part due to Zion Williamson’s extended absences. New Orleans has been unable to get this team to mesh and have chemistry, because their lineups are looking different night in and out. Zion is a great player, but that means nothing if his availability is minimal. 

The Pelicans were lethal when these three were on the court together, however this was very rare. A problem New Orleans is desperate to get rid of.

What the Pelicans have lacked since the departure of Lonzo Ball is a true ball handler. They’ve had Devonte Graham and Jose Alvarado run PG at times since, however those two just aren’t sustainable to get the job done. This is why I believe if the Pelicans are able to trade for the Blazers’ #3 pick (obviously giving up Zion), it would be best for them.

Why it works

In this scenario, the Blazers finally get an All Star player to pair up with Dame, as well as retaining Anfernee Simons or Jerami Grant. Even though Zion staying healthy is a big “if”, the Portland front office has to go all in at this point, they have no choice. As for New Orleans, they finally get to assemble their future with Brandon Ingram and Cj McCollum, and free up a ton of money to sign quality free agents. Having a veteran mentor like Damian Lillard, who wants nothing but to win, would help Zion be less distracted with issues going on off the court, and have him focused more on winning a title. Lillard doesn’t care about anything else but making Portland a city of champions, and winning one with Zion would be very impressive.

Top Photo: Getty Images

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