In one fell swoop, David Griffin has placed the New Orleans Pelicans on a most intriguing path, one that could blossom into something from a perennial playoff contender to — if enough things break right — a future world champion.
Sure, losing Anthony Davis, one of top five or so talents in our league, is going to put an immediate dampener on the win total for the next season or two, and ugh, the trade makes the Los Angeles Lakers an instant title contender, but think big.
The Pelicans are adding a 21-year-old Lonzo Ball, a 21-year-old Brandon Ingram and a 24-year-old Josh Hart — young players who can all carve out productive to quite notable careers, but the meatiest part of the yesterday’s blockbuster trade lies in the details of the draft pick compensation.
A clarification on the haul of draft picks heading the Pelicans' way. The 2021 pick goes to New Orleans if it's in the top eight, if not they'll get an unprotected first in 2022. Swap in 2023. Unprotected first in 2024, with a right to defer to 2025.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) June 16, 2019
This is simply an astounding haul for the Pelicans, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Griffin jumped at it as soon as Rob Pelinka agreed to the pick protection in New Orleans favor, the swap and the deferment. No way were the Boston Celtics or any other team going to beat this godfather offer, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
“What they gave up for him is potentially scandalous,” Brian Windhorst told ESPN 710 in Los Angeles. “It is an unbelievable haul that they gave. And not all the details are out there yet, but when they get out there, you’re going to see why. It is the Nets-Celtics trade part 2. It’s going to affect them long after LeBron is out of his prime and maybe no longer on the team.”
For a refresher, the Nets traded for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White back in 2013, but the key is what they sent in return to Boston: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks (2014, 2016 and 2018), plus the right to swap first-rounders in 2017.
The Celtics went on to draft James Young in 2014, Jaylen Brown in 2016, swapped picks with Philadelphia to nab Jayson Tatum in 2017 and flipped Brooklyn’s 2018 pick to Cleveland to score Kyrie Irving.
After a surprisingly deep run in the 2018 playoffs, the Celtics were poised to dominate the East for years to come, but some bad luck (Gordon Hayward broken leg), the stench of bad chemistry (Irving’s questionable leadership among Boston’s youth) and an idle Danny Ainge, who passed on trading for available star after available star (Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard), has seemingly nixed what might have been. Oh, and it’s more than ever appropriate to add Anthony Davis to that list of failures now — you know, the guy that Ainge had been coveting for so many years.
But we’re not here to ridicule those who fail to push most of their chips into the center of the table, despite how petty New Orleans is always perceived to be. The Association is filled with numerous pitfalls and too few triumphs. Gloating though, that’s an entirely different story.
The Pelicans now have in their possession the fourth overall pick in the 2019 Draft, this in addition to their own first overall selection that is expected to very soon morph into Zion Williamson. With that additional top-5 pick, Griffin has incredible possibilities. Keep it and draft Coby White, Jarrett Culver or some other highly touted prospect, trade it in a package for a proven commodity such as Bradley Beal, or flip it to a team desiring to move up in the draft for a steep price, perhaps similar to what the Atlanta Hawks did last year.
If you may recall, Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks desperately wanted Luka Doncic. In order to move up just a couple of spots, they sent Atlanta the fifth overall pick and their future 2019 first-round pick. The Hawks wound up with Trae Young and next week they’ll draft eighth and tenth (Mavs 2019 first).
Although they accepted the Lakers first-round pick for this season, the Pelicans basically said no thanks to the L.A.’s 2020 first-round selection. Why? Because the combination of LeBron James and Anthony Davis has a really good chance of reaching the NBA Finals. With the significant injuries suffered by Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Western Conference is going to be a wide open race.
The Lakers 2021 first rounder will convey to New Orleans if it lands in the top 8 — hooray for reverse pick protections, but more than likely, that shouldn’t happen. Again, James and AD (plus whoever else the Lakers manage to add to their roster) should keep their them swimming in more wins than losses. But have no fear, the Pelicans would then wind up with the real prize: the Lakers 2022 first-round selection.
In case you missed it, Adam Silver has pegged the 2022 Draft to be the year high school players are allowed to go straight to the NBA again. Therefore, the talent pool should be incredibly deep. Teams will have the choice of picking from either the 2021 high school class that was forced to spend a year playing in college, the G League, etc or snatching someone straight from the 2022 high school class.
But wait, there’s more — whoops, did anyone else suddenly have a Billy Mays Infomerical flashback? If so, sorry!
Adding to the goodies, New Orleans has the choice of swapping their 2023 first-round pick with the Lakers if Los Angeles sits higher in that year’s draft order. Don’t be quick to dismiss this one. LeBron James’ contract runs out in the previous year, but even if he re-signs with L.A., he’ll be 38 years old and might have already surpassed Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s record 66,297 minutes.
Even if they manage LeBron's minutes in LA, he's going to log 3k or so a season including playoffs. LeBron will pass everyone on this list but Malone and Abdul-Jabbar by Christmas. He'll pass Malone by the end of the 2021 season. '22 pick is unprotected. pic.twitter.com/vZhUQnoWrz— David Fisher (@Fish_TBW) June 16, 2019
Sooner or later, the miles catch up with players. And as the cherry on top, New Orleans gets the Lakers 2024 first round pick, but if they don’t like where it slots in that year’s draft, no worries because the Pelicans can just defer to the Lakers 2025 first rounder — when LeBron will be past his 40th birthday.
Got all of that? Yeah, it’s a lot, but the only thing you really need to remember is that the Pelicans currently have all of their future first-round picks as well as access to nearly all of the Laker first-round selections until the year 2025 — in which they’ll have emerged with three of them. Once Los Angeles is done paying for the addition of Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson will in all likelihood be on his second contract with New Orleans, quite possibly one of the best players in the league at age 24 and should have an awfully talented team around him.
Hehe, it wasn’t all that long ago that fans, experts and opposing teams alike were openly envious of Danny Ainge’s treasure chest of assets courtesy of Billy King and the Nets. From this day forward though, all covetousness type of feelings will solely be aimed at David Griffin, for the Pelicans substantial haul from the Anthony Davis trade.
Thank you, Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss, and please don’t ever hesitate to call again!