Sleeper Candidates For the Pelicans Second Round Pick

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Published: May 17, 2017

To what should have come to no surprise to all fans, the Pelicans lost their 2017 first round pick, as it didn’t land inside the top three last night. The odds were against them, and even though it is fun to dream, the Pelicans effectively made their draft pick in February, when they got DeMarcus Cousins — a player who will be better than everybody in the 2017 draft for at least the next two or three years, and maybe well beyond that.

So now, the Pelicans turn their attention to trades and free agency. Oh, and the 40th pick of this draft. Many undervalue this pick, but history tells us that you can find a rotation player there if you do your homework and develop. And if you are really luck, you can even do much better than that. With roster size increasing and their own D-League team on the way, the Pelicans need to get some value out of this pick, and they can if they do their due diligence.

Usually I am not so blunt. I tend to list all the options for the Pelicans in these pieces, and rarely share my point of view of who the Pelicans should go after – be it a trade, a free agent, or a draft pick. But I am good at finding the gems in a draft. Damn good. Don’t believe me? Check out this piece I wrote before last year’s draft on who the Pelicans should consider in the late first/early second round. Zipser, Brogden, Selden, Levert – I nailed them all. Or this piece from two years ago with Larry Nance, Jr. and Josh Richardson.

All I did is look back at history and found the types of guys who are undervalued in the draft every year, and then found those same guys in the current draft. It’s not that hard. You get upperclassmen with leadership skills and desire to play D, guys with an elite skill (usually shooting or defense), or unique foreign prospects that were underscouted. Same formula every year And I will prove it again. Using the same formulas from the past and the guys who fit the description this year, I will tell you the guys the Pelicans should look at with the 40th pick this June. Here we go:

Wesley Iwundu, G/F, Kansas State (13.0 pts, 6.3 rebs, 3.5 assists)

This is my guy. I love him, and if he doesn’t make it eventually, then my system is off and I don’t know what I am talking about. He is athletic, long, can defend, is smart and hard-working, and can play well within a system. So, why isn’t he a first-rounder? Same old story — he is “too old” (22) and isn’t a great shooter for a wing (made less than a half of a three per game over college career; sub 35% shooter)

Two dozen guys who did nothing in college but have more “upside” will be taken ahead of him. So will several guys who shoot better but lack the IQ and vision, because coaches will arrogantly think they can teach that part of the game. But in the end, Iwundu will be better than most of them, if not all of them. He is in that Demarre Carrol/Jae Crowder mold, and could even have a ceiling of Josh Howard if he fully develops his game. He also has a hitch in his shot that is reminiscent of MKG, and maybe he never fixes it, but maybe he develops it like Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi was just 41 for 164 in college from deep. Iwundu is actually better (51 for 151) and took a big leap this past season.

Nigel Williams-Goss G, Gonzaga (16.8 pts, 6.0 rebs, 4.7 assists)

Goss might not even get drafted, but like Yogi Ferrell, that will be a mistake. He will be an NBA player simply through sheer will, IQ, and tenacity. He will be almost 23 by the time the season starts and isn’t insanely athletic, so teams will pass on him, but you can’t deny the impact he has on every aspect of the game, and that will translate to the NBA.

For the Pelicans, he would push the ball up the floor, be terrific in the pick and roll, and rebound extremely well for his position. More than anything, he can be a coach on the floor, arranging the chess pieces around better than any of the low IQ the Pelicans have had recently. For NWG, I see Derick Fisher, another second round pick who had a terrific career. He is smart, crafty, clutch — basically the ideal role player. He is the Brogden of this class IMO.

Jordan Bell, F, Oregon (11.0 pts, 8.7 rebs, 2.3 blks, 66% FG)

If you want to find the next Chuck Hayes, Kenneth Faried, Montrezl Harrell, etc — the guy who has a non-stop motor and wears his heart on his sleeve, it’s Jordan Bell. He can easily become a poor man’s DeAndre Jordan, playing both the 4 and the 5 in the modern NBA. He will protect the rim for you on defense while also having the foot quickness to defend on the perimeter. On offense, he will rim run, finish lobs, clean the glass, and even has a nice little jump hook in the paint.

Most surprisingly for a guy as raw as he is offensively, Bell can really pass the ball, and sees the court well for a big man. He runs like a deer in transition, and has really good hands for a big. Now, the Pelicans might pass because he is a lot like Diallo, but maybe you double down on the same type of guy and figure the odds say at least one of them hits. If both do, wouldn’t that be a tremendous problem to have?

Jonah Bolden, F, Adriatic League (12.9 pts, 7.2 rebounds, 42% 3-Pt)

Let’s get one thing straight — there is not going to be any “next Draymond Green”, but if you want to talk about skill sets, this guy has a lot of what Green brings to the table. Imagine I told you about a 6’10”, 230 pound big who could run the floor, handle on the break, had tremendous vision in transition, could stroke the 3, board like crazy, and defend both at the rim and on the perimeter. That’s Bolden.

Now, he didn’t do a lot of these things at a high level his one year at UCLA (except rebound), but he has flourished since going over to play professional ball in Europe, and his upside is tremendous. Watching him play, it is obvious that he sees the game develop faster than 99% of guys his age, and that will make him a better pro than college player if he gets into the right system. He needs to have the freedom to push the ball and let the three-ball fly – two things Gentry will encourage.

Damyean Dotson, G/F, Houston (17.4 pts, 6.9 rebs, 44.3% 3-Pt)

You want to find the next Anthony Morrow or Marcus Thornton 2nd round gunner? It’s Dotson. He is a good athlete, a solid rebounder, but he is on the court for one reason and one reason only — to shoot from deep. This past year at Houston, almost 57% of his shots came from deep, and he nailed over 44% of them.

Now, there are some read flags with Dotson, including his dismissal from Oregon after he was accused of rape, though the state prosecutor never brought charges on Dotson. He also isn’t going to fill in many other categories in the box score, so if his shot is off, he won’t have much (if any) value. But for a Pelicans game who needs shooting on the wing, Dotson is sure to be the best shooter left when they pick at #40, and that alone should make them consider adding him if they clear his troubled past. Or, he can go undrafted like Selden last year and be contributing by the end of the season.

Honorable Mention

Not quite the guys above them, but they can make it if the team invests in their development. 

Frank Mason, G, Kansas – A true winner, who can be a nice backup for a team if given an opportunity.

Devin Robinson, F, Florida – If he gets with the right team, he can make it. Honestly, very similar to #8 overall pick Marquese Chriss from last year.

Semi Ojeleye F, SMU – If he can show the foot quickness to guard bigger wings, another Jae Crowder type

Monte Morris, G, Iowa State – A true point guard with size, Morris has outstanding potential if he becomes a better finisher in the paint.

P.J. Dozier, G, South Carolina – I know many probably expected Dozier’s teammate Sindarius Thornwell on this list, but I actually think Dozier has the better chance of being the gem if he can just improve his shot. Athleticism is through the roof, with the potential to be a defensive stud.

Why Not?

There are several guys who others will advocate for. This is why they aren’t on my list

Josh Hart, Villanova – Was a fan of his college career, but I don’t think his defense allows him to get on the court for a while and his offense would have to be way above league replacement to overcome it. I don’t think it will be. You need to be valuable with low usage as a 2nd round pick, and how does Hart provide value without the ball?

Dillon Brooks, Oregon – Was good in college because he was physically stronger. Won’t be the case in the NBA. Also, isn’t long on the wing. Better candidates.

Dwayne Bacon, FSU – Don’t see the defense or the IQ necessary. Look at him verse a guy like Iwundu — Iwundu sees the court and can pass. Ball needs to move for the Pelicans.

Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina – I think he will be a foul machine in the pros. Combine ultra aggressiveness with below average athleticism and it never works out. And won’t be a good enough scorer to make up for it.

Derrick White, Colorado; Juwan Evans, OK St. — BIG fan of both guys. Just don’t think they will be there. But if they fall unexpectedly like Diallo, I hope the Pels snatch them up.

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