New Orleans Pelicans continue their search for a center

Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers. Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers. Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Lost in the sauce of all the Zion Williamson/Brandon Ingram/Scoot Henderson trade rumors is the other (more realistic) story that has been blossoming this offseason. The New Orleans Pelicans are looking to upgrade their center position, which is currently occupied by Jonas Valanciunas.

Now, they did add Cody Zeller to the team through free agency, but he is best suited as a backup/third-string big. He’s not the upgrade over Valanciunas that the team is searching for.

However, last week, we got some reporting from Will Guillory of The Athletic that may indicate who some worthy successors might be:

"“With Valančiūnas heading into the final year of his deal, the Pels have been sniffing around for other options in recent months,” Guillory wrote in a recent article for The Athletic. “There have been rumors of them exploring potential deals for Jarrett Allen or Isaiah Stewart, but nothing has materialized quite yet.”“Valančiūnas brings some qualities they need at the position like rebounding and scoring the basket. He’s one of the more dependable options out there at the starting center position. But his limitations on the defensive end have limited his effectiveness late in games. Those issues will only grow as he creeps deeper into his 30s.”"

We’ve already heard reports about the Pelicans being interested in shopping Valanciunas. And we’ve also been made aware of their interest in a potential trade for Jarrett Allen. But the name Isaiah Stewart is a relatively new and intriguing idea.

Stewart isn’t the rim protector that Allen is (and the Pelicans really need some rim protection). But what he lacks in rim protection he makes up for in versatility.

Stewart is simultaneously beefy and agile. He can use his strength to bang with bigger players and crash the offensive/defensive glass. And he can use his quick feet to dance with wings and forwards on the perimeter.

On top of that, there is a chance that he could provide something else the Pelicans need that Allen can’t give them: spacing. Last season, he shot 32.7% from three on 4.1 attempts per game. That’s far better than anything Allen could muster, but still not anything to write home about.

However, Stewart has been improving as a shooter ever since he entered the league. In his first two seasons, he shot a similar percentage to what he did last season, but he was averaging less than one attempt a game. Last year, he maintained his efficiency while quadrupling his volume. This is a promising sign for his growth as a shooter moving forward.

We’ll soon see if these Valanciunas rumors end up coming to fruition or if they just fizzle out like the Williamson ones did.

Next. 5 Pelicans most likely to be traded. dark