At 21-32, merely a half-game ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Western Conference standings, the Pelicans were atypically aggressive at the trade deadline, while the Blazers were more conventional in trading away veteran players in the name of flexibility, draft picks and prospects.
Having surpassed Portland for the final spot in the Western Conference play-in, New Orleans surely sees an opportunity to make a run back to the playoffs for the first time since beating the Blazers in the 2018 first round. Under contract for the next two years, McCollum can help the Pelicans be more competitive whenever All-Star forward Zion Williamson returns to the court -- either this season or next.
Yet adding McCollum, 30, doesn't exactly square with New Orleans building around young stars Williamson (21) and Brandon Ingram (24) long term. Under contract for $33.3 million in 2022-23 and $35.8 million in 2023-24, McCollum will push the Pelicans close enough to the luxury tax to limit their flexibility. And unless they win the draft lottery, they'll no longer benefit from keeping this year's first-round pick if they miss the playoffs.
Was the trade worth it for New Orleans? And how does the package of players and picks Portland received set up the team to retool around star guard Damian Lillard? Let's take a look.