Three Zion Williamson Trade Destinations

Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Zion Williamson's name was in the news quite a bit during the 2023 NBA Finals for the wrong reasons. Now he's being brought up in theoretical trade discussions after a Shams Charania draft report.

On Tuesday, Charania reported the New Orleans Pelicans are looking into moving up from the No. 14 overall pick in the draft to pick Scoot Henderson, the electric point guard from the G-League who many believe is the second-best prospect in this year's class. This raised eyebrows because the Pelicans would have to give up a lot to move up high enough to nab Henderson. Draft picks alone won't get that deal done. Legitimate talent would have to be moved. Like, say, Williamson.

All of it is just rumors right now but things got enough momentum that Brian Windhorst reported this morning other teams are keeping an eye on Williamson's status .

Why would the Pelicans do this? Well, Williamson obviously has had an issue staying on the court since he was picked first overall in 2019 and his max contract will kick in this year. There have been rumblings about his maturity and willingness to fully commit to his health for a few years now. Then there was the "offcourt drama" Windhorst professionally alluded to above. Trading Williamson would allow the Pelicans to reset and build around a cheap, talented prospect while making Williamson and all his issues somebody else's problem.

If that argument sounds shaky to you, that's because it is. For all the issues Williamson has faced in the last four years he is still an unbelievable player when on the floor. And he is, as Stephen A. Smith would say, box office. A healthy Williamson means a sold-out arena no matter how good the team is and the sky is truly the limit if the young man stayed healthy for anywhere close to a full season.

But anything can happen. So if the Pelicans do decide they've had enough of the Zion Williamson experience and move on in pursuit of a top-end talent in this year's draft, which teams could be suitors?

Charlotte Hornets

The fact that the Hornets, in particular, own the No. 2 overall pick is definitely part of the reason these rumors have gained steam recently. Right after the lottery reports emerged that Charlotte would be open to moving the pick; they already have a star point guard, and while they are not in a position to be picky about draft picks it would not make a ton of sense to pick Henderson when LaMelo Ball is already so ball-dominant. Selling off the pick to the highest bidder is logical from a team-buildling perspective.

As far as landing spots go, this might be as good as it gets for Williamson. He's from the area and the stronger support system that would lend might help with the offcourt problems. There is very little pressure to be good immediately. The LaMelo-Zion pick-and-roll would be must-see television. Williamson's $33 million salary next year wouldn't really have an impact on the team's spending ability given they'd have no other big contracts on the books after using Gordon Hayward's deal to match in the trade. This feels like the most likely trade to happen if Williamson does get moved.

Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers own the No. 3 overall pick and appear very interested in using it to get Damian Lillard more proven help than drafting another developmental prospect. Trading for Williamson probably seems counterintuitive in that regard, given he can't stay on the court long enough to help anybody. But you can see the vision. Adding Williamson to the team would take a massive amount of offensive responsibility off Lillard and give the roster an explosive element it hasn't had in a long time. Big swings will have to be taken to compete in the Western Conference next year and Williamson certainly qualifies.

The Pelicans might need a bit more convincing to do this deal, though, because sitting at No. 3 they have no guarantee someone won't jump them at No. 2 for Henderson. Would Anfernee Simons and the third pick do the trick? Maybe. This one makes a little less sense than the Hornets trade but if the Pelicans are hell-bent on getting into the top three and the Blazers want to swing for the fences, both sides could emerge happy.

Houston Rockets

The pattern is emerging. The Rockets have the fourth overall pick and are apparently dedicated to turning a corner next season as they pursue James Harden despite lacking a contending roster. There is a universe in which Henderson falls to the Rockets' pick if the Hornets and Blazers can't find trade partners given their respective logjams at guard. Nobody is untouchable in Houston (and they have enough cap space to not match Williamson's salary in a deal) so the Pelicans could get a pretty good deal out of it. Maybe Williamson and No. 14 for the No. 4 pick, Kevin Porter, and one of Alpern Segun or Jalen Green?

It is fair to wonder if Houston is really the best place for Williamson. Ime Udoka seems like the sort of hard-nosed coach that would be good for Williamson at this stage in his career but he was unceremoniously ejected from his previous job for off-court issues. Harden, should he join the roster, is not exactly famous for his off-court discipline. But the Rockets appear desperate for contention and might be willing to take a big risk. If the board seems to fall the Pelicans' way, then it can't be ruled out.