The NBA Trade Deadline has officially passed, and the New Orleans Pelicans made a move that not many expected. While most analysts and fans expected the team to deal Guard Lonzo Ball, VP of Basketball operations David Griffin had something else up his sleeve. Right before the trade deadline hit at 2:00 PM Central Time, it was announced that the Pelicans would be packaging JJ Redick and Nicolo Melli in a deal to the Dallas Mavericks. In exchange, the Pelicans received Forwards James Johnson and Wesley Iwundu as well as a second-round pick. The move gives the Pelicans some cap room entering the offseason. This will open up the opportunity to possibly re-sign Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, both of whom have expiring contracts.
Possibly the most intriguing part of the deal for the Pelicans is the acquisition of James Johnson. The veteran power forward has 11 years of experience and is known as being a gritty, vocal leader. Johnson has built a reputation for being the person that stands up for his teammates, and David Griffin is hoping that his presence will bring an element of toughness to the squad. Although not known for his court production, Johnson will provide a much-needed veteran presence to a young squad. This season, Johnson is averaging 5.7 points per game, 3 rebounds per game, and 1.7 assists per game, per NBA.com. Johnson will more than likely take the minutes that were used by Nicolo Melli, and fans are anxious to see what he will add to their team.
Although he has been mostly regarded as a bench player during his 3-year career, Wes Iwundu offers significant upside to a team. The 26-year-old forward is known for his length and defensive capabilities. At 6’6″ and with a 7’1″ wingspan, Iwundu has the chance to make an impact on each defensive possession. Many are interested to see just how many minutes the young player will receive. Averaging just 2.1 points per game, 1.9 rebounds per game and 0.4 assists per game, according to NBA.com, Iwundu will be hoping to make more of a splash on his new team.
With the newest additions to the team, one thing remains in question: who will be the Pelicans starting 5? One move that was not made during the deadline was moving Eric Bledsoe, who has been extremely unproductive this season. Fans are calling for Bledsoe to be removed from the starting lineup in favor of young guys such as Nickeil Alexander-Walker or Kira Lewis Jr. Whether this change will be put into effect remains to be seen, but fans remain hopeful.