The New Orleans Pelicans are back in the news, and it’s not about off the court drama…it’s about a potential franchise-changing trade.
On Monday, Shams Charania reported that the Pelicans are aggressively pursuing the number two or the number three pick in this month’s NBA Draft in order to draft guard Scoot Henderson.
If you aren’t aware of Henderson, he was the youngest player ever to join the G League when he joined the Ignite at age 17. In his second game ever, he scored 31 points.
At 6-2 with a 6-9 wing span he is considered the best point guard prospect in the draft and has skills on both sides of the basketball. He is a very good penetrator and shot creator, who can finish at the rim or with an effective pull-up jumper. He struggled to shoot it from deep last season, making less that 28 pct of his three-pointers, but scouts believe he can become a very good shooter.
He’s been compared to Russell Westbrook and Donovan Mitchell among others.
Making that move would be a signal that the Pelicans don’t like something significant about what’s in their current mix. Because, the cost to move up in this draft will not be cheap.
The Charlotte Hornets hold the second pick, and the Portland Trail Blazers hold the third. In a moment I will be joined by Sean Highkin. Sean writes for The Rose Garden Report, which covers the Trail Blazers. I will ask him about the possibility and the probability of a deal between the Pels and Portland, and what that deal could cost.
Looking at this from the Charlotte Hornets perspective at number two. They hold all the cards. Victor Wembanyama is going first to San Antonio. There are two legitimate, maybe three candidates for the second pick.
Besides Henderson, you have Alabama forward Brandon Miller, and even forward Amen Thompson has been mentioned in the top 3.
Reportedly the Hornets really like the thought of pairing Miller with LaMelo Ball. Ball hasn’t had a true wing complement since he arrived in Charlotte, and Miler has obvious star potential. But that isn’t a lock. Fake outs, smokescreens, outright lies…that’s what teams do before the draft.
If you’re David Griffin, and you want to make a straight up deal with either team, you’re hoping that Charlotte is in love with Miller.
Otherwise, you’d have to imagine that any trade with the Hornets will mean the loss of either Brandon Ingram or Trey Murphy III. Zion Williamson’s injury history and long-term max deal don’t make him as appealing as Ingram, who like Williamson is from North Carolina, has a better recent injury history, and has shown that he can be more than capable as a second-option in the league without having a true point guard around to make his life easier.
Murphy looks like he’s coming to his own a future star in this league and is the Pelicans lone elite shooter. He can play at either the three or the four spots and he’s a tremendous athlete in transition. You think Melo wouldn’t like to have that guy around?
So, the question then moves to Portland…what would it take? If the Trail Blazers are truly interested in retaining Damian Lillard and rebuilding around him, does Scoot Henderson make them competitive now? Probably not.
Portland will be looking to make a major swing for the fences to appease Lillard. Only one player on the Pelicans roster has proven that at his very best, he’s capable of carrying a team through four rounds of the playoffs; Zion Williamson.
If the Trail Blazers want Zion, it likely means that a third team would have to be involved in any trade. The salaries that Portland has available to match Williamson’s contract aren’t particularly attractive to the Pelicans.
Neither Anfernee Simons nor Jusuf Nurkic fill any needs that the Pels have. Simons is another 6-3 combo guard, and Nurkic is a lesser version of what New Orleans has in Nikola Jokic.
No deal between Charlotte, Portland, or anyone is imminent. There’s still far too much time between now and draft night for teams to posture and negotiate. Only the ticking clock once the Hornets are on the draft board can speed this process to its eventual conclusion.
Until then, fans will have to watch and wait. Because once again, the future of the New Orleans Pelicans is at stake.
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