4. Larry Nance Jr. (New Orleans Pelicans)
Okay, we cheated a little bit with this last one. Yes, Larry Nance Jr. is already on the team, so the Pelicans wouldn’t really be acquiring him in a deadline deal. But he still would be a credible replacement for Valanciunas.
Nance isn’t much of a rim protector himself, but he’s a great switch defender. With him, the Pelicans can have some more scheme versatility in their defense (at least more than they currently have with Valanciunas).
The Pelicans could take a page out of the defending-champion Denver Nuggets’ playbook. Last postseason, the Nuggets used Nikola Jokic as their starting center. And then, when it came time to give The Joker a breather, they went to a small-ball lineup with Aaron Gordon/Jeff Green manning the five spot.
The Pelicans could look to replicate this model by using Nance as their starting center and then going to small-ball lineups when he’s on the bench. The team has already talked about exploring lineups with Williamson at the five.
The elephant in the room here is that Nance also comes with his own injury concerns. Last year, he missed 17 games, and he’s already dealing with some issues as we ramp up for the start of the season.
But if he can manage to stay healthy in 2023-24, this option may be worth trying out.