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Heading into a summer with many questions, the New Orleans Pelicans are tasked with finding out what direction the franchise is headed in with Zion Williamson. With two years of sample size on Williamson with the rest of the Pelicans young core, the front office should have an idea of what players do and don’t fit into their future.

As the focus shifts more and more toward a winning future in lieu of a rebuilding one, the Pelicans will begin to look to aggregate their assets into something impactful. For instance, the team will enter the 2021 NBA draft with four selections, three of those second-rounders. For a team already full of young players, adding four more first-year players to that mix seems suboptimal.

In fact, between the 2021 and 2027 drafts, the Pelicans have 22 draft picks with control over the majority of the Lakers and Bucks first round picks in that span. The team will have plenty of ammunition to add to their roster on top of potentially jumping on opportunities to make a move for a superstar.

That last bit could be pertinent to this offseason. While the clock isn’t ticking loudly yet for the Pelicans, it is ticking as Williamson and Ingram move closer to free agency and the urgency to become contenders will grow. Seemingly each year, a new star becomes disgruntled and seeks a way out of his current situation. This year, there are a couple of prime candidates.

Bradley Beal’s name will continue to be floated around despite the Wizards making a run to get into the playoffs this season. Should the Blazers exit in the first round yet again, C.J. McCollum may be available at a high price.

There will also almost certainly be unexpected players who may become available as well. James Harden this season is a perfect example of that very fact.

The Pelicans, more so than any team not named the Thunder, are in prime position to pounce on this opportunity. All these questions, though, will need to be answered by New Orleans at the same time that they answer internal questions about the state of their roster. Should they bring back Lonzo Ball? Josh Hart? Eric Bledsoe? Steven Adams?

The success of Ball, Ingram and Williamson together would indicate there is something in place for the future. That trio was a plus-4.3 in 942 minutes together this season. In 146 minutes without Bledsoe, they were plus-6.6. In 250 minutes without Adams, they were plus-10.4.

Building around that trio could be the answer for the Pelicans’ future. Adding a lead guard like McCollum or Beal would offer a rather seamless fit. Ball’s versatility defensively and offensively allows the team the ability to add virtually any guard.

The biggest thing, though, is determining the right opportunity and the right cost. If that circumstance presents itself this offseason, it could be time for the Pelicans to make a big move to get to the next level.


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