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Brandon Ingram was perhaps the single most consequential trade acquisition in the New Orleans Pelicans history. He was the centerpiece of their return for Anthony Davis, the player who was supposed to lead them into the future alongside Zion Williamson

In fairness to Ingram, he's largely held up his end of the bargain. He's a multi-time All-Star. It's not his fault Williamson keeps getting hurt at the worst times. Those injuries have prevented the duo from making any meaningful progress in the postseason. The Pelicans haven't won a playoff series since trading Davis. Now both Williamson and Ingram are nearing their primes, and it's time for New Orleans to settle on a long-term direction. General manager David Griffin has vowed to be proactive in finding one.

"I think in the past we've always erred on the side of continuity," Griffin said after the Pelicans were eliminated, "and our takeaway has always been 'Let's see this group healthy.' [Now] I think we've seen this group enough. We had a really good opportunity to see Zion play a career high in games [with 70]. We saw it for segments of time well enough to understand that we've got a lot of work to do."

There is now a reasonable chance that the work the Pelicans are setting out to do will involve sending Ingram elsewhere. So where are these rumors coming from? Where might Ingram land? And what is going to happen to the two-time All-Star?

Why he's in trade rumors

The short answer here is money. Ingram has only one season left on his contract. He is eligible for a four-year, $208 million extension this offseason. The Athletic's Will Guillory has reported that New Orleans is unlikely to offer him that extension. His history of injuries, playoff disappointments and inconsistent skill set outside of scoring justify that reluctance. However, the Pelicans cannot afford to let him walk for nothing. Expensive or not, he is a valuable player. The Pelicans have holes at point guard and center that Ingram can help them fill.

He would do so without creating a hole on the wings. Zion Williamson is entrenched at power forward. Herb Jones, one of the best defenders in the NBA on a very cheap contract, needs to start given the team's current personnel. That only leaves one more starting slot. The Pelicans could keep it and continue giving it to Ingram, but frankly, they would probably be better off giving it to the younger Trey Murphy III. He is the better shooter of the two, the better defender, and given his explosive athleticism, potentially primed for a breakout in a new role. Murphy is eligible for a rookie extension this offseason, and will likely be cheaper long-term than Ingram. There are four players for three spots here.

C.J. McCollum is also on an expensive contract. The Pelicans will need to pay a point guard and center. Key reserve Jose Alvarado will get paid either this offseason or next. At a certain point, the luxury tax doesn't allow teams to keep everyone. For a thrifty team like the Pelicans, something is going to give. It's probably going to be Ingram.

Why the Pelicans would keep him

Ingram is a flawed player, but he raises your floor offensively. Somebody has to score 20-25 points every night for an offense to be viable, after all. In a perfect world, that would be Williamson. As we know, relying on Williamson is an enormous risk. If the Pelicans trade Ingram, and Williamson gets hurt again, their offense is potentially sunk.

There's also the matter of value. If New Orleans is scared of paying Ingram, other teams probably will be too. Even if Murphy is the better long-term fit, it's worth wondering how much more they could get by dangling him on the open market instead of Ingram. They'd have to reel in an awfully big fish to justify moving Murphy (and by all accounts, they've never seriously considered trading him), but if the Pelicans could get off of their expensive commitment to McCollum while landing a true star center or point guard to pair with Williamson and Ingram, that might be enough to put them in the thick of the championship hunt. Ultimately, though, this line of thinking relies on the sort of trade return that may not even exist.

What destinations make sense?

No team in the middle of its contention window is going to want to pay Ingram. Those teams already have multiple max salaries that are likely attached to better players, and the second apron doesn't reward teams for blindly trading for stars anymore. Payrolls require more thought, so the likeliest fits here are going to be teams with at least one key player, and potentially several, on rookie deals. Here are three possible fits:

Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham is extension-eligible, but his new deal won't kick in for another year, and no Piston is owed more than $15 million next season. The Pistons have plenty of young guards (Cunningham and Jaden Ivey chief among them), and their abundance of center prospects has been roundly mocked, but Detroit is fairly thin on the wing. Ausar Thompson can certainly defend wings, but the Pistons don't have any scoring there, and Monty Williams does love mid-range shooters. This would be more of a "we need to get out of the basement" move from Detroit than a signal that Ingram is a long-term core piece, but he's a possible fit here.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Cleveland has two primary ball-handling guards in Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. It has two long-term centers in Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. While the Cavaliers have done an admirable job of finding passable wings, they don't exactly have a core piece there, and swapping their surplus at another position for Ingram could potentially at least balance out the roster a bit. A move like this would probably set Cleveland up for the tax when Ingram's extension comes and Evan Mobley's follows, but Dan Gilbert has never minded opening up his checkbook for a winner.

Atlanta Hawks: The Pelicans were heavily linked to Dejounte Murray at the trade deadline, and they figure to be in the hunt for him again this summer. If Atlanta wants a rebuilding package, Ingram won't be high on the list, but if the Hawks think they can put a winner around Trae Young? Ingram and Jalen Johnson would be a strong wing duo, and the No. 1 pick would at least offer the Hawks a bit of cost protection at another position considering the four-year deal that comes with it.

What is the latest reporting?

Ingram hasn't been linked to a specific team yet, but basically, all of the reporting has suggested that the Pelicans are looking around for deals. "A growing belief leaguewide that Pelicans will aggressively explore the trade market for Brandon Ingram before next season," Marc Stein wrote in his newsletter on May 13. Take that reporting with what Griffin said on the record and what we know about his possible extension and Ingram looks like one of the likeliest players in all of basketball to get traded this offseason.