Things do not appear to be going swimmingly between former No. 1 pick Zion Williamson and his New Orleans Pelicans.
Williamson, 21, has missed the entire 2021-22 season thus far with a foot injury. The former Duke star has played in all of 85 regular-season games since New Orleans selected him back in 2019.
The backdrop here are continued rumors and reports suggesting that there’s a rift between Williamson and the fledgling Pelicans organization. In fact, there’s a chance that he’s disgruntled enough to potentially request a trade during the summer.
More recently, Christian Clark of NOLA.com reported that Williamson lacks trust when it comes to front office head David Griffin.
“The detachment Williamson has shown with the Pelicans, sources inside and outside the organization have often cited, is because of a lack of trust,” Clark noted. “Williamson and his camp didn’t trust Griffin to be truthful.”
If Williamson does indeed request a trade from the Pelicans this summer, there’s not going to be a shortage of teams interested in his services. Below, we look at four ideal trade scenarios.
Atlanta Hawks pair Zion Williamson up with Trae Young
- Hawks get: Zion Williamson, Devonte’ Graham, Larry Nance Jr.
- Pelicans get: John Collins, Jalen Johnson, Kevin Huerter, two first-round picks
Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk has been doing everything possible to find the right mix with young guard Trae Young. That includes adding and removing multiple frontcourt players as well as extending John Collins. The power forward was on the trade block leading up to February’s deadline and could very well be moved this coming summer. He’d be a great fit with Brandon Ingram in the frontcourt.
- John Collins stats (2021-22): 16.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 54% shooing, 39% three-point
With two players in Collins and Ingram able to stretch the court from the perimeter, it would also open things up for C.J. McCollum in the backcourt. Add in Huerter as a Sixth Man option, a youngster in Jalen Johnson and two future first-round picks, and this would be a tremendous bounty for New Orleans.
As for Atlanta, it gets a true superstar to team up with young moving forward. Williamson would also mesh well with talented young center Onyeka Okongwu in the low-post. It makes too much sense for Atlanta.
Chicago Bulls add another star to the mix
- Bulls get: Zion Williamson
- Pelicans get: Patrick Williams, Coby White, first-round pick
Bulls front office head Artūras Karnišovas was extremely aggressive last summer, adding the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso to the mix. Surprisingly, Chicago was able to accomplish this without yielding either Williams or White. They remain tremendous assets if the championship-contending Bulls look to continue building their talent level. Williamson would be just that.
- Zion Williamson career stats: 25.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 61% shooting
This might also be the best potential package New Orleans could land for Williamson. Patrick Williams was a legit NBA Rookie of the Year candidate last season. The power forward would fit well with Ingram in the frontcourt. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old White has performed much better this season (14.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 40% three-point shooting).
Zion Williamson heads to the Memphis Grizzlies
- Grizzlies get: Zion Williamson, Devonte’ Graham, Larry Nance Jr.
- Pelicans get: Jaren Jackson Jr., De’Anthony Melton, Ziaire Williams, first-round pick
Why would Memphis split up a core that boasts the third-best record in the NBA this season? It’s rather simple. Despite the injury question marks that would come with acquiring Williamson, he offers so much upside as a potential franchise cornerstone with elite young guard Ja Morant. His ceiling is much higher than Jaren Jackson Jr. right now. This move would also enable Memphis to keep the likes of Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks.
On the other hand, New Orleans made it clear during the NBA trade deadline that it has no intention of rebuilding. Moving off draft assets for McCollum was a primary example of this. In Jackson Jr., the Pelicans get another frontcourt star to go with Ingram. It also adds an upgrade at point guard over Devonte’ Graham in Melton as well as 2021 first-round pick Ziaire Williams and a future first-round selection.
Philadelphia 76ers land more star power for Joel Embiid
- 76ers get: Zion Williamson
- Pelicans get: Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton, Danny Green, two first-round picks
What’s to stop 76ers front office head Daryl Morey from pulling off yet another blockbuster trade after making a move for James Harden at the NBA trade deadline? He more than has the assets in multiple future first-round picks from the Brooklyn Nets and a ton of young talent.
From an on-court perspective, teaming Williamson up with Joel Embiid in the low-post would just be unfair to opposing Eastern Conference teams. If healthy, this could be the most-dominant frontcourt tandem in recent history.
As for New Orleans, the 76ers have pushed back against moving Maxey in other blockbuster trades. Acquiring him as a potential franchise cornerstone would be seen as a win.
- Tyrese Maxey stats (2021-22): 16.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.6 APG, 47% shooting, 39% three-point
Shake Milton would also provide a tremendous scoring punch off the bench (9.9 PPG). Add in two future first-round picks, and this is a nice bounty for a player who seemingly wants out of dodge.