Finding the ‘Outta Nowhere’ 3-and-D Wing

Published: January 21, 2016

The Pelicans biggest hole has been the in the same place for the better part of a decade. Heck, save for one good year from Peja, the small forward position might have been their biggest weakness since Jamal Mashburn lost his career to the all too common vertigo. And as Pelicans fans wish upon a star for a small forward to come in and save the day, they often look in the wrong place. They often search for a guy who already has the qualities to step right in and dominate that position from the get go.

Spoiler alert: If the guy is already at that point in his career or has clearly shown signs of being that guy, the Pelicans can’t get him. The Pelicans can’t get Jae Crowder. Not now. Two years ago? Sure. But that time has passed, and what Demps and company need to be doing is finding the NEXT Jae Crowder. The next Demarre Carroll or Danny Green.

Easy for me to say, right? I mean, sure, that is what every team wants, so in theory it would be just as hard for Demps to do that as it would be for him to trade for an already established guy – which I just said was impossible. Maybe, but maybe not.

Don’t these guys all have essentially the same background? Whether it is the guys I mentioned above or Bruce Bowen and Josh Howard before them? Or heck, even Kent Bazemore, Quincy Pondexter, and Chandler Parsons now, and Matt Barnes in his prime? They all have the same profile – With the exception of Crowder, they were all 4 year college guys. They all went late 1st to mid-2nd round because they lacked tremendous upside, and all did multiple things well but nothing great in college. Look again at the guys I mentioned; All fit that profile.

They have all been humbled by the draft experience and just want to be in the league. Of course they would love to be a star, but they are realistic enough to know that it is not going to happen, and instead just want to do whatever it takes to stick. Their college experience has helped them mature and become leaders, while also likely expanding their bball IQ. They are men when they enter the league and don’t have the same selfish tendencies a teenager who has been told he is great all his life might have.

You want to find the NEXT 3-and-D stud that seemingly comes out of nowhere? Just look to the past. With that in mind, let’s take a look around the league for some guys who fit the profile:

Josh Huestis, Oklahoma City

Huestis has the size (6’7″ w/ 7’1″ wingspan) to be the perfect wing defender. He also has the pedigree, being named to the All Pac-12 defensive team in both his junior and senior seasons. His senior year, he led Stanford in both rebounds and blocks, and left Stanford as their all-time leading shotblocker, despite being a wing. So, he can do multiple things on the court. He wasn’t drafted until the late first round, however, because he is not a good scorer and now is failing to get an opportunity in OKC because they are in “win now” mode.

Bring him in and have him shoot 500 corner 3’s a day, and who knows, you might have a longer Bruce Bowen in time.

Cleanthony Early, NY Knicks

He was a hot name leading up to the 2014 draft, but fell to the 2nd round, where everybody thought the Knicks got a steal. In the year and a half since, Early has barely got on the court for New York but is showing a solid 3-point stroke in the D-League (38.5%). The one odd thing is that he was a solid FT shooter in college (83%), but can’t hit them in the D-League (52% over two short stints). He also had an incident this year where he was robbed and shot in the knee.

Again, everything isn’t rosy here, but the point is to buy low and develop. He might be a perfect candidate.

Solomon Hill, Indiana Pacers

Solomon Hill was a guy who improved every year in college, particularly his shooting, and also filled the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, and steals. He is also athletic and universally known as a hard worker, but after showing some flashes last November when he got a chance to start in Paul George’s absence, he has tailed off quite a bit and is now barely in Indiana’s rotation. His 3-point shooting has gone from bad to okay to awful, but many experts say that FT shooting is actually a better predictor of future 3-pt percentage for wings, and Hill is fantastic, hitting 83.2% of his 200+ career attempts.

Hill can likely be had for a bag of potato chips, or heck maybe Dell can just send a King Cake. Could be well worth it at this point.

James Ennis, Memphis Grizzlies

James Ennis has been a summer league beast who just hasn’t quite shown that he can put it together in the NBA. He has had moments, like a 16 point, 8 board performance in a win against Boston last season, where he went 2 for 3 from deep, and 6-6 from the line. But overall, he has just been inconsistent despite having the perfect body for the position and fantastic athleticism. Right now, he is stuck in Memphis after being sent there in the Mario Chalmers deal. At 25, he is at that perfect point in his career where he could blossom, or we can find out once and for all that he will never breakthrough.

At this point in the season, why not bring him in and find out for yourself?

Anthony Brown, LA Lakers

Amongst qualifying small forwards, Brown has the lowest PER in the entire league. Now, if that’s not buying low, I don’t know what is. But the Lakers are a trainwreck, and have no idea what they are doing with their young players, so I would take that with a grain of salt. Before he got stuck with Byron Scott and Kobe, Brown got points, rebounds, assists, and steals at Stanford, all while stroking the 3 ball at 45+ percent over his final two years at Stanford. He is another 6’7″ with a nearly 7 foot wingspan and a high basketball IQ.

Please Dell, save him from Byron, before it’s too late!

Sir’Dominic Pointer, Cleveland Cavaliers

Don’t you just want him for the name? After every block or dunk, I can hear David Wesley saying, “Yes Sir, I’ll have another!” And Pointer, does plenty of both, as he is an athletic freak who was all over the court at St. Johns. Senior Year: 13.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 blocks, 1.9 steals per game.

A 4-year college player who fills up the box score? Yes, Sir!

Other Musings

  • Some might say that Eric Gordon getting injured was a blow to his chances of getting traded. I tend to disagree. If he gets traded, it will be for his contract, and that was likely always the case. The teams who are looking to put themselves over the top with a trade are not searching for an average shooting two-guard who is making 15 million dollars and gives you nothing else in the box score. He wasn’t going to fetch Dell a 1st round pick or a young player. Heck, he couldn’t have even gotten Dell the two 2nd’s Ish got. The injury does nothing, because if he get moved, it will be for his expiring contract.
  • Yes, it would be nice to have THIS Omri Casspi on the Pelicans. He would fix a lot of the issues at small forward, but even if the Pelicans kept Casspi (which they were never going to), I think it is foolish to think they were ever going to get THIS Omri Casspi. Heck, nobody else ever did and that’s why the Rockets, Pelicans, and 27 other teams had no interest in him when he could be had for nothing. Casspi landed in a perfect spot for himself, where he was comfortable both on and off the court. Good for him. Stop beating yourself up about it Pelicans fans. Was never going to happen.
  • On a similar note: Ish Smith is 10 times more valuable to Philadelphia than he was ever going to be to New Orleans. And those picks can be more useful to this franchise than Ish was going to be. Again, I see people rattling off Ish’s stats in Philly, like that is any reflection of what he would’ve been here. I have also seen the argument that Dell could’ve gotten more than he did for Ish, which is lunacy. Ish’s minutes were decreasing rapidly, and I highly doubt many teams would have offered one high 2nd rounder, let alone two. Both teams did well in the trade. That simple.
  • I think a 25-16 second half gets the Pelicans in the playoffs. Definitely doable when you look at the schedule. Yes, they will get destroyed by the Warriors, but a 19-22 second half probably gets them the 11th pick (instead of the 15th). Of course Simmons/Ingram is better than getting the 15th pick and getting smashed by the Warriors, but that is not realistic without a major AD injury IMO. So, stop talking polar opposites. Debate the more realistic two likely outcomes: First round exit and 15th pick or no playoffs and picking 10th/11th.



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