The Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans will both be vying for extremely-competitive playoffs spots in the deep Western Conference for years to come, and each team has at least one star worthy of building a team around.
But neither franchise has proved capable of maximizing talent in recent years. Anthony Davis got out of the first round just once in his seven seasons in New Orleans, and Karl-Anthony Towns has been to the playoffs only once in his five years in the league.
Although the future is bright for both teams, here’s a potential trade that would significantly improve the direction of both organizations. One more so in the immediate future, and the other perhaps for the next several seasons.
2020 No. 1 overall pick, Jarrett Culver, James Johnson, Josh Okogie for Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram finished out his rookie contract this past season and will likely earn a max extension as a first-time free agent. The Pelicans, owner of Ingram’s “bird” rights, can offer him the most money, so a sign-and-trade would be the most beneficial avenue for both parties to get what they want.
Ingram made his first All-Star team in 2020 and eventually won the league’s Most Improved Player award, but he didn’t always gel alongside star rookie Zion Williamson. The team as a whole also seemed disjointed, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Pelicans make a move or two and look toward the future.
Ingram, Towns, and D’Angelo Russell would be one of the best offensive trios in the NBA. Although the team would still need to make moves to build around those three, the team would have them all signed through at least 2023. They would have time to grow together and hopefully see their primes align, potentially making Minnesota a real threat in the playoffs.
All of them can shoot and create their own shot. Defense would be an issue, of course, but the right role players around them, as well as a good coach, could bring real hope back to a fan base that hasn’t had much to cheer for recently.
For the Pelicans, signing and trading Ingram is the best-case scenario for the team if they don’t see him as a cornerstone player in the future. There’s no point in letting him walk, and he’d certainly do so if New Orleans doesn’t offer him the max.
Even if they do think Ingram is a special player, the Pelicans would get a significant haul in this deal that’d be difficult to pass on. Jarrett Culver was the sixth pick in 2019 and could develop nicely under the tutelage of Jrue Holiday, and New Orleans could either draft a potential star or trade for one with the top pick in this year’s draft.
In a Western Conference filled with formidable teams for the foreseeable future, both the Timberwolves and Pelicans need to greatly improve if they’re to make the playoffs. These teams failed to do so this year despite having All-Star-caliber players, and it doesn’t look like either team is poised to contend as currently constructed.