Why the Pelicans should decline the Los Angeles Lakers 1st round pick in 2024

Apr 16, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) dunks
Apr 16, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) dunks / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans own a treasure trove of draft picks. Shipping Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday out of town in recent years has loaded up the Pels with future selections to shape the franchise's next decade.

In 2024 alone, New Orleans owns their own pick (number 23 overall), they have the option to swap that pick with Milwaukee if they choose (the Bucks own the 21st overall pick), and they have the option to take the Lakers pick (17th overall) if they so choose.

However, the Pelicans have the option to defer snagging the Lakers' pick until 2025. That simple decision is an important one, and I believe they should wait until next year's draft to take the Lakers' pick. Here's why.

First off, the Lakers may end up being significantly worse in 2024-25. Rumors are swirling (some by his own volition) that LeBron James will not return to Los Angeles in a Lakers uniform next season. His contract contains a player option this summer that if exercised, allows James to become a free agent and choose his next destination.

An unverified X account linked LeBron James to the Philadelphia 76ers, and former ESPN morning host Cari Champion said Tuesday night's loss to the Nuggets would be James' "last game in purple and gold." Where there's smoke there fire, and plumes are billowing out the top of the James household.

If LeBron is no longer a Laker, a massive drop off in the team's standing across the league should be expected. The near 40-year-old continues to age like a fine wine. James averaged 25.7 points, 7.3 points, and 8.3 assists (ho-hum) while transforming himself into a deadly three-point shooter (41%, a career-high on 5.1 attempts per game). That production will be missed in La La Land and the Batman to Anthony Davis' Robin will leave the Lakers without a leading man.

The LeBron James-less Lakers would likely be a lottery team. The Western Conference is a dog fight from top to bottom and Los Angeles would enter the season like a chihuahua puppy in this scenario and hand would likely the Pelicans a lottery pick in the 2025 draft.

The 2025 draft which boasts significantly more talent than the 2024 edition.

The three prizes at the top of the 2025 draft are Cooper Flagg, Ace Bailey, and Dylan Harper. Each of those players are more talented than any player who has declared in 2024. New Orleans should want more bites at the draft apple in 2025 just in case the ping pong balls bounce their way and deliver a superstar level talent to the Big Easy.