The NBA off-season is a wonderful time. Good and bad teams dream of how to take the next step. For the New Orleans Pelicans, this step is one of the most difficult as they go from brave upstart to stalwart playoff team and dark horse championship contender. Thankfully, unlike any other team that made the playoffs, the Pelicans also have a top-ten pick ahead of them. (Thank you Los Angeles Lakers.)
It’s correct. Not only will the Pelicans add Zion Williamson to America’s Favorite NBA Team, they will also have another highly acclaimed candidate to cheer for in Las Vegas this July. if they are Yes, really Happy? A 26% chance of a top 4 pick and one from Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero or Jaden Ivey.
Funnily enough, I did just that a few months ago when I endorsed the Pelicans pursuit of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Collin Sexton. I was wrong in my assessment of CJ McCollum, he is much better than I had hoped. Also, just days after the article was published, it was announced that Klutch Sports is now representing Sexton.
Instead, I’ll go back to dreaming about the pelicans winning the lottery.
The last time I did that, I had the Pelicans jump to #2 and draft Ja Morant. Let’s try again, this time with Jabari Smith Jr. from Auburn.
If you were to build a tall male to mate with Zion Williamson in a lab, the result would look very similar to Jabari Smith Jr. He shot 42% from behind the arc and 80% at the foul line as a freshman at Auburn. He scores is a variety of ways. pick and pop Find out. Transition pull-ups. Close hard and he’s with you, popping up on a poor soul. Offensively, his highlight tape is a fever dream.
Jabari Smith Jr. isn’t just about offense. Former LSU star Jabari Smith Sr.’s son can also slide his feet on switches and maintain verticality to protect the rim. Start the following video at 9:30 a.m. and let yourself be surprised.
Just imagine. CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram, Jabari Smith and Zion Williamson as Willie Green’s final line-up. There is everything you need. Shot Generation, Shooting, Defensive Versatility. Jabari Smith at 6’10” with a 7’1″+ wingspan, that shot and a defensive motor running hot? Like I said, he’s what you would create in a lab to pair with Zion Williamson.
In a similar move, prior to the draft, Garrett Temple announces that he is retiring and joining the Pelicans coaching staff full-time. His announcement wipes his contract off Pelicans’ books.
On July 1, Adrian Wojnarowski tweets at 5:01 p.m. Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to a five-year extension with All-NBA terms and injury protection similar to Joel Embiid’s first contract extension with the Philadelphia Sixers. details open. The tone you’re hearing is that the national media is discarding their intended talking points for New Orleans and trying to rewrite them for the LaMelo Ball leaving Charlotte.
Larry Nance Jr. agrees a 2 years, $20.8 million extension with the Pelicans shortly thereafter.
With Jabari Smith in the crease, it makes Jaxson Hayes’ future in the Crescent City very murky. He was a token starter in the playoffs and the Pelicans fared much better when he went on the bench. Jabari Smith already does the things Pelican fans hope Jaxson Hayes can someday do, and Smith has a four-year rookie deal with Zion, Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance to protect him from the league’s biggest bodies.
It’s time for a trade.
It’s essentially a two-part trade. New Orleans trades Jaxson Hayes to Indiana for the Cleveland 1st 2023 the Pacers received in a trade with Caris LeVert. This selection is heavily protected. If it lands in the lottery next year, it will be converted into two second-round picks (2025 CLE and 2026 LAL). Indiana is doing this because Jaxson Hayes could be a really good fit for PF with Myles Turner. With Turner tending to hover on the perimeter, this opens the lane for Hayes to be a rim-running pick-and-roll partner for Tyrese Haliburton and Malcolm Brogdon.
New Orleans then flips that pick to Atlanta with Devonte ‘Graham for Kevin Huerter. Atlanta gets an asset (the election) and cuts off part of its massive outstanding luxury tax bill in 2022-23.
Why Hurter for New Orleans? Prior to trading with CJ McCollum, the Pelicans had expressed interest in trading the 6’7″ wing. The playoffs were a low point for Devonte’ Graham’s stint in New Orleans, and his poor fit with CJ McCollum was on display. If anything, one could argue that Atlanta would demand more from New Orleans. My argument would be that the fit with Huerter is so good that the Pelicans should be willing to overpay to make it happen. Yes, to include pitching in a very lightly protected first round pick on the Cleveland 1st that they hypothetically receive from Indiana.
Hurter is 23 (turns 24 in August), already in rookie overtime for the next four years, a good defenseman and a career 38 percent shooter behind the arc.
This season, the Pelicans are $7 million under the luxury tax with two open roster spots and a rock-steady rotation.
Starters: CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valanciunas
2nd Line: Jose Alvarado, Kevin Huerter, Trey Murphy III, Jabari Smith Jr., Larry Nance Jr.
Deep Bench/Vibes: Kira Lewis, Naji Marshall, Willy Hernangomez
That’s the lineup from a team that expects to win 50+ games in 2022-23 and turn heads in the postseason.
Let’s make it happen.