Monday, June 24, 2024

Pelicans Shortlist Star Guard Trade Targets

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As they look for their future floor general, four backcourt stars have emerged as the New Orleans Pelicans’ primary trade targets this offseason.

After broaching the conversation with Atlanta Hawks before the trade deadline, “if the Pelicans reengaged the Hawks” in trade talks, “they could look to pry away (Dejounte) Murray or (Trae) Young,” reports NOLA.com’s Christian Clark. “Even though Young is the more talented player, the Pelicans seem to hold more interest in Murray,” he adds.

Per Clark, the Pelicans will also talk to the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason. Similar to the Hawks, the Cavs have a backcourt conundrum as Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell may soon have to breakup. While Garland wants to be traded if Cleveland re-signs Garland, the Cavs will trade Mitchell if he refuses to agree to a long-term deal with them this offseason. The five-time All-Star is eligible for a four-year, $200 million contract extension.

In a trade for any of these guards, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram is likely to headline to the outgoing package.

Ingram’s a dynamic offensive player with exceptional length thanks to his 6-foot-8 frame and 7-foot-3 wingspan. In 2023-24, the former second overall pick averaged 20.7 points and 5.7 assists per game, picking opponents apart with his midrange game. However, Ingram’s a less potent scorer than CJ McCollum or Zion Williamson. This makes him the most expendable member of their Big 3 as they look to fix their issues at point guard.

Trae Young

Trae Young could be the best option for the Pelicans.

Averaging 25.7 points and 10.8 assists per game in 2023-24, the three-time All-Star is an offense unto himself. An exceptional shot-creator due to his shiftiness and ball-handling ability, he offers a lot of firepower. However, his court vision and playmaking is what makes him particularly attractive. A facilitator who makes passing look like an art, he and Williamson might turn New Orleans into the New Lob City.

The biggest concern with adding Young is that he’s a porous defender. With increased focus and intensity on that end, he became a better event creator in 2023-24. Nonetheless, his diminutive size and average athleticism limits his upside defensively. Alongside McCollum and Williamson, it might be too much of a gamble.

Donovan Mitchell

With regard to Mitchell, the Pelicans would have a scorer who’s even more threatening than Young simply by virtue of his efficiency.

Wasting little motion on his drives, his burst and patented Eurostep have been an incredibly effective go-to move. To that point, Young doesn’t necessarily have a go-to move. He gets his points with greater variety perhaps, but less consistency. In many ways, a comparison between the two mirrors Bruce Lee’s quote about fearing a man who practices one kick 1,000 times more than the one who practices 1,000 kicks once.

However, though Mitchell’s capable of manning both guard positions, he’s more natural as a two. This may benefit New Orleans, as McCollum and Williamson need playmaking reps themselves. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting.

Dejounte Murray

Dejounte Murray’s performance when Young was sidelined with a finger injury reestablished his star status, as the Seattle native averaged 24.8 points, 9.2 assists, and 1.8 steals per game in that time. While 23 games isn’t the largest sample size, everything about his play looked sustainable. Indeed, as Murray shot 44.3 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from 3 during this time, his efficiency shouldn’t be difficult to keep up.

With a heavy diet of midrange jumpers, it’s worth wondering how much he appeals to Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin though. Griffin is a proponent of the analytics movement, which emphasizes the importance of 3s and layups. However, when factoring in Murray’s penchant for pass deflections, his talent might just too good to ignore.

Darius Garland

Garland’s best skill is his passing, which instantly makes him a viable trade target for the Pelicans. That he excels at finding his big men in the pick-and-roll only adds to the temptation to trade for him, especially if they move a decidedly European-style center in Jonas Valanciunas.

Yet, with Garland’s efficiency from 3-point range, he’s the most reliable shooter of the aforementioned targets. This doesn’t necessarily give him the leg up, as the others are more aggressive scorers. That said, if the Pelicans had thoughts of featuring Williamson more, then Garland’s passiveness could play into their hands. At that point, his catch-and-shoot ability becomes more important, as both Williamson and McCollum can create for others.

In assessing his defense, Garland’s not going to be stopping many players on-ball. However, over the last couple of seasons, he’s become better at getting into passing lanes. In 2023-24, he averaged 2.0 pass deflections per game, -1.0 less than Mitchell and Murray.

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