Each day we get closer to Thursday’s NBA Draft, Zion Williamson remaining at the Pelicans is looking less and less likely.
Zion has played just 114 NBA games in his three-year career but had so much promise coming in as the 2019 number one draft pick.
“The Zion thing is a real, real subplot,” Bill Simmons said on his podcast. “I had somebody tell me yesterday that I trust that [Zion] will not be on the team on Thursday.”
There are some frontrunners to land the power forward, so let’s go through them.
It has been reported by multiple Insiders that the Pelicans are interested in trading up for G-League prospect Scoot Henderson in the draft.
Henderson is expected to be drafted at number two (or three) and the Hornets have the overall number two selection.
Gaining Scoot means the Pels will be giving up Zion or Brandon Ingram and Charlotte are rumored to prefer Ingram, which makes sense.
“As great as Williamson has been when healthy, he’s had knee injuries going back to high school and college,” The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said. “Throw in his questionable off-court decision-making, a subpar work ethic, and a lack of comradery with his teammates, and you’ve checked a lot of the boxes for a player who historically doesn’t live up to their potential.”
The Hornets “would reject such overtures” if it meant losing their number two pick to gain Zion, a “league observer” tells NBA Insider Marc Stein.
However, if the Hornets did manage to have a healthy Zion and LaMelo Ball out on the floor together, it would be unmissable basketball.
The Hornets could also very much benefit from Zion’s services as he is a scoring big man that can defend a range of positions.
Charlotte could also wager their number two pick and Gordon Hayward in a deal for Zion.
Portland as the third overall pick in the draft will ultimately get whoever Charlotte don’t want – either Henderson or Brandon Miller.
If Charlotte do pick Miller, then Portland are free to choose Scoot and if a trade with NOLA was to happen, the Blazers would reportedly prefer Williamson over Ingram.
“As for Portland, my sense from league sources is that Portland’s preference is Williamson, who’d be a weapon in the pick-and-roll and in handoffs alongside Damian Lillard (should he stick around) and Shaedon Sharpe,” O’Connor said.
The Trail Blazers trading in their number two pick for a win-now player would mean it’s more likely their star Damian Lillard would stick around.
They could test out the pairing of Williamson and Dame, which looks good on paper with Zion’s explosiveness and Dame’s shooting ability.
If it doesn’t work out and Lillard is sick of staying loyal, he could move on and the team could build around Zion.
Although, look where that’s gotten the Pels…
NEW YORK KNICKS
Unlike the first two teams above, there haven’t been too many rumors from New York’s camp about their desires to trade for Zion.
But, a number of NBA Insiders have suggested that the Knicks are a landing spot that make sense for Zion.
“The Knicks are desperate for a superstar, have a boatload of future first-round picks at their disposal and have an All-Star forward in Julius Randle who has fallen out of favor with fans,” B/R’s Tyler Conway said.
If Zion remains healthy in the big apple, he certainly has the star power to thrive alongside Jalen Brunson and could help the team get out of the second round of the playoffs.
“If the package to New Orleans includes Evan Fournier, New York would need to send out an additional $8 million in the deal,” Begley writes. “A package including Fournier, Toppin and multiple first-round picks would work. …If the Pelicans want Randle, the Knicks sending out $37 million in a package including Randle, Jericho Sims and multiple first-round picks would work.”
Williamson would also get the chance to reunite with Duke teammate RJ Barrett if he was to call Madison Square Garden his home court.
He hasn’t been shy in the past about showing love for New York.
“New York is the Mecca of basketball,” Williamson said after a game in 2021.”…Honestly, I think outside of New Orleans obviously, I think this might be my favorite place to play, outside of New Orleans. I can’t lie to you.”