The New Orleans Pelicans are one of the younger teams on the rise in the Western Conference this upcoming season. They will be looking to building off an excellent season where they surpassed expectations leading to a spot in the NBA bubble giving them a shot to make the 8th seed play-in tournament.
With a healthy Zion Williamson ready to showcase his talents, New Orleans also snagged promising defender Wenyen Gabriel in addition to making good trades for potentially key pieces in Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe. The Pelicans are determined to earn a playoff spot.
The Pels will be able to greatly boost their chances of a 2021 playoff appearance and even a deep run by trading for Rockets superstar James Harden. While James Harden has not mentioned the Pelicans on his list of preferred destinations, stars have been blindsided by trades before, so do not count New Orleans out whatsoever. To make the deal happen, New Orleans will need to unload their most valued asset in Brandon Ingram which they certainly will be reluctant to do after his Most Improved Player campaign.
Here is how the New Orleans Pelicans can make a deal with the Houston Rockets to acquire James Harden and form the league’s best 1-2 punch between the former MVP and Rookie of the Year runner-up.
Trade Package: Brandon Ingram, Kira Lewis Jr., Jaxson Hayes, 2021 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick (via CLE), and 2025 first-round pick (via MIL) for James Harden
The New Orleans Pelicans Make The Playoffs And Possibly A Western Conference Finals Appearance
The Pelicans’ upside was very apparent last season, being invited to play in the Orlando bubble. Sadly, the NOLA team lost too many games to make the play-in tournament. While hampered last season by injuries, it is still apparent that the 2019 first overall pick, Williamson, has tremendous talent on both ends of the floor.
The Pelicans’ play style has yet to be cemented by Harden’s former coach Stan Van Gundy who replaced Alvin Gentry this past offseason. A coach Harden has had previous success with, along with veterans who have played key roles on playoff teams would inject some maturity and poise into a young New Orleans squad.
After adding a solid rebounder in Adams, and good defenders in Gabriel and Bledsoe, the Pelicans seem to require a scorer who can also space the floor. While Ingram promises you some of this, it would not be fair to compare his ability to get buckets to the 3-time scoring champ Harden.
Harden’s gravity as a scorer opens up opportunities for every other player on the floor. His presence as a deep threat would open up the paint for interior scorers like Williamson, Adams, and Bledsoe.
Harden’s interior scoring ability would give room for other perimeter threats like J.J. Redick and Josh Hart to knock down shots. The inside-outside spacing Harden’s gravity provides could see him lead the NBA in assists as he did in 2016-17.
One thing David Aldridge pointed out in his article for the Athletic, making an aggressive trade now, leading to a playoff run would secure Zion Williamson for the future
“The best chance to keep a guy like Zion happy, it says here, is to give him the best chance to compete immediately in the West.”
Zion is under contract until 2023, but solidifying his loyalty to New Orleans should be in the minds of the Pelicans’ front office.
Houston Rockets Rebuild Around John Wall, Brandon Ingram, Jaxson Hayes, and Future Picks
The trade package would leave the Rockets having to fill the void of one of the top 5 players in the league. After coming off a season as the most improved player in the league Ingram’s upside is almost a mystery.
Before the Anthony Davis trade Ingram started to almost look like a bust for the Lakers, die-hard Ingram fans might deny it but there was serious doubt about his adjustment to the NBA. Ingram exploded in New Orleans, earning himself his first All-Star appearance.
It is no secret that the Rockets are planning on rebuilding, the Russell Westbrook/John Wall Trade made that apparent. Acquiring picks would help the Rockets rebound from the Chris Paul/Westbrook trade. And the addition of Ingram and Hayes would not leave Houston rudderless, with two young promising players guided by the veteran presence of John Wall and P.J. Tucker.
While not at the “top of the list” for Harden’s desired trade destination, New Orleans should not be out of the question entirely. The move could be beneficial for both clubs, providing a direction for the future as well as picks to actually build said future and a defensive black hole whose gravity on the court could open up a deep playoff run.