6 Potential Pelicans free agent targets with ties to Zion Williamson

The Pelicans should target free agents who fit around Zion Williamson.
New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson
New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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The New Orleans Pelicans must shake things up. They have not advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since 2018 with Anthony Davis, and their core is not a harmonious fit. David Griffin made it clear changes are coming (subscription required), and New Orleans will explore multiple trade avenues this summer.

The Pels are building around Zion Williamson. The two-time All-Star is an unstoppable offensive force when healthy, but he has played fewer than 30 games in three of his first five NBA seasons. Keeping Zion on the floor is the top priority for New Orleans, but they must put more talent around him.

The Pelicans are unlikely to make a significant splash in free agency. They are over the cap and not known as a destination. None of that should stop Griffin and his front office from exploring the market. Signing a player or two with ties to Zion could help the Pelicans improve, and these are the potential targets.

6. Jalen Smith

Williamson and Smith were teammates in the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game where their East team lost 131-128. Zion was ranked fourth in his class coming out of high school, and Smith sat 16th. Williamson had eight points and three steals in 17 minutes in the showcase. Smith dropped 12 points with two blocks in his run.

Smith was drafted tenth overall in 2020 after two years at Maryland. The 6’10 big man has settled in as an NBA reserve. He averaged 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assist in 17.2 minutes per game during the regular season, but Smith has been limited to mop-up duty in the playoffs.

The 24-year-old has a $5.4 million player option for the 2024-25 season. Smith is unlikely to get more in free agency, but he could decline it in search of a larger role. The Pelicans have a need with Jonas Valanciunas and Cody Zeller becoming free agents. Smith may not be the perfect fit, but he would provide depth and has a history with Zion.