New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado (15) gaurds Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. (Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, | The Times-Picayune)

The New Orleans Pelicans’ season ended with a thud in April when they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA play-in tournament. That defeat capped a frustrating final half of the season for the Pelicans, who went into a tailspin after Zion Williamson hurt his hamstring in early January.

“If I’m a fan of this team. I’m really disappointed,” Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin said. “And I’m angry. And I feel like a lot was left undone.”

Frustration, Griffin said, was understandable. But he also stressed taking the long view.

“When I said there are 27 teams that would trade places with us, that’s not an accident,” Griffin said. “We are in a very strong position. We need to get much better at translating that into winning the games we most want to win. We will do that.”

The Pelicans’ draft pick situation is a significant part of the reason Griffin projected confidence. Even while assuming the top-four protected 2025 Milwaukee Bucks first the Pelicans traded for CJ McCollum doesn’t convey, New Orleans still holds seven first-round picks in the next five drafts. That surplus is a result of the Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday trades. The Lakers owe the Pelicans an unprotected first-round pick, and so do the Bucks. Plus, New Orleans has swap rights with Milwaukee in two upcoming drafts.

Here is a look at the draft capital the Pelicans have to play with over the next five years.


  • Pelicans first-round pick

Analysis: The Pelicans learned at the draft lottery earlier in May that they will have the 14th selection in the June 22 draft. The Pelicans could go in a number of directions at this slot. They don’t have a glaring need at any one position. Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin is the type of versatile perimeter player New Orleans has favored in the past. Connecticut’s Jordan Hawkins, a dead-eye shooter, will likely be on the board at 14. If New Orleans wants to add another big, physical wing, the G League Ignite's Sidy Cissoko is an option.

It wouldn’t be a shock if the Pelicans traded this pick. They could package it with a player to get more shooting. They are coming off a season in which they finished 23rd in made 3-pointers. 


  • Pelicans first-round pick (swap rights with Bucks)
  • Lakers first-round pick (unprotected, right to defer until 2025)

Analysis: The Pelicans could have two first-round picks in the 2024 draft. They own the rights to their own first, which they can swap with the Bucks if the Bucks’ first is more favorable. 

The Pelicans are also owed the Lakers’ unprotected first in 2024, which is the last piece headed to New Orleans in the Davis trade. The Pelicans have the option of deferring this pick until 2025. They can see where the pick falls in the draft lottery next year before making that decision.

LeBron James said after the Lakers got swept in the Western Conference finals that he was considering retiring. Few in the NBA are taking that claim seriously. The Lakers owe James $46.9 million next season. James has a $50.7 million player option ahead of the 2024-25 season.

James has said repeatedly that he wants to play with his son, Bronny James, who is headed to USC next season for his freshman season. If James bolts Los Angeles to play with his son — assuming his son leaves USC after one season for the NBA — a Lakers 2025 first could hold incredible value. 


  • Pelicans first-round pick
  • Bucks first-round pick (only if it falls in the top four)

Analysis: The Pelicans netted two unprotected firsts from the Bucks in the Holiday trade. They rerouted one of them to the Portland Trail Blazers to acquire McCollum. The Pelicans placed top-four protections on the pick, meaning that, in all likelihood, the Pelicans won’t receive the Bucks’ first this year unless two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is no longer on the roster or suffers a catastrophic injury.


  • Pelicans first-round pick (swap rights with Bucks)

Analysis: This swap could be valuable depending on what happens with Antetokounmpo, who has a $51.6 million player option ahead of the 2025-26 season. Antetokounmpo is a nonrenewable resource for the Bucks. Losing a player with his talent, reliability and drive leaving would be debilitating for the Bucks. Just look at what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers the season after James left for the Miami Heat. They won 19 games and got the No. 1 pick. 


  • Pelicans first-round pick
  • Bucks first-round pick (unprotected)

Analysis: So much of the Pelicans’ draft situation in the next five years hinges on what you think happens with Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Does he want to spend his entire career with one team like Dirk Nowitzki, who was with the Dallas Mavericks for 21 seasons? Does Antetokounmpo eventually want to turn the page?

The Bucks just hired Adrian Griffin as their coach. Griffin reportedly had Antetokounmpo’s blessing. Khris Middleton, who was limited to 33 games last season because of a knee injury, has a $40.4 million player option this summer. Holiday has a $39.4 million player option next summer.

The Bucks will try to retool their roster around Antetokounmpo without taking a step back. That is not an easy task. 

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