NBA Rumors: Possibility Blazers trade No. 3 pick for Zion Williamson?

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /

The Portland Trail Blazers are and will remain in the rumor mill until – probably  past – the 2023 NBA Draft on June 22. The most significant buzz surrounds a possible Blazers trade involving the No. 3 overall pick.

More scuttlebutt surfaced after reports saying the New Orleans Pelicans, who have a strong interest in G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson, are attempting to find a deal with either Portland at No. 3 or the Charlotte Hornets at No. 2.

This raises the idea of a Blazers-Pelicans trade if NOLA can’t work out a deal with Charlotte. And as Portland still rolls with the idea of building a title contender around Damian Lillard, there are packages to be found that would bring back some of New Orleans’ best young players – Brandon Ingram, Dyson Daniels, and Trey Murphy III, for instance.

But what about the Pelicans’ biggest name?

Could the Blazers trade the third pick in a deal for Zion Williamson?

Zion Williamson has been one of the brightest, most dominant players in the NBA since he entered the league – when healthy. Therein lies the problem, however. He is rarely healthy.

Zion has played a total of 114 games since being drafted No. 1 in 2019. He missed the entirety of the 2021-22 season with a foot injury. Questions have also been raised about his maturity level and dedication to stay in NBA-level shape.

For that reason, the Pelicans may be more willing to move on from Zion than Ingram, according to Marc Stein:

"I heard this week from one well-placed observer who is convinced that the Pelicans would indeed consider dealing Williamson away if it meant they could draft Henderson, pointing to a rising level of exasperation within the organization regarding Williamson’s ongoing availability issues and overall approach. My read, at this juncture, is that the Pelicans are less inclined to consider trading Brandon Ingram in the same scenario."

Ingram would be the better fit for Portland, given his positional size, length, scoring prowess, and defensive ability at the wing spot. There’s no doubt, though, that Williamson has the higher upside.

When he’s on the court, Zion has proven himself to be a legitimate MVP candidate.

In those 114 games, he has averages of 25.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He’s a career 60.5 percent shooter, as he can use his size, strength, and otherworldly athleticism to dominate at the rim. He can explode past – and over – bigger players, and can simply barrel to the rim through smaller defenders.

His 3.6 assists per game don’t do him justice as a playmaker, and he’s a decent shooter despite his flat jumper. He just rarely needs to shoot because he can get to the basket at will.

And in terms of marketability, Williamson would give Portland the superstar-caliber player the organization can’t normally land.

The question then becomes weighing Zion (pun intended) – his talent, potential, and star power, but also his injury history and lack of conditioning – against the value of Henderson and the No. 3 pick.

Would that pick and matching salaries straight up for Zion be enough for Portland? Or are there too many question marks surrounding him? Would asking New Orleans for more be too rich for the Pelicans’ blood? If the Blazers did ask for more, what would that be – young players like Daniels or Murphy and/or some combination of the Pelicans’ hoard of future first-round picks?

Next. Grade the trade: Blazers turn No. 3 into All-Star wing?. dark

The through-line here is clear: New Orleans wants Scoot, and if the Hornets don’t take him with the second pick, the Pels want Portland’s No. 3. That selection has significant value, however – so what would NOLA be willing to give up?

And if Ingram is off the table, is taking an epic risk-reward swing on Zion worth the third pick?