After sending Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster trade this weekend, the New Orleans Pelicans have set up a fairly bright future. They added a handful of promising young players in Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart, while also picking up several first-round picks. Of course, the most important pick involved in the deal was the fourth-overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Right now, all signs points towards the Pelicans flipping that pick for more assets before Thursday’s draft. This would be ideal, as New Orleans already owns the top overall pick to select one of the most hyped prospects since LeBron James: former Duke University star Zion Williamson.
After the top-three selections are made, there is a fairly big talent drop-off. The Pelicans would be very smart to use the Lakers’ fourth-overall selection to make the trade of Davis look even better and several teams have shown interest in the pick already. So what should they do with it?
Rack Up More Draft Capital
The first and perhaps the easier route would simply be to move down in the draft and pick up additional future draft picks. This is something that NBA teams do just about every season, so this may be the most likely scenario for the Pelicans. A recent example would be during the 2018 NBA Draft when the Atlanta Hawks traded the third-overall pick to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the fifth-overall pick and Dallas’ 2019 first-round pick which will be the 10th-overall selection on Thursday night.
The Pelicans are in a position to do something very similar, with the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, and Hawks all expressing interest in moving up in the draft. Atlanta holds three first-round picks this season and could easily round up the assets to move up to fourth overall. Meanwhile, Chicago and Phoenix both desperately need a reliable point guard and would like to move up for Vanderbilt University standout Darius Garland.
Assuming the Pelicans do trade back with one of those three teams, they’d still land a quality player in the top-10. In fact, falling back to sixth or seventh overall — the Suns and Bulls picks, respectively — could still give New Orleans the chance to draft Williamson’s college teammate Cam Reddish. Jarrett Culver from Texas Tech or Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter would also be solid picks to improve the team’s shooting and wing players.
Land a Star Player
With a team now filled to the brim with young talent, another first-round pick after Williamson isn’t entirely necessary. The team could absolutely use another big-name player, though. With the current roster, the Pelicans could actually fight for a low playoff seed next season and the addition of an established NBA player could be just enough to get them there.
New Orleans has reportedly already had discussions with the Washington Wizards surrounding star guard Bradley Beal. The two-time All-Star is coming off a career year, setting new personal records for points (25.6), rebounds (5.0) and assists (5.5) per game. He would also give the Pelicans a drastic improvement on three-point shooting.
He would be a perfect complement to Ball and Jrue Holiday in the team’s frontcourt. He and John Wall were one of the best guard duos in the league and Beal has continued to improve and develop into a star himself. He’ll turn 26 years old later this month and still has two years left under contract, giving New Orleans some time to build around him and possibly convince him to re-sign when his deal is up.
Another potential trade target is young center Clint Capela on the Houston Rockets. Both Capela and Chris Paul have been the topic of trade rumors this offseason, but the 6-foot-10 big man would be a much better fit on the Pelicans’ roster. Davis obviously left a big hole in the frontcourt and that was before Julius Randle decided not to pick up his player option for next season.
Like Beal, Capela is coming off a career year with the Rockets and just turned 25 years old this offseason. He posted new career highs with 16.6 points and 12.7 rebounds per game while shooting 64.8 percent from the floor. He’s on a fairly cheap deal for the next four years, giving the Pelicans even more time to build a contender out of the current roster.
New Orleans already did pretty well with the Davis trade, and regardless of what the team does with the fourth pick in the draft, the initial trade should continue to look better as they make more moves. Whether the Pelicans want to add an established NBA star or continue to pile up young players, they’ll have plenty of suitors to choose from over the next few days.