The New Orleans Pelicans completed one of the swiftest and more surprising rebuilds in NBA history recently. With the Anthony Davis trade saga hanging over the franchises head, they hired David Griffin in mid April hoping he could right the ship. In the last three months he has turned the Pelicans hopes around with a series of moves that has NOLA faithful pumped for the upcoming season.
David Griffin’s first job was to attend the draft lottery in May. Coming into the lottery the Pelicans had the seventh worst record, but as the ping pong balls started dropping it became clear they were going to move up. Griffin sat by calmly as they moved all the way up to the number one pick. With only a six percent chance of getting this pick, they had some luck on their side. After bad luck with injuries over the years, Pelican fans now had something to be happy about.
Anthony Davis trade
Griffin’s next job was to engage with Anthony Davis around his trade request. Davis made it clear he wanted to be moved, leaving Griffin to work on preferred destinations. After it came down to the Boston Celtics, LA Lakers and the New York Knicks, the Lakers and Pelicans pulled the trigger on a deal. Davis had the Lakers as a preferred destination so they were able to give the best package without fear of Davis leaving after one year.
Griffins negotiating also landed them pick swap rights in 2024. Including the number four pick in 2019, they landed five first round picks. Come draft night they selected consensus number one pick Zion Williamson. They also selected Jordan Bone and Alen Smailagic in the second round. These assets, combined with the Lakers and Cavaliers picks got them Nickeil Alexander Walker, Jaxson Hayes and Marcus Louzada Silva. Though this meant moving the number four pick in De’Andre Hunter, they decided on a shooter in Walker and a bouncy big in Hayes. The second round picks they got for Smailagic were then traded for Derrick Favors.
Within two months Griffin turned a dead end roster into one of the most exciting young teams in the league. When free agency opened they also brought in JJ Redick on a two year $26 million deal. Looking at their depth chart they have star upside at every position, while also having defensive chops and shooting.
Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram join the Pelicans with something to prove. Not encumbered with the win now pressures that come playing with Lebron James, they can focus on developing with other similar minded young players. Hayes showed a lot of potential at summer league and could form the NBA’s most athletic front court with Zion.
JJ Redick is one of the leagues most efficient and deadly shooters, and still has plenty left in the tank at age 35. With a healthy Josh Hart, and shooters E’Twuan Moore and Darius Miller, Griffin has surrounded Zion with plenty of spacing to open up his game. Nickeil Alexander-Walker may also have been the steal of this draft class. A two year combo guard out of Virginia Tech, Walker is a great shooter who can create off the bounce. He is an excellent playmaker and can zip passes to the corners from both hands. Jrue Holiday also remains. Possibly the most underrated guard in the league, Holiday has had career years the last two seasons. As evidenced by consecutive All-Defense selections in the ’18 and ’19 seasons, Holiday is firmly in his prime.
The future is bright
The Pelicans future is bright. Though Anthony Davis is gone, Griffin’s haul of assets has set this team up for the future. Not only do they have hyped rookie Zion Williamson but there is a plethora of young talent alongside him. Many casual NBA fans will now have the Pelicans as one of their league pass teams. This excitement for a small market team is great for a city that hasn’t had it easy recently. Bring on the age of Zion!