With the 2019 NBA Draft just two days away, Duke forward Zion Williamson is still expected by most pundits to be taken by the New Orleans Pelicans with the No. 1 overall selection. Murray State’s Ja Morant and Williamson’s Duke teammate, R.J. Barrett, are generally thought of as the likely second and third overall selections, going respectively to the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks. However, a new report suggests that the Pelicans — who will get the Los Angeles Lakers’ No. 4 overall pick once the trade sending Anthony Davis to Los Angeles is finalized — are interested in moving up to No. 2, where they could go with Barrett and have the two former Blue Devils superstars continue teaming up as NBA rookies.
As explained by Marc Berman of the New York Post, one of his unnamed league sources noted that the Pelicans are planning to regain assets by trading down in Thursday’s draft. However, he added that the team has also had some “internal talks” about a trade-up that would give them the second overall pick. This, per Berman, would allow New Orleans to draft “best friends” Williamson and Barrett with the top two selections.
While Berman acknowledged that it’s “unlikely” the Pelicans would trade up to No. 2, he added that the scenario would allow Morant, who is expected to replace Mike Conley as the Grizzlies’ point guard, to instead be drafted by the Knicks at No. 3. Despite a midseason acquisition that sent Dennis Smith Jr. to New York in February, the team still had Morant ranked higher than Barrett at this year’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. However, that took place before the Murray State standout underwent “minor” surgery on his right knee, per USA Today.
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Commenting on what the Pelicans might need to do to move up to the No. 2 pick on Thursday, Bleacher Report wrote that New Orleans will have the right players in place to make such a deal work, as the Lakers agreed to send Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball to the Pelicans in exchange for Davis. All of these players — as well as the No. 4 pick the Lakers are sending to the Pelicans — were described as “enticing” pieces for a Memphis Grizzlies team rebuilding around last year’s fourth overall selection, versatile big man Jaren Jackson Jr.
As for the possibility of Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett continuing their partnership in New Orleans, Bleacher Report predicted that they could act as “dual playmakers’ in pick-and-roll situations, much like they did at Duke. While Barrett’s tendency to “[take] too many of Williamson’s shots” in clutch situations was brought up, the outlet added that Jrue Holiday’s veteran presence at point guard could potentially allay those concerns.