A Zion Williamson Trade to the Knicks Could Happen. Should it?
Recent reports indicate that Williamson and his family are unhappy with the Pelicans’ management. Should the Knicks pull the trigger on the former Duke star?
A Sophomore? Making a Trade Request?
In the new era of player empowerment, it seems that established superstars have ultimate control over where and with whom they play, LeBron James being Exhibit A. This summer, though, a cohort of ultra-young players—rookies, sophomores and other youngsters—have expressed public dissatisfaction with their draft-day franchises.
For example, there seems to be trouble brewing between wonderkid Luka Dončić, who is in just his third season, and Dallas’ ownership. It remains to be seen what horrid fate will meet co-star Kristaps Porzingis this offseason.
However, the plot most pertinent to Knicks fans is currently developing in New Orleans: Former #1 pick Zion Williamson reportedly wants out of NOLA.
Trouble for the Big Dog in the Big Easy
Following health concerns which limited him to just 24 games in his rookie season, Zion Williamson has proven that he’s a face-of-the-league type player in the making. This season, he had insane averages of 27 points, seven boards and four assists a night… And the Pels finished 11th in the West.
Despite flashy names like Zion, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, New Orleans has been mediocre since Anthony Davis‘s departure. Eric Bledsoe is no Jrue Holiday—the Bucks definitely feel the same—and though the Pelicans have been fun to watch, it hasn’t at all translated to winning basketball. With Coach Stan Van Gundy getting the pink slip on Wednesday and questions arising about the culture in New Orleans, rumors have been a dime a dozen on whether Williamson truly wants to play in the Big Easy.
The Knicks have been at the forefront of the Zion sweepstakes, just as they have with, well, the other 99% of news this season. In addition, Zion is on record saying he loves playing in New York, stating that “Outside of New Orleans, [New York] might be my favorite place to play,” and adding the cryptic, “I can’t lie to you.”
Zion Williamson when asked about playing in MSG & NY;
"I think outside of New Orleans, it's my favorite place to play basketball" 👀 pic.twitter.com/4iLc8Mt8gZ
— TheBenchWarmer🏀 (@BenchWarmerPost) April 18, 2021
The tone of his voice, the sheepish grin—he’s practically begging to play in New York. It’s clear that Williamson would be just as good a fit in the Big Apple as in the Big Easy. So do the Knicks pull the trigger?
Randle for Zion. Do the Knicks Take It?
Good things never come cheap, and that’s no different in the NBA. If the Knicks really want a Zion deal—which, admittedly, is debatable—they’ll have to shell out a pretty penny. Maybe even two.
Realistically, the only plausible deal involves trading breakout talent Julius Randle, and perhaps some other young pieces. The Pelicans have been adamant to build around their current core, and are not necessarily looking for further draft capital.
This trade, whatever permutation it takes, solves one of the Knicks’ biggest problems: that of Randle’s fit on the timeline of the current rebuild. Zion, on the other hand, fits neatly into the New York’s young core. The soon-to-be 21-year-old is right in the same age range as Barrett and the other young pieces. Given time to develop under a gritty coach like Thibodeau, those players may blossom into a Warriors-like basketball dynasty.
Randle for Zion. Do the Pelicans Take It?
The short answer? No. Just as the Mavs wouldn’t trade Luka for a space station and a private island, the Pels will try with all their might to keep Williamson in New Orleans. Indeed, it’ll be hard to pry Zion from the Pelicans’ hands. Or… wings, rather.
And what’s the long answer? It’s “No, they don’t.”
Does Zion Take It?
Assume that some miracle trade does occur. “Knicks Trade Entire State of North Carolina and 2 Late Firsts for Zion Williamson.” Something like that. How does Zion fit on this potential New York squad?
Firstly, observe a match made in basketball heaven: Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, reunited at long last. The former Duke dynamic duo proved in college that they can be deadly sharing the floor, and in the NBA, sharing an alma mater is like sharing DNA—players really want to play with old college buddies.
Secondly, the prospect of acquiring Lonzo Ball. If the words “Barrett, Ball, Williamson” don’t get Knicks’ fans pulses going, they might want to call a mortician. Indeed, these three young, enigmatic stars sharing the same court would be a sight to behold: must-watch TV in the purest sense of the phrase. This isn’t even to mention the rest of the Knicks entourage, including the likes of Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel Quickley, Derrick Rose and others like exciting newcomer Luca Vildoza.
In short, Zion doesn’t take it. He welcomes it, with open arms and an “I HEART NYC” t-shirt. Again: tone of voice, sheepish grin. Dude wants to come to New York.
Conclusion: Unlikely, yet Infinitely Exciting.
It’s not a well-kept secret that Zion wants to play in New York. The signs are everywhere: his family’s loose lips, his Duke buddy R.J., his general fascination with the city. Heck, the guy might as well have a sticky note on his back reading, “Please kick me. To Manhattan.”
On the other hand, both franchises may have a reluctance towards making such a brash transaction. New York just got out of the gutter and found something that works, for once, and New Orleans isn’t willing to part ways with their young star, barring a deal on the level of the Louisiana Purchase. Indeed, a Zion Williamson trade, if one occurs, may be convoluted and extraordinarily messy.
But, after all, New York is the city of dreams. Who’s to say Zion doesn’t follow his?
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