Final Mock Draft: New Orleans Pelicans in Position to Grab a Floor General

Published: June 27, 2013

In less than 12 hours, we will know for sure, but as of right now, here is my best bet at how tonight goes down:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Nerlens Noel, F/C, Kentucky

How crazy is it that on the morning of the draft, we have no idea who is going first overall? In years past, there was a tiny bit of speculation. Some whispers were out there that the Cavs could take Derrick Williams, but for the most part we knew they were going with Kyrie. Honestly, I can’t remember a year where we were this unsure of who we were going number one since Michael Olowokandi went first overall in 1998.

While the speculation has been Len and Noel for a while, word is that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert loves Oladipo and their head coach Mike Brown loves Anthony Bennett. You can probably throw Otto Porter into the mix as well, and heck, lets toss in Ben McLemore for good measure. At the end of the day, though, I think GM Chris Grant goes with the guy that he thinks has the biggest upside, and that’s Nerlens Noel. Grant is a huge fan of analytics, and most of the advanced numbers point to Noel being the guy who has the best chance to become a star in this class. For that reason, I say the Cavs go with Noel.

2. Orlando Magic – Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana

The Magic’s draft could hinge on a reported trade that they are working on with the Clippers that features Aaron Afflalo and Eric Bledsoe switching teams. For now, the trade appears dead, but lets not forget how the Clippers operate. How many times did that Doc Rivers deal “die?” If Bledsoe is brought in to be the PG of the future, the Magic can cross Trey Burke off their list and take the best player available. If that happens, I expect the choice to come down to Oladipo, McLemore, and Bennett. Coach Jacque Vaughn will be banging the table for Oladipo here, and I think he gets his wish. If those two moves go down, the Magic have a nice little core of Bledsoe, Oladipo, Harkless, Tobias Harris, and Nikola Vucevic moving forward. Not too shabby.

3. Washington Wizards – Otto Porter, F, Georgetown

Since the night of the lottery, when the Wizards jumped up to the third spot, the speculation has been that either Otto Porter or Anthony Bennett will be the pick here. Honestly, I think it can go either way, and I think this selection effects the Pelicans more than any other. If Porter gets past Washington, I think he falls to six and Dell would call the pick in the second Phoenix made their selection. But in my mock draft, I see Porter going to Washington to give Beal and Wall another guy to play off of and to give them a long perimeter defender who can guard multiple positions.

4. Charlotte Bobcats – Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV

The last time a Charlotte franchise could throw the ball down into the low post and get a bucket was back in 1994 when the team was called the Hornets. Now that the team that resides there is getting the name back, it might be time to go after a low post scorer again. Like Cavs GM Chris Grant, Bobcats GM Rich Cho is an analytics guy and Bennett’s numbers simply look better than Alex Len’s, and I think that will be the deciding factor.

5. Phoenix Suns – Cody Zeller, F/C, Indiana

There is always a shocker early on. Last year it came at four when the Cavs selected Dion Waiters. This year, it will come at number 5, as the Suns will take Cody Zeller, projected by some to go much later in the lottery. Zeller is an ideal big man in an uptempo offense, and with Phoenix talking about playing Dragic and Kendall Marshall together more next season, they might actually increase their pace. Zeller is a high IQ guy who fits their scheme, and was productive in college, all things that new GM Ryan McDonough is looking for.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

No need to go back and check; you are reading this right. With Ben McLemore and Alex Len still on the board, the New Orleans Pelicans select: Trey Burke. Our own Mason Ginsberg has good reason to believe that the only guys ahead of Burke on the board are Victor Oladipo, Nerlens Noel, and Otto Porter, Jr. Since they are all gone in this scenario, Trey Burke is the pick. Burke’s character appears to be a huge deciding factor, and perhaps the tiebreaker between he and McLemore, while the need for stability in the team’s back court gives Burke the nod over Len.

As for Burke, he gives the Pelicans a floor general who would ideally get them into their sets quicker and give them more options in the pick and roll. The defense would need some work, but honestly that can be said for every rookie, this year or any other. Burke is a safe pick at this point, unlikely to fail due to his already diverse skill set and coachability. Len and McLemore, meanwhile, have more upside but also have the potential to make the team who drafted them regret it.

Notes and Observations

– I have run this draft a hundred different ways and almost every time we come out with either Otto Porter or Trey Burke. There is a 1-in-100 scenario that could see Oladipo fall to six, but that is still so hard to imagine. Or, maybe Burke goes 2 and Porter goes 3, in which case the Pelicans would likely take a chance on McLemore. If they were to do that, they would need to add some serious veteran leadership in the locker room to help steer McLemore, who is a good kid, but somewhat naive and easily persuaded.

– Rumors came out yesterday that the Cavs offered the #1 pick for #6, Greivis Vasquez, and our 2014 pick. Those rumors were quickly denied by both parties, but it is a fascinating scenario. Personally, I would do it under two conditions: 1.) The pick in 2014 is top-3 protected and 2.) Dell selects Victor Oladipo at #1. Again, it is extremely unlikely, but if that was the trade and Oladipo was the pick, I would be a happy man.

– I know that whoever the Pelicans pick, unless it is Otto Porter, there will be a rush from readers to suggest trades involving players that play the same position as the draft pick. Please don’t overreact. Remember, this is a 19 or 20 year old that we are selecting. There is no rush, and there is no guarantee he will receive significant minutes. McLemore does not mean Gordon is gone, nor does selecting Burke mean that you waive goodbye to Vasquez to open up 35 minutes for a young point guard just two years removed from his high school graduation. The Pelicans are adding talent. That is it. Down the line, if all of that talent matures, yes they will likely move pieces that overlap for other pieces that fit holes. But they aren’t going to go out of their way to unload guys who have proven they can play in this league just because they drafted a young guy who might be good in a couple of years.

– Honestly, nobody knows how this draft will shake out, and that is a great thing! People have tweeted me that they “Just want to get to Thursday night already!” But I say we should enjoy today. Don’t rush it. Think of August and how there is nothing to talk about. Football hasn’t started yet. Free agency is done in basketball. Not even a summer league game. If you want to rush through any period of time, rush through that month. Not today.


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