Top Targets if the Pelicans were in the Draft

Published: June 18, 2015

It’s been a little painful for me the last couple years when Draft time has rolled around.  I’m a HUGE draft fan.  When the Pelicans have something better than the 56th pick of the draft to use, I live for draft articles and spend more time with than I do playing Star Wars games.  That’s right.  More time than on star wars games.

Still – it’s not impossible that Dell could decide to move into the draft – and there are a bunch of reasons to do so, as illustrated by Chris Romaguera yesterday.  So, despite the fact we have no idea what deals could be on the table, where we could end up in the draft if the Pelicans did make a deal, and it’s probably very unlikely the Pelicans will even try to get into this draft . . .  I’m going to bombard you with my thoughts on the draft anyways!

I’ll throw out three tiers of guys I’d like to target – depending on if we get in during early lottery, mid/late lottery, and if we get in mid-round.

High Lottery Targets

I get the Karl Towns fascination, I really do – but if I was one of the (un)lucky two GMs picking at the top of the draft, I would take Towns and have a deal in place to get extra assets while trading him to whatever team gets their hands on my real draft target: D’Angelo Russell.  There are a few side reasons for this:

  •  The last team to do anything with two star big men won back in 2004.
  • To succeed in today’s NBA you need more dynamic wings than ever.
  • I’m not sold on any of the three blue-chip guards Dell has tried out for the role of Kobe to Davis’ Shaq.

Those are all good reasons, but I’m just going with the fact that Russell is as damn close to a sure thing you can find in a draft.  6’5” 193 lb freshman guards simply don’t rely on developed basketball skills to dominate.  They are so much bigger and stronger they just bully their opponents the same way they did in high school.  They muscle their way to the basket while displaying flukey shooting, poor decision making and too many turnovers.

Unless they are one of the rare breed of truly gifted basketball players.

Those guys come in with that physical profile and show real basketball tools.  Russell is one of those guys.  As a 19-year old, Russell showed a knack for passing,  drilled 41% of his threes on a high volume of shots, and most importantly, knows how to run a pick and roll, using all the hesitation moves, speed changes and agility a guard has to have to find the right spaces to shoot or pass.

His profile reminds me of the last guard I salivated about coming out of college and desperately wished there was a way to get – James Harden.  Harden was in school for two years – and while he drew more free throws and finished better at the rim, Russell out-shot him from deep.  Their numbers outside of that are almost mirror images over the same kind of minutes.  Yes please.

Of course, the team would probably need to be picking 3rd or 4th to take Russell, and snagging a pick that high is probably out of reach based on the Pelicans assets.  The other high lottery target who could fall more in the 5-8 range would be Justise Winslow.   The Pelicans have a gaping hole at small forward and Winslow could check the boxes on almost everything you would want in a small forward next to Davis.  He is long and strong – can defend positions 1-4, and will compete ferociously every minute.  I have doubts his offense will be what it was at Duke, but I also have confidence that this guy will work to make it into either a strength or at least not an issue.  On a team armed with multiple ball-handlers and finishers, Winslow fits perfectly into what the Pelicans need and is one of the top draft talents.

Guys I don’t want:

Mario Hezonja – Draws fewer free throws per 40 minutes than Eric Gordon, doesn’t rebound, doesn’t assist.  First, how do you do that when you are 6’8?  I have to have multi-impact players, sorry.

Willie Cauley-Stein – Apologies to Chris Romaguera, who loves him.  I get the defensive potential here.  I also get that he can’t defensive rebound(which rarely improves going college to pros), has no offensive game, and everybody who interviews him things he’s weird and can’t figure him out.  That’s too many problems to work through.

Mid to Late lottery

Take most of the stuff I said about Justise Winslow above, and most of it applies to Stanley Johnson as well.  Johnson is more consistent of a scorer – and less consistent of a defender, so he’d be a guy really high on my list.  Typically, in the NBA, there are multi-dimensional small forwards (think Granger, Paul Pierce, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Paul George, etc.) who fall to picks 10-12.  Usually this happens because teams teams reach for needs, project big men, or magnificent college players who don’t necessarily have the tools to be NBA contributors . . .

Annnndddd with that segue – I’d love for the Pelicans to look at Frank Kaminsky here too.   I get that a lot of you are probably rolling your eyes now.  Think of it this way, though:  The cost for a pick around 11 or 12 may be Ryan Anderson.  Since I’m firmly convinced Kaminsky will be 100% of what Ryan Anderson was when he was healthy, and Kaminsky is the same age as Davis, and he’d be a lot cheaper than Anderson, is there a clearer upgrade than this?

Guys I don’t want:

Sam Dekker – He was key on a great, slow team.  He’s also a poor shooter, lame passer, and has the same defensive markers as Austin Rivers. (very bad, by the way)  Look, I’m selling the guy short, but I don’t see anything more than a 9th guy here.

Kelly Oubre – call it a Julian Wright hangover.  Oubre struggled to play at Kansas and was inconsistent as hell.  Guys can have no skills but win me over with motor and fury.  Guys can have no motor and fury and win me over with skills.  If a guy has few skills and no motor and fury, I’m walking.

Mid-to-Late 1st Round

Picking around 16 or so?  I’m running the name of Tyus Jones to the podium.  Jones was a great spot up shooter for Duke, willingly pushed the ball in transition, played with confidence and efficiency, and almost never turned the ball over. Bringing in Tyus would allow Demps to let Cole explore the market and not make him a priority to re-sign if he gets a nice offer.

Next on my list is Kevin Looney out of UCLA.  At this point, there are warts on everyone in the draft, but I just feel like Looney has been picked apart based on his high ranking from high school compared to his college production.  He’s already shown in college he can stretch the floor and also put up some impressive rebounding numbers despite turning 19 in February.  If you are drafting for upside, Looney could really pay off in a year or two.

Guys I don’t want:

RJ Hunter – he’s a good passer, but his shooting numbers are lousy, his defense is pretty lousy – and he’s already 21.  Being a 21-year old shooting guard and not being at least adequate in those two things in college finishes the discussion.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – I waffle on him because he has the motor and fury I like – but his basketball skills are cripplingly bad.  He’s probably the next Mbah a Moute.  Naw.


What do you think?  If Dell moved into the draft, what guys would you love to see in a Pelicans uniform next year?


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