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SBNation.com – All Posts: The Pelicans want Scoot Henderson. Would they trade Zion Williamson to get him?


Atlanta Hawks vs New Orleans Pelicans
Set Number: X162968 TK1

There’s a big name the Pelicans could trade to realize their dream of drafting Scoot Henderson.

NBA teams are still grappling with the ramifications of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but one of the main takeaways so far has been stiffer penalties for teams paying the luxury tax. Parity was rampant throughout this season, and that’s the way the NBA wants it. The superteam era really might be over.

Against this backdrop comes the newest and hottest rumor of NBA draft season. The New Orleans Pelicans have their eyes on point guard Scoot Henderson, and they’re willing to trade up into the top-three to get him, according to league insider Shams Charania. With French super prospect Victor Wembanyama set to go No. 1 overall to the San Antonio Spurs, the Pelicans would have to pull off a deal with the Charlotte Hornets at No. 2 or the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 3 to land Henderson. Check out our latest NBA mock draft for a full first round projection.

Here’s the full report from Charania:

Western Conference playoff contender seriously pursuing a top 2-3 pick in this month’s NBA Draft, with eyes on point guard Scoot Henderson: pic.twitter.com/UFCs9VEU7Q

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 12, 2023

We have Henderson projected to go No. 2 overall to the Hornets right now, but that’s something of a hot take. The consensus less than two weeks from the draft is that Charlotte is favoring Alabama wing Brandon Miller, which would leave Henderson on the board for the Blazers at No. 3.

Portland is in a fascinating spot entering the draft: superstar guard Damian Lillard wants the team to go all-in to win right now, but it feels like the team is more than one move away from contention. Is the Portland front office on the same page as Lillard, or would they prefer to add a premier young talent to the roster through the draft?

In addition to being a tremendous point guard prospect, acquiring the rights to Scoot Henderson comes with another benefit: he’s cheap. NBA rookies play on cost-controlled contracts for their first four years before they can cash in, and second contracts are more modest than third contracts.

That brings us to the dilemma the Pelicans are currently in. While New Orleans is no superteam — they didn’t make the playoffs this year — the Pelicans’ roster is about to get expensive, as detailed by team beat writer Shamit Dua. Dua hypothesized the Pelicans could be looking to break up their Big 3 — Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and C.J. McCollum — to swap in a young talent with more punitive tax penalties looming. Days later, the team’s interest in Henderson was reported.

McCollum is not landing you Scoot Henderson in a trade. So: would the Pelicans deal Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram? Which would have more value to teams around the league?

Would Pelicans trade Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram to move up in NBA draft?

If the Pelicans want Henderson, they likely need to part with Williamson or Ingram.

Williamson was hyped as a generational prospect in the 2019 NBA Draft as the No. 1 overall pick. Since then, he hasn’t played much basketball: he played 24 games as a rookie, he missed the 2021-22 season entirely with a foot injury, and he played only 29 games last season. Williamson is electric when he’s on the court — he averaged 27 points per game on astounding 65 percent true shooting in his age-20 season back in 2020-21. It just doesn’t mean much if he can’t play.

Ingram has two years, $70 million remaining on his current deal. He just finished his age-25 season where he averaged 24.7 points and came pretty close to pulling off a 50/40/90 shooting splits from the field, three-point line, and free throw line (he finished 48.4/39/88.2). Ingram has also struggled to stay on the court, playing only 100 combined games over the last two seasons. Still. he looks downright durable compared to Williamson.

Zion has more upside — perhaps MVP upside. Ingram is a safer bet who profiles extremely well as a second star. A new wrench was thrown into this question when Williamson started trending for all the wrong reasons last week. You can make an argument for New Orleans to include either in a trade for Henderson, but the real question is who the Hornets or Blazers would really want.

Would Charlotte or Portland go for Ingram or Williamson?

The Hornets might have the least talented roster in the league. LaMelo Ball is a franchise star, but there’s almost nothing around him. Given how far away Charlotte is from contending, it would make sense if the franchise just wanted to draft Miller or Henderson and focus on long-term team building.

However: if Williamson is on the table, it would be a lot to think about. Ball and Williamson would be an incredibly dynamic young pairing if they can both stay on the floor. Williamson is a South Carolina native, too.

Let’s say the Hornets decide to go with Miller — something of a young Brandon Ingram in my eyes — at No. 2. Portland could now be sitting pretty at No. 3 with the Pelicans sending in their best offers for Henderson.

It would make sense if the Blazers wanted Ingram — a seemingly wonderful second star to pair with Lillard. Maybe Portland could even leverage New Orleans for sharpshooting wing Trey Murphy in that deal, too. Williamson is the more enticing gambit, though. If the Pelicans are really sick of Williamson never playing, swapping him out for Henderson would be the blockbuster deal for the summer.

Trading a premium pick like No. 3 overall for Williamson is a super risky deal for both sides. The Blazers have an out if it doesn’t work, though: they can always trade Lillard a year or two from now for a boatload of picks, and start building from the ground up again.

And if it works? Lillard and Williamson would be an amazing pairing. On the brink of his 23rd birthday, Zion’s best ball should still be in front of him .. but he needs to stay healthy.

Personally, I wouldn’t trade Williamson for Henderson if I was the Pelicans. Williamson is a better talent than Henderson for my money. The Pelicans know Zion better than anyone, though, and it wouldn’t come as a huge surprise if they did decide to deal him for another young star. There have already been plenty of Williamson trade rumors in his young career. If I was Charlotte or New Orleans, I’d be all over trying to trade for Williamson, because his upside is still so high. It doesn’t make much sense for Charlotte to pursue an Ingram deal, but it would work better for Portland — especially if you can get New Orleans to throw in additional assets. Still, the preference here for the Blazers would be a Zion deal.

What a way to start NBA draft rumor season. This is going to be one explosive offseason.

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