The New Orleans Pelicans have made some solid moves to put pieces around Zion Williamson, acquiring two solid starters in Jonas Valanciunas and Devonte' Graham via trade. However, even with their new additions, they still need to take some steps to build a contender around Zion Williamson.
One of the ways that the Pelicans could do that is by trading for an elite superstar to pair with Williamson. According to a trade scenario by Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report, that superstar could be Damian Lillard.
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Damian Lillard
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Brandon Ingram, Kira Lewis Jr., Jaxson Hayes, 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, and 2024 first-round pick (via LAL)
It seems as though this trade could be good for both teams, and Buckley explains why. The Trail Blazers haven't managed to build a contender around Damian Lillard, and perhaps teaming up with Zion Williamson would be a good way of giving himself a better chance at winning. At the same time if a Lillard trade did end up happening, getting Brandon Ingram as a centerpiece is a pretty solid return for the Portland Trail Blazers.
For different reasons—but sort of the same reason—the Blazers and Pelicans needed to win the offseason. Instead, both will be lumped together on most offseason loser lists you'll come across.
Both needed to sell their stars on their ability to construct a contender around them. The Blazers didn't even budge the needle by adding Snell, Zeller and Ben McLemore. The Pelicans either spun their tires or backtracked by essentially turning Lonzo Ball (whom Zion Williamson wanted to stay), two first-round picks and two pick swaps into Devonte' Graham, Tomas Satoransky, Jonas Valanciunas, Garrett Temple and a pair of second-round picks.
Neither Lillard nor Williamson can be thrilled with the direction of their clubs, but maybe they'd find happiness together. An offensive system built around Lillard-Williamson pick-and-rolls (and transition attacks) might be as prolific as it gets, and New Orleans would still have its newcomers plus a hopefully re-signed Josh Hart.
Portland, meanwhile, would turn Lillard into a 23-year-old All-Star (Ingram) and more. There isn't a right way to sell a fanbase on trading away an icon, but that seems like a good way to start.
Ingram is an effortless, efficient scorer who's growth as a playmaker gives him major focal-point potential. Lewis can run offense at ludicrous speed—a pace that would weaponize Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little and Greg Brown III—and Hayes can fly along with them as a rim-runner with bounce. Add three first-round picks to further brighten the future, and Portland's post-Lillard rebuild would be off and running.
There is no doubt that this scenario could help both teams. The Portland Trail Blazers would trade Lillard to a team with another superstar, while also getting a solid return for their rebuild. It would be difficult for the Portland Trail Blazers to part with their franchise legend, and obviously, Damian Lillard hasn't asked out yet. However, if the Blazers and Lillard do agree to part ways, this could be one of the best options.