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SBNation.com – All Posts: Zion Williamson trade rumors are NBA’s juiciest offseason storyline


San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s increasing smoke around a Zion Williamson trade at the NBA Draft.

When Zion Williamson is on the floor, there’s no debate he’s one of the best young players in the NBA. The problem is that Williamson has been one of the league’s least durable players since becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The constant drama around Williamson’s availability is reportedly starting to wear on the New Orleans Pelicans, and there’s a new round of rumors that the forward could be traded by the 2023 NBA Draft.

Earlier this week, insider Shams Charania reported that the Pelicans are interested in trading up for Scoot Henderson in the NBA Draft. Henderson is expected to go either No. 2 overall to the Charlotte Hornets, or No. 3 overall to the Portland Trail Blazers. It would take a big trade chip to get New Orleans that high in the order, and there’s growing speculation that chip could be Williamson.

League insider Marc Stein reports that the Pelicans “would consider” trading Williamson if it got them Henderson. Subscribe to Stein’s newsletter to read the full report:

Would the Pelicans really trade Zion Williamson?

The latest is all here: https://t.co/GHBdJPrPp0

— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 14, 2023

Stein reports that the Pelicans are “less inclined” to include co-star Brandon Ingram in a deal for Henderson. Is that a smoke screen, or the truth?

Stein also reported that every team in the top-five of the draft other than the Spurs at No. 1 could be interested in trading out. Draft reporter Rafael Barlowe recently mentioned that the Houston Rockets, who own the No. 4 overall pick, could have interest in Williamson as well.

Yes, the Williamson trade talk is all speculative right now, but it’s impossible to ignore the smoke around a New Orleans right now. Here’s what we know for sure.

The Pelicans want Scoot Henderson

New Orleans’ interest in Henderson makes sense. The 19-year-old is a tremendous point guard prospect with a blazing first step, the strength to play through contact at the rim, and developing chops in the pick-and-roll. There are plenty of draft evaluators who believe Henderson has All-NBA potential.

In addition to adding a premium young talent to the roster, Henderson has another appeal to New Orleans: he’s cheaper than a veteran star. NBA rookie contacts are cost-controlled for four years, and often represent the best value in the league. The Pelicans’ roster is already starting to get expensive, and this would give them some more breathing room with the more punitive luxury tax punishments in the new CBA coming.

The Pelicans need to trade into the top-3 to get Henderson

We have Henderson going No. 2 to Charlotte in our new mock draft. The consensus opinion at the moment is that the Hornets will take Alabama wing Brandon Miller at that spot, but Henderson reportedly impressed Charlotte in his individual workout. The only way to ensure a shot at drafting Henderson is to trade up to the second pick.

If Henderson falls to three, the Portland Trail Blazers could have interest in moving the pick for a more established star. Damian Lillard gave this quote after the season:

Damian Lillard: “I don’t have much of an appetite for building with guys 2 and 3 years away and not really go after it.”

— Sean Highkin (@highkin) April 9, 2023

It could take a lot to move up to the third pick. ESPN reported “Portland will continue to explore trade opportunities until it is on the clock for this pick, but it seems the team will be pleased to select either Miller or Henderson.”

If New Orleans wants to move Williamson, it should be concerning to other teams

Last time we saw Williamson play most of a full season, he was one of the best players in the NBA. Williamson averaged 27 points per game on absurd 65 percent true shooting in the 2020-2021 season as a 20-year-old. Williamson played 61 games that season. He then missed the entire following season with a foot injury, and was limited to only 29 games this past season because of a hamstring injury. Williamson played only 24 games as a rookie.

Williamson could be an MVP level player if he’s able to stay healthy. He’s signed for five years. He’s about to turn 23 years old. That type of player does not get traded often. New Orleans knows what type of player and worker Williamson is more than any other team. It’s a red flag if they want to trade him.

Of course, maybe New Orleans just likes Henderson that much. Personally, I see Williamson as having a higher ceiling than Henderson, but that only matters if he stays on the floor.

A Zion trade would be the blockbuster deal of the summer. We can’t wait to see how it plays out.

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