Moore: The Short and Long-Term Value of the Pelicans After Trading Anthony Davis

Jun 17, 2019 08:57 PM EDT

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Merchandise in the New Orleans Pelicans team store featuring forward Anthony Davis’ jersey.

  • The Pelicans, long reluctant to let go of their prized franchise player Anthony Davis, finally relented and traded him to the Lakers.
  • In return, the have three talented young players to play alongside the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in this year's NBA draft.
  • Matt Moore looks at the distant and not so distant future of the franchise.

It’s finally over. Anthony Davis is headed to Los Angeles and the Pelicans’ next era with Zion Williamson is set to begin.

Sources confirmed to the Action Network what ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported on Saturday (and was confirmed by multiple outlets), that the Lakers were trading Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-rounders, along with a swap in 2023 to the Pelicans for the All-Star forward-center.

We broke down what this means for the Lakers and their title odds, but what about the Pelicans?

This trade was not what I would describe as a steal. There were a lot of tweets pouring down the timeline Saturday night that Pelicans general manager David Griffin “fleeced” the Lakers.

That is not entirely accurate. He had to trade his best player, a perennial All-Star, a franchise cornerstone (likely a future likely Hall-of-Famer if he ever wins anything), and in return he landed a point guard who can’t shoot (even free throws), a 2-guard who doesn’t shoot 3’s, and Josh Hart (who’s solid).

If the Lakers are able to secure a third star at some point, they can viably hold on to decent draft position over the next five years, limiting the value of the two picks and swap in 2023.

However, short and long-term, I’m buying the Pelicans stock.

Short-Term Stock

PointsBet has the Pelicans’ over/under win total set at 31.5. It’s too early before free agency and the draft to get a sense of whether that has value, but my early leans are on the over.

First, Williamson isn’t every other No. 1 pick. He’s considered the best prospect since … Davis, and maybe even back to LeBron James (Side note: I look forward to the Lakers trading for him, too, in eight years).

So let’s judge him based on that precedent. The 2003-2004 Cavaliers in LeBron’s rookie season won 35 games. The 2013 Hornets (now Pelicans) won just 27, but that was against a season win total over/under of 26.5, hitting the over.

Note: We don’t have data on the 2003 Cavaliers, (win total odds history came courtesy of, but the over has gone 8-5 for teams with the No. 1 pick since 2006-2007 (though there’s a lot of context needed in there).

Second, the Pelicans do have a roster of actual NBA players, this isn’t a rebuilding squad. Jrue Holiday should remain in New Orleans by all accounts and is an All-Star-level talent. They’ll have the option to re-sign some useful free agents like Darius Miller, Elfrid Payton, and Jahlil Okafor.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Darius Miller (21).

There’s also the options they have in the short term. There were immediate rumblings that the Pelicans could look to deal the No. 4 pick. A potential deal of, say, the No. 4 and another of their many future picks (one of their own or the Lakers’) or the young assets they just acquired could be moved for an upgrade.

Williamson gives you the option of pursuing win-now moves as long as you have an eye on the future. The Lakers’ draft picks they hauled in give them such an advantage.

Then there are the Laker kids.