NEW ORLEANS – I wouldn’t be surprised if Uncle Charles walked to the podium to announce the New Orleans Pelicans’ pick in the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday night.
The Pelicans are at the crossroads, again.
It seems as if every five years the franchise is faced with a decision that will dramatically reshape it for years to come.
The 2019 Draft brought in Zion Williamson, and saw the end of the Anthony Davis era; one that began with tremendous promise but failed to produce any real winning in New Orleans.
The 2015 Draft followed an unlikely playoff appearance and the even more surprising firing of Monty Williams as head coach and the hiring of Alvin Gentry. As the Pelicans often did during the tenure of Dell Demps, New Orleans had traded its first round pick.
The 2011 Draft also followed a run to the postseason. It would be the last for Chris Paul in New Orleans, as he led the Hornets to a 46-36 record. Paul would be traded to the Clippers and the Hornets would have no draft pick to speak of.
So, here we are on the cusp of another monumental moment for New Orleans’ basketball franchise.
Typically, fans should be looking forward to the draft. It’s a hopeful moment for them, that the next player or players that they add will be the one’s that help get over that proverbial hump on the path to a championship.
Now, it’s come to this.
No one cares about the heartwarming stories, or extra heaping servings of the American dream that will be featured. No one wants to hear about the obstacles overcome to reach this moment.
They want to know if David Griffin is about to trade the most talented player in franchise history; if he’s about to break up a tandem that has been on the court together a grand total of 93 games over four seasons.
|Season||GP||W/L||Win % w/ Zion/Ingram||Overall Win %||Difference|
There’s no question that the Pelicans are a better basketball team with both Williamson and Ingram playing together.
With Zion on the floor, with or without Ingram, the Pelicans are a .500 team (57-57). While that isn’t an earth-shattering mark, it’s still a significant step up from the team’s overall winning percentage over the past four seasons.
By all accounts Scoot Henderson is a great basketball player. In any other draft within the last 5-10 years, depending on who you ask, he would be the number one pick.
Should the Pelicans trade Zion and get Henderson in return, they could be a really good basketball team. Henderson could be the point guard that the franchise has been looking for since Paul left.
He, along with Ingram and Trey Murphy III could become a devastating offensive trio.
But would the Pelicans be any closer to a championship?
That’s a question that could only be answered in time.
I don’t envy David Griffin, nor do I pity him.
While every misstep has not been by his doing, he understands the responsibility that he assumed when accepted the job. He knows that never finishing better than ninth in the Western Conference in four seasons, with a single playoff appearance, isn’t what he was asked to deliver to people of New Orleans.
Now he is faced with this incredible decision. And the consequences of that decision will reverberate throughout the NBA for years to come.
He can hold on to Williamson and hope that he both matures and reaches his immense potential. If that choice bears fruit, then Grifin would be proven right all along. Even if it fails, no one could blame him for taking a risk on someone with Zion’s talent.
If Griffin trades Zion and he goes on to realize his potential in Portland or wherever else he might go, then he won’t be in New Orleans long enough to see how much he’ll be vilified.
Meanwhile, Pelicans fans are not the masters of their fate. They cannot be the captains of their basketball souls. They are captives, held in bondage in their belief that someday, someway, the New Orleans Pelicans will get it right.
Because, dammit, if the New Orleans Saints could climb from the abyss of not posting a winning season for its first two decades to become one of the most consistent franchises in the NFL over the last two decades, then anything is possible.
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