New Orleans Pelicans last-minute bold moves for 2024 NBA Draft (2024)

The calm before the storm that comes before every NBA Draft is over. The free agent and trade market feeding frenzies are ramping up to full bore now that the first free agent has been signed and trade completed. EVP David Griffin said the New Orleans Pelicans would act with a sense of urgency this summer but have just a single selection (21st) in the 2024 Draft to operate with in negotiations. Well, that and a few deals built around Brandon Ingram.

New Orleans needs to build an NBA Playoffs series-winning squad next season. The Pelicans' stress test relies on some big bets on Zion Williamson but the supporting cast has to be of a certain caliber or there will be calls to clean house in the Crescent City. That's why the revamped front office has to be bold in looking for roster upgrades. What the Pelicans need for a blockbuster return for Ingram is becoming clear.

Where they can use those assets and market information is debatable. Darius Garland, Marcus Smart, and Dejounte Murray deals have been hashed over and frankly should be seen as lateral moves by the team's fans. Any Trae Young speculation is old news. Zach LaVine and DeAndre Ayton are depressed assets not worth a premium price in this market. However, a few bold gambits would elevate the Pelicans into the NBA Finals hopeful tier of teams.

Lauri Markkanen looking to win

The Utah Jazz are building slowly under Danny Ainge. Lauri Markkanen might want to win now. The Pelicans have been looking for some trade-back options to replenish the second-round pick war chest. An all-in move might be better when it comes to showing the urgency Griffin talked about during the team's exit interviews.

  • Pelicans acquire: Lauri Markkanen
  • Jazz acquire: Larry Nance Jr., Dyson Daniels, 21st overall pick in 2024, multiple future first-round picks/swaps

This is the kind of move that would allow the front office to fill out free agency quickly before taking a quick vacation. Not every blockbuster move requires Brandon Ingram. Adding Markkanen without giving up Ingram would have every ring-chasing veteran worth $10 million to fill out a lottery-team roster considering a $2 million deal with the Pelicans.

Turning up the Miami Heat

New Orleans Pelicans last-minute bold moves for 2024 NBA Draft (1)

The Miami Heat and Jimmy Butler are playing a game of poker that is bound to end in someone going bust. Butler reportedly wants a two-year, $113 million extension. The Heat want a player who can be available for the All-NBA required 65 games, something Butler has never achieved in Miami. Still, he averaged 20.8 points, 5.3 assists, 5.0 assists, and 1.3 steals per game when leading the team. Perhaps Butler can age gracefully taking a back seat to Zion Williamson's rumbling ways.

The Ringer's Howard Beck says rival organizations have been circling the situation for months in expectation of a South Bay divorce drama. Ingram for Butler works financially but a third team would be needed for New Orleans to avoid the tax. They'd be taking on an extra $12.7 million on next season's salary cap. There are a few expanded trades that work better for the team's salary cap but most will require the Pelicans to let Jose Alvarado go home.

  • Pelicans acquire: Jimmy Butler, Mitchell Robinson, 25th pick (2024)
  • Knicks acquire: Larry Nance Jr., Jose Alvarado, Jordan Hawkins, 21st pick (2024), rights to Karlo Matkovic
  • Heat acquire: Ingram, Dyson Daniels, 24th pick (2024)

This three-team deal is intriguing due to the Knicks having two first-round picks and a desire to consolidate in a move up in the 2024 NBA Draft. It is perhaps the most expandable and flexible framework the Pelicans can find that brings an All-NBA level player to the Big Easy.

A lineup of Jimmy Butler, Trey Murphy III, Zion Williamson, Herb Jones, and Mitchell Robinson with CJ McCollum coming off the bench would be tough to keep up with for any opponent. Prying away Miles McBride or Nikola Jovic would deserve some effort since this framework offers so much wiggle room.

New York needs a refresh

Dealing with Butler and the Heat might be too much of a headache. Mitchell Robinson and Miles McBride should still be targeted as the Knicks shake up things around Jalen Brunson. So should Mikal Bridges if the Brooklyn Nets are open for business.

  • Pelicans acquire: Mikal Bridges, Mitchell Robinson, Miles McBride, Knicks 2024 first-round (25th) pick, swap rights with Knicks after 2026 NBA Draft
  • Knicks acquire: Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., rights to Karlo Matkovic, surplus second-rounders from Nets
  • Nets acquire: Julius Randle, Jose Alvarado, Jordan Hawkins, 21st pick from Pelicans, 2024 Knicks first-rounder (24th), other non-lottery draft capital if necessary (Knicks also pick 38th in 2024)

The Knicks get a midrange sniper next to Jalen Brunson and OG Anunoby. The Pelicans can put together an eight-man rotation to compete with anyone. The Nets can flip Randle and the new regime can start a true rebuild once Ben Simmons's $40+ million deal is off the books. New York is desperate to remain relevant after a postseason run and might overpay. Brooklyn needs to get some kind of return for Bridges and might accept this kind of bargain instead of chasing an NBA Play-In Tournament spot.

Golden State Warriors get Steph Curry's help

Klay Thompson looks to be on the move as the Orlando Magic seem all but settled on making the Splash Brother their Main Priority this summer. No matter what happens, Steph Curry needs help to win another NBA Finals game, much less a title, not shooting three-pointers, which Ingram was opposed to last season. No, Curry needs help everywhere Ingram seems to excel on offense like the midrange and passing out of double teams.

The Alex Caruso-Josh Giddey swap is an anomaly. There will be draft picks used to facilitate three-team deals as over half of the league seeks to duck the luxury tax or one of the CBA's new aprons. Sign-and-trades will be used to keep free agents from hitting the open market. Andrew Wiggins to the Pelicans, Thompson to the Magic as the sign-and-trade player, and Ingram to the Warriors work financially. The deal gets everyone something if not everything the respective front offices desired, depending on the draft picks included.

Wiggins is also an All-Star like Ingram. The 29-year-old Wiggins plays like the 26-year-old Ingram. He can take on a Robin role but also step up when needed, as Wiggins did in a 2022 Game 4 double-double (17 points, 16 rebounds). The Canadian earned an NBA Championship ring by averaging 18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game while defending Jayson Tatum.

The three-point shot volume (3.8 per game) needs to improve but CJ McCollum got the message last season. Could Wiggins be convinced to commit to a career-extending shot diet? He is on a two-year deal with a player option for a third at $30 million. Wiggins will surely opt out but the deal would but the Pelicans time to recoup more value and free up almost $10 million in cap space.

  • Pelicans acquire: Andrew Wiggins, first-round picks/swaps with GSW after Curry's contract expires in 2026
  • Warriors acquire: Brandon Ingram, second-round picks from ORL
  • Magic acquire: Klay Thompson

The Magic would get their target with less of a hassle at a small price. The Warriors would duck the tax and spend some draft capital to extend Curry's championship window. The Pelicans would get a similar talent and be able to ask for a few other assets. It's a win-win-win.

Make Sacramento Kings say No

New Orleans Pelicans last-minute bold moves for 2024 NBA Draft (2)

DeAaron Fox is allegedly waiting to see if the Sacramento Kings can build a true contender before signing a contract extension. The Pelicans should not wait to make a call to the Western Conference also-ran. In fact, the front office should be phoning in ideas every day. Do not assume anything for Sacramento. Make them say “No!”

The New Orleans-born All-Star averaged 26.6 points, 5.6 assists, and 4.6 rebounds in 74 games last season while making approximately $1.5 million less than Ingram. Finding a way to land Fox, who is far more versatile as a Williamson-supporting piece, would be an NBA landscape-altering statement by the small-market franchise. By pursuing a player of Fox’s caliber New Orleans would be making an undeniable statement about their NBA Finals ambitions.

  • Pelicans acquire: De'Aaron Fox
  • Kings acquire: Brandon Ingram

Trading for De’Aaron Fox would involve risks and challenges but the potential benefits cannot be ignored. The Pelicans should make a strong approach for Fox this summer, even if it leads to the Kings blocking all calls from any 504 area code numbers. It’s a bold move that could potentially transform the Pelicans into a powerhouse in the Western Conference.

New Orleans Pelicans last-minute bold moves for 2024 NBA Draft (2024)
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