The Zion Apocalypse Pt.II | Selling High

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Updated: September 30, 2021
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Come the trade deadline this season, if the Pelicans are a projected lottery team yet again, the rumors out of Zion’s camp are he will demand a trade out of New Orleans. For the details on his contract situation and historic precedence of Williamson rejecting his rookie max extension, check out Pt.1 Zion Apocalypse. Whether Zion formally demands a trade or not, it seems clear that the future superstar is not only discontent with the current state of the franchise, but that those closest to him have big market aspirations. It may be time for a reality check in The Hollywood South. In order to retain Zion’s allegiance to New Orleans, presumably the expectation would be some sort of playoff success in the new two seasons. The kid chose Duke for a reason, right? With a motor like his, that fire is usually burning hot coals on a fuel of a proper disgust for collecting L’s. The problem is for the Pels, there is little hope that they will ever sniff a second round in the deep West any time soon.

The thing that no one seems to be considering is the blessing in disguise that may be in the cards from the basketball gods. If Zion was content and ready to Brad Beal his way through the league for a decade, New Orleans would simply coast on the fact they have the most explosive player on the roster and accept the fate of poorly constructed rosters. However, because of this situation being forced upon them, they may actually come out ahead by selling high on the injury-prone power forward. And although it may take a hit on the fanbase today, any of the routes below have more possibility of eventually becoming a true contender.

Trade Options

Considering Zion’s camp has been so transparent about New York, we can assume that there are certain markets that would be wary about trading for him only to find themselves in the same situation New Orleans is. For example, Sacramento or Memphis may have intriguing trade packages for Williamson, but they cannot provide instant success or big market glamor. Ideally, Zion is traded to a team that immediately can put him in a situation for playoff success and taste at the very least a 1st round victory. But obviously what Zion wants is not the primary variable that will dictate the exchange, it will be what packages can be offered for possibly the most coveted young asset in the league outside of the Slovenian Serpent, Luka Dončić. Both LA teams and Brooklyn don’t even have the pieces to trade for SGA let alone Zion Williamson so they’re out. Miami also has no draft picks and their prized possession from the Bubble in Tyler Herro probably isn’t worth 2 late round firsts at the moment. That leaves two franchises with favorable locations, and enormous trade packages to offer: The New York Knicks, and the Golden State Warriors. {It should be noted, that if the Pels decided to move off Zion, a full-blown rebuild would be the only option and would result in Brandon Ingram being traded immediately after to a contender for assets.}

New Orleans

New York arguably does not have a crown jewel to exchange for the modern-day Charles Barkley, however, the package New York has to offer is nothing to scoff at. 5 unprotected first, trade swaps, a pair of 2nds, RJ Barret, Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin, and Immanuel Quickly. They would presumably extend Mitchell Robinson and sell big man Valančiūnas at the deadline for assets. Instead of praying for the playoffs and sending the 16th pick in the draft to Charlotte, New Orleans would completely bottom out and keep their 1-14 protected first and hope for a top 5 pick. It would be this player that they would be most excited about, and hopefully finding a top tier point guard or wing. Along with their own lottery selection, they would have New York and the Lakers’ firsts in 2022 and for the majority of drafts for the foreseeable future. Surround this new piece would be RJ at the 2, Toppin at the 4, Mitchell at the 5, and maybe Alexander-Walker at the 3 depending on selection. Likely there would be one more exciting young prospect brought in the Brandon Ingram exchange. Three or 4 years down the road, New Orleans would presumably package their surplus amount of picks for win-now talent to take the step towards true contention.

New York

For the Big Apple, it’s simple, Zion is pure gold. Especially for a franchise that does not need a title to appease its fans but only electricity and some form of playoff success, Williamson’s jersey may be hung from rafters day 1 in Madison Square Garden. They may need to move Julius Randel since they play literally the exact same position, but since he just made an all-star team, it is likely he would fetch some great talent in exchange. They could also just try them together in the frontcourt and dare teams to try and stop a pair facilitating bulldozers in the paint.

Golden State

Honestly, a trade like this for a Warriors fan I would be quite hesitant on signing off on, but despite all the upside of the stack of rookie contracts sent out, none would have the immediate impact of Zion Williamson. Since Zion and Draymond play the same position, not just the 4, but as a secondary facilitator, he would most likely need to be moved since neither stretch the floor from the perimeter. The Portland Trail Blazers have openly been thirsty for Dray to be paired with their two guards, and have several comparable forwards that would be more ideal next to Zion. Regardless though, if it were Portland or another team, a starting lineup of Curry, Klay, Wiggins, and Zion with anyone else playing small ball 5 would be the most terrifying lineup in basketball.

New Orleans

Objectively, if Golden State offered this package for Zion, it completely trumps the New York Knicks offer in spades. Not only is the timeline more in-tune with a pure rebuild, the upside on Wisemen and Kuminga is higher than any of the players included in the Knicks deal. Although it does feel like Anthony Davis all over again, the multitude of picks they have from these deals is tremendous. Ideally they bottom out and get a top 5 pick in 2022 and have him paired with Moody at the 2, Kuminga at the 4, and Wisemen at the 5. And if they end up with say the 3rd pick, they could easier just dump a few picks to move up 1 to get the consensus top-tier prospect.

Conclusion

With Williamson’s third surgery that we know of, moving him now may prove to be a blessing in disguise for New Orleans. It is also unlikely they would be able to get such generous trade packages if he is not able to start the season and at any time looks compromised before the trade deadline.

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