A 23-year-old forward who has averaged 23.8 points in each of the past two seasons, earned an All-Star spot in 2020 and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award – sounds like a no-brainer for any team to pursue if a trade can be had, right?
Right. And the Miami Heat are in position to pursue that kind of deal this offseason, should the Pelicans, still unable to pull themselves out of franchise-wide discord, decide that Brandon Ingram—the player in question—is a moveable asset.
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In fact, according to Heat insider Ethan Skolnick, Ingram is a top target for Miami this offseason, if New Orleans comes to the conclusion that a pairing of Ingram and Zion Williamson won’t work out.
“I have heard … that a potential Heat target in trade this offseason would be one Brandon Ingram,” Skolnick said on the Five on the Floor podcast, “who recently signed a contract extension—last year’s Most Improved Player and a player who had issues with Stan and also I have heard, doesn’t feel he is a long-term fit with Zion. I have heard this from a couple of people.”
The Heat, after following up the 2020 bubble run to the NBA Finals with a terrible showing in 2020-21, swept from the first round of the playoffs, are desperate to make a major addition this summer. Team president Pat Riley just has to hope that he can find another head honcho as desperate for change as he is. David Griffin, the GM in New Orleans, might be that guy.
Pelicans Fired Coach, Mired in Dysfunction
The Pelicans’ dysfunction was laid bare this week with the firing of coach Stan Van Gundy, who lasted only one season with New Orleans and was, apparently, too rigid and demanding for second-year forward Williamson, the No. 1 pick in 2019 who is expected to be a superstar.
But reports also surfaced that members of Williamson’s family remain unhappy with the way the Pelicans have been built around the youngster. It is premature, of course, for Williamson to exert that kind of power within the franchise, but after the experience of losing disgruntled forward Anthony Davis via trade two years ago, the Pelicans are very sensitive to keeping their new star happy.
The Pelicans do need a revamp around Williamson, ideally with more shooting. The Pelicans shot 34.8% from the 3-point line last season, which was 26th in the NBA. They averaged 30.4 3-point attempts per game, which was 25th in the league.
For an inside force like Williamson, a lineup with shooters on hand is clearly needed.
Miami Heat Looking to Gamble for an Upgrade
That’s where the Heat come in, with one of the best shooters in the NBA on the roster and heading toward restricted free agency. The Heat could, potentially, execute a sign-and-trade with the Pelicans featuring Robinson and guard Tyler Herro, with other young assets—most likely Precious Achiuwa and perhaps others—included.
There is some risk for the Heat. Ingram, for all his talent, is injury-prone and is entering the first year of a five-year, $158 million contract extension. But he is, unquestionably, a star player. The only question would be, can he fit with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo?
Skolnick said the problems between Ingram and Williamson are not interpersonal, but, rather, are Xs-and-Os related.
“Not that there’s a personality conflict but it is just not the best possible fit,” Skolnick said. “The other part of the reporting we should add to this is, I have said repeatedly that I think the Heat are going to try to re-sign Duncan Robinson, whether to keep him or to move him. But they are going to try to get a deal done before he hits the market.”