The latest buzz out of New Orleans is that Zion Williamson’s family wants him traded from the Pelicans.
Let’s look at four ideal trade scenarios — all cleared by RealGM’s trade checker — in which the Pels could actually get a decent haul back in a Zion-centered blockbuster.
Zion Williamson to New York Knicks
- Pelicans get: R.J. Barrett, Julius Randle and three first-round picks
- Knicks get: Zion Williamson and Eric Bledsoe
The New York Knicks only have two trade chips to play, and they should absolutely use both of them to land Williamson should the opportunity come to pass.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has transformed New York into a defensive juggernaut, but its short-lived playoff run showed how limited the team is on offense.
Randle reuniting with Brandon Ingram in New Orleans after being teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers would be a pretty neat narrative. Plus, Barrett is a better basketball fit with the Pelicans if they decide to keep restricted free agent Lonzo Ball.
Taking on Eric Bledsoe’s unsavory contract is necessary for the salaries in this trade to work, but he’s a nice depth piece on a Thibodeau-coached squad. Williamson is the main attraction of course, and is well worth two more first-round picks, too.
Can you imagine Zion in Madison Square Garden rocking a Knicks jersey? It’s glorious.
Zion Williamson to Memphis Grizzlies
- Pelicans get: Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
- Grizzlies get: Zion Williamson and Kira Lewis Jr.
The 2019 draft’s No. 1 pick changing teams with the second pick? That’d be absolutely bonkers, yet if the Memphis Grizzlies wanted to, they could pull it off.
Ja Morant is an excellent point guard who has all the makings of a legitimate superstar. The question is, does Memphis want the next great floor general, or a true original, one-of-one type of transcendent talent like Williamson?
Injuries are at least part of the equation when it comes to Williamson, and the same can be said at this point for Jaren Jackson Jr., who played in just 11 games this past season. Jackson has serious skill, though, and would be a fantastic fit as a more traditional stretch 4 in a hypothetical Pelicans starting five with Steven Adams, Ingram, Ball and Morant.
Lewis didn’t have much room to play as a rookie in 2020-21, but has very real talent that could blossom in Memphis, whose development of young players has been second to few in the NBA of late. That’d benefit Williamson as well.
Williamson somewhat resembles former Grizzlies fan favorite Zach Randolph, except, you know, upgraded in almost every facet of the game already. He’d quickly endear himself to fans, and help lift Memphis’ promising young core higher in the Western Conference.
This is the type of trade that, basketball fit-wise, would probably benefit both teams.
Zion Williamson to Minnesota Timberwolves
- Pelicans get: Anthony Edwards and Ricky Rubio
- Timberwolves get: Zion Williamson and Eric Bledsoe
It’d be pretty nuts to see the Minnesota Timberwolves bail on their No. 1 overall pick after one season, yet if it meant the chance to land Williamson, they’d probably not hesitate too much.
Sweetening the offer in this scenario is the fact that Minnesota is willing to take on Bledsoe’s unsavory contract and provide a veteran mentor for the still-young Pelicans in Ricky Rubio.
Think about it this way: If New Orleans could draft well, and surround Rubio, Edwards and Ingram with shooters, that could be a recipe for raging success. It’d also give the Pels flexibility regarding Ball’s future.
If Rubio were to go to New Orleans, it’s hard to envision the team starting two guards with shaky perimeter jumpers. Then again, Ingram and Edwards could make up for that, and Ball has made huge strides over the past two seasons, hitting well above 37% from 3-point range.
Williamson playing pick-and-roll with D’Angelo Russell and starting in a frontcourt with Karl-Anthony Towns would be amazing.
Zion Williamson to Detroit Pistons
- Pelicans get: Saddiq Bey, 2021 No. 1 overall pick and 2023 unprotected first-round pick
- Pistons get: Zion Williamson
Many will write off the Detroit Pistons because of their lack of recent success, but even as they finished DFL in the East this season, they had a couple rookies in forward Saddiq Bey and center Isaiah Stewart who played extremely well. At least one of them needs to be kicked into this package, and Bey is the better of the two.
Since the Pistons won the NBA Draft lottery, they’re in prime position to leverage their top pick for a superstar player in a scenario like this if Zion can’t work out his differences with the Pelicans.
As unlikely as this trade is to happen, the proposition of an unprotected future first-rounder from a rebuilding Detroit team, and probably Cade Cunningham to go with Bey and Brandon Ingram, gives New Orleans something to strongly consider here.
Detroit has a former Coach of the Year in Dwane Casey to help Williamson develop, and could probably afford to shell out for a max-contract guard in free agency to spearhead the backcourt. Williamson’s arrival would suddenly make the Pistons an attractive landing spot.