If New Orleans Plays Cards Right, Zion Could Be Pelicans’ Best Trade Candidate Ever

by Alex Poletti

With all the buzz around the NBA draft, one thing remains certain: the Pelicans have the first overall pick. And with that pick, they will draft a generational talent in Zion Williamson.

The last time New Orleans held the first pick was in 2012, when they selected Anthony Davis out of the University of Kentucky. Davis remains on the team, consistently ranking among the best players in the league. However, Davis has asked for a trade throughout the 2018-2019 season, leading many to wonder what his future holds, especially with Williamson likely coming to the Big Easy.

The official opinion of The Second String is that the Pelicans should build around Zion Williamson for the foreseeable future, shipping off Davis to accrue more draft capital and young players. If the Pelicans play their cards right, Zion could be the best trade candidate of the 2022 season.

The first step is easy: trade Anthony Davis. While it’s hard to part with a superstar, this is clearly the time to do it. Davis is unhappy in Nola, and his production will be replaced by the Duke freshman. We recommend trading Davis to a terrible team who have delusions they will be good next year, such as the Lakers or the Knicks. With those two teams certain to fail once again, a top five lottery pick next year will belong to the Pelicans.

The second step is to let Zion blossom into the star he is destined to be. The Pelicans seem ready for this step, as they recently hired an actual athletic trainer in Aaron Nelson. This is a step up from the trainers who previously worked with injured Pelicans players, all of whom were Saints trainers on their days off.

By then, Zion will surely be unhappy by the time his rookie contract expires, making him the perfect candidate for a trade. His face when the pick was announced already suggests he could want out of Louisiana, with some even thinking he would return to Duke just so he could play for a different team.

Regardless, by the time Zion’s contract is up, management will have done its part in driving him away. With the Pelicans roster still a shitshow and no quality coaches in sight, Zion will certainly request a trade. By then, the ACC Player of the Year will have tremendous trade value, making him the Pelicans’ best trade candidate in franchise history.

If the front office plays its cards the way it usually does, the Pelicans could end up with a third round pick and a draft bust from 2016 from a team looking to compete. The sky’s the limit for this franchise now.

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