“You’re either all the way or all the way,” said David Griffin, the first time he spoke publicly after being named chief executive of basketball for the New Orleans Pelicans. “There’s no in between.”
This announcement was made by Anthony Davis.
Ostensibly, Griffin asserted that the team’s relationship with the disgruntled star could be repaired. But in secret, Griffin realized that Davis would never play another game of swans – Not yet how uncomfortable He made the situation for everyone within the organization.
On June 15, 2019 – 33 days after his appointment – Griffin signed Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pelicans recalled three players (Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball) and three first-round picks.
Wednesday marked the third anniversary of the trade, which was abundant for New Orleans, and should be for years to come.
Ingram was New Orleans’ biggest entry into the trade, which developed into a cornerstone of the franchise. He earned an All-Star appearance in his first season with New Orleans. Although he hasn’t been able to make a comeback since then, many within the organization believe he reached new heights as an all-around player last season.
Ingram publishes the best success numbers in the profession. He seemed comfortable in coach Willie Green’s offensive system, and one of the key elements in it was quick decision-making. By playing faster in the middle of the field, stopping Ingram becomes more difficult.
The numbers supported the theory that Ingram has never been more influential. When he played, the Pelicans went 29-26. When he sat down, they were 7-20.
Of the three players who came from Los Angeles to New Orleans, only Ingram was left. The Pelicans weren’t interested in making big money for the ball last summer, so he ended up with the Chicago Bulls in a $85 million deal. Hart was in the middle of his career when he was sent to the Portland Trail Blazers in February to be the centerpiece of the trade for the acquisition of CJ McCollum.
McCollum’s addition was the boost the Pelicans needed to become a playoff team. Outside of Damien Lillard’s shadow, the 30-year-old has managed to keep the lead level, averaging 24.3 points and 5.8 assists in 26 games.
McCollum put 32 points in the Pelicans’ championship win over the San Antonio Spurs, and scored 32 in the team’s April 1 win over the Lakers, which not only boosted the Pelicans’ odds in the playoff, but increased their chances of winning. Stick to the Lakers’ first-round pick in this summer’s draft.
The Pelicans did not maintain the Lakers’ first-round selection for 2022 unless they landed in the top ten (as a result of a deal they made with the Memphis Grizzlies in August). The choice, in fact, was moved. They are the 8th pick in Thursday’s draft.
For at least the next two years, the Pelicans and Lakers tangle will continue. The Pelicans have the option of swapping first-round picks with the Lakers in 2023. Then in 2024 or 2025 — whichever year the Pelicans prefer — the Lakers will have to give up another first-round pick, the final push on Davis.
The NBA landscape is changing rapidly, but the Lakers’ outlook doesn’t look rosy.
LeBron James is entering his twentieth season, and he is under contract for only one year. Russell Westbrook owes $47 million next season, a number that will make it difficult to trade it without also compromising a first-round pick. Then there is Davis, who is supposed to be in the prime of his career but has made just 76 of a potential 144 appearances in the past two seasons due to injuries.
The Pelicans are in a much better place than they were three years ago when Davis’ time with the team was about to end. They ended a three-year drought despite not getting a single minute from Zion Williamson, who was recovering from a broken right foot. Williamson is eligible to sign a five-year extension effective July 1.
Over the next few seasons, the roof of New Orleans could dip to Williamson’s health and willingness to embrace becoming the face of the franchise. If he’s all in his way, the franchise that has never advanced past the second round of qualifiers can reach unprecedented heights. If not, then by Griffin’s definition, it can only mean one thing: it’s completely unattainable.
As Griffin said three years ago at the start of this rebuilding process, there is no in between.