Zion Williamson was the most-hyped NBA draft prospect to come into the league since LeBron James. Two years into his career, though, the former Duke star still hasn’t made the playoffs.
Speculation is rife that the New Orleans Pelicans will make a move this offseason to shake up the team and put a different supporting cast around Williamson. There’s one NBA star who may be available in the coming months that the former No. 1 overall pick should be very wary of teaming up with.
Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans aren’t serious contenders as currently constituted
Even with additional teams making the play-in games in 2020 and 2021, the Pelicans have still missed the playoffs both years. New Orleans finished 31-41 this season, only good enough for the No. 11 spot in the Western Conference.
In the team’s first year under Stan Van Gundy, they gave up the seventh-most points per game (114.6) in the NBA. They also gave up the second-most 3-pointers per game (14.5) while making the fourth-least (10.6).
Their big 2020 offseason move, trading away Jrue Holiday for Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe, was a major flop. Both players are not great fits for the modern NBA. Adams provided slightly above replacement-level value (0.5 VORP) while Bledsoe (-0.2) was worse than replacement-level.
The Pelicans have an incredible number for first-round picks and pick-swap rights in the next seven drafts, but the team needs to make a trade to get players out as much as they need to bring new blood in.
If the Dallas Mavericks want to trade Kristaps Porzingis, New Orleans could be a destination
It’s an open secret that Porzingis and Mavs superstar Luka Doncic’s relationship is contentious. In May, owner Mark Cuban confirmed as much to The K&C Masterpiece radio show on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. Cuban told the hosts:
On the court [Porzingis and Doncic] are fine. I mean, coaches coach, and coach kind of runs the show so everything gets worked out on the court. That’s not to say there aren’t dust-ups, because there are.
Cuban’s quote suggests the players may not see eye-to-eye off the court but are fine on the floor. Porzingis seems to disagree.
Tim McMahon from ESPN recently reported that the 7-foot-3 Latvian “often feeling more like an afterthought than a co-star as Doncic dominates the ball and the spotlight.” The report also mentions that insiders have noticed Porzingis taking “thinly veiled” shots at his young Slovenian teammate to the media.
After these revelations, speculation that Porzingis will be on the trading block in the offseason is rampant, and analysts are mentioning almost every fringe playoff team as a possible destination. New Orleans is certainly one of these teams.
It’s hard to see Porzingis being happy playing for the Pelicans
Besides injuries, which is Porzingis’ main issue, there are three reasons it seems he wants out of Dallas. He hasn’t been particularly effective on the court, Doncic dominates the ball, and he dominates the spotlight.
All three of those things would continue to be a problem in New Orleans.
Doncic has the ball in his hands a lot in Dallas. He led the league in usage rate (36%) in 2021. If Porzingis went to New Orleans with Williamson and Ingram, he would see much of the same. The Pelicans teammates boast one of the higher two-player combined usage rates in the league at 57.8%.
In the playoffs especially, playing with another big man (Boban Marjanovic) hampered Porzizngas’ effectiveness. The former Knick is best when he can float inside and outside, and Marjanovic blocked him from doing that. In New Orleans, Adams would do much of the same.
Finally, if Porzingis doesn’t like the amount of publicity Luka gets, you can imagine how he’ll feel about Zion.
Porzingis might mix things up in New Orleans, but, ultimately, it will be more of the same if he’s traded there. If Pelicans’ exec David Griffin even thinks about doing this, Williamson should exercise his right as an NBA superstar and put his foot down.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference