Players New Orleans Pelicans Should Target in the NBA Draft
The better odds (26.1 percent) lie with New Orleans selecting fifth overall, as the team was the fifth worst in the league with a 27-55 record.
There are many areas that need to be addressed in the offseason, and consequently, through the draft.
Barring any trades, the Pelicans will only have one pick in the 2013 draft. The rights to their second-round pick belong to the Philadelphia 76ers after the three-team trade with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012 that brought Xavier Henry to New Orleans and sent Marreese Speights to Memphis.
The clear need for this team is a small forward that can score the ball.
There are a variety of free agents and players on the trading block that could find their way to New Orleans, but if the pick is right, there are quite a few small forwards that will be available early in the draft.
Additionally, they need a perimeter defender; someone capable of locking down the opposition. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo would be the perfect fit for Monty Williams’ defensive-minded system.
Even so, with the one pick, Pelicans management may decide to simply select the best available, a player who can be developed with the young talent already on the roster.
Here is a list of five players the Pelicans should target, why they will solve the current problems at their respective positions and how they will make the Pelicans a more competitive team going forward.
5. Shabazz Muhammad
UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad is the second ranked small forward in the draft, behind only Georgetown’s Otto Porter.
Muhammad is a big motor guy, who has excellent quickness for a 6’6” shooter. That is what the man does—he scores.
His 17.9 points per game in his only college season turned some heads at UCLA. However, he tends to be a one-dimensional player. There is no doubt he would have an immediate impact on the team, but he needs to develop his overall game a little bit more.
He can run in transition, drive to the basket and he plays extremely physical. His body, at 225-pounds is NBA ready, though as with any one-and-done player, there is tremendous room for growth.
Muhammad needs to develop an assist hand. He tends to be too focused on scoring, not getting his teammates involved enough. However, his role on the Bruins was to shoot, not pass.
In the NBA, he will have to learn to dish the ball, which shouldn’t be hard on the Pelicans, given the amount of reliable options they have.
While the Pelicans have spent the last few years developing their young players and getting them ready for the NBA level, they will likely have to do the same with Muhammad.
He can improve in a variety of areas: defense, passing and the use of his right hand, but he has the potential to be a superstar.
Muhammad is an attractive option if the Pelicans fall to six or seven in the lottery. They desperately need a scorer at the small forward position, and the No. 1 recruit out of high school is one of the better scorers in this years draft.
4. C.J. McCollum
The 6’3” shooting guard out of Lehigh has been impressive throughout his college career. He’s been a four-year starter, a rarity for NBA prospects.
While Monty Williams could want somebody that is NBA-ready and doesn’t need an additional year or two to develop, McCollum fits that description. Though he broke his left foot in January and missed most of this season, his track record suggests he is a definite lottery pick.
He is back to speed, moving the same way he did before the injury. At the time of his injury, he was leading the country in scoring, with 25.7 points per game.
According to the Associated Press, via The Washington Post, he finished the season as the Patriot League’s career scoring leader (2,361 points) despite missing the final two months.
He is extremely quick, plays well off the ball and obtains the qualities to play both guard positions.
McCollum is a magnet on the boards, grabbing over five per game in each of his four seasons at Lehigh.
He may need to bulk up, but he’s excelled throughout his career. From ESPN’s NBA Draft Profile (Insider required), McCollum was given a 33.95 player efficiency rating by ESPN Insider John Hollinger.
If the Pelicans part ways with point guard Brian Roberts or shooting guard Eric Gordon, McCollum can serve as an effective replacement. He is worth looking into, as he could be a great impact on this club.
There are better guards in the draft, but none as established as McCollum, which could benefit the 21-year-old come draft day.
3. Trey Burke
Trey Burke is tremendously gifted and has great athleticism. He stepped up when it mattered most in the NCAA tournament, hitting long range shots on Michigan’s wild ride to the national championship game.
The point guard has great court vision and would further develop playing with Greivis Vasquez.
The Naismith Player of the Year award winner, Burke is an intriguing option that would be a “best available” type of pick. Depending on where the Pelicans land in the lottery, Burke could fall right into their lap.
If they address the small forward position via free agency, Burke would be the player to select. His basketball IQ is off the charts and he knows when he needs to shoot or pass.
A 46 percent shooter last season, Burke is explosive to the rim, can score off the dribble and is an above average catch-and-shoot player.
Burke does enter the draft with some issues. He is only 6’0”, which could cause some problems with the bigger, quicker point guards of the NBA.
Still, he can get a shot off at any spot on the court, and would fit well as a bench player in the Pelicans system, until he proves he can be a starter.
Monty Williams could shape Burke into a fine defender, and playing with some of the top prospects of last year (i.e Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers) would smooth his transition to the NBA.
Point guard is not an area of need, but Burke is an exception with his ability to take over a game.
If he’s on the board when the Pelicans draft, don’t be surprised to hear his name called.
2. Otto Porter
Georgetown’s Otto Porter may be the most dominant small forward/wing player in the draft. A true scorer, Porter takes good, high-percentage shots, which led to his 48 percent from the field in his sophomore season.
What the Pelicans need is a scoring threat at the small forward position. Al-Farouq Aminu, last year's starting small forward, is a free agent, and he didn’t provide the type of offense the Pelicans were looking for.
Ranked as the best small forward in the draft, the Big East Player of the Year is projected to be a top-five pick. While there is a chance Porter could be off the board by the time the Pelicans are on the clock, he’s a must pick if he's still available.
A downside of Porter is his tentativeness on offense.
On multiple occasions, 'he passed up an open shot, but that proves he’s an unselfish player. With the shooters currently on the Pelicans, Porter would provide insurance with his ability to both pass and score.
He occupies the attention of the defense and is a great off-the-ball player who has been effective posting up in the paint.
His 6’8” frame and 7’1” wingspan, to go with an intelligent basketball mind, make him a highly sought after prospect. He possesses the ability to crash the boards and plays tight, stingy defense, averaging just under two steals a game and 7.5 rebounds last season.
Small forward should be priority No. 1 for the Pelicans, and Porter would change the dynamic of the team for the better.
1. Victor Oladipo
Victor Oladipo is, point blank, the best on-ball defender in the country. It is very difficult to get separation from his constant harassment on the ball. He never gave up on a play and, for a guard, grabbed an impressive 6.3 rebounds per game.
His 6’5” build gives him great length on the perimeter, which resulted in his 2.2 steals per game last season. Perimeter defense is an area that New Orleans struggled with much of the year. Oladipo would be a major upgrade with his quick lateral movements and ability to guard multiple positions.
He has improved mightily through each of his three seasons at Indiana, especially on the offensive end. In a feature on Oladipo by Ben Shpigel of The New York Times, he outlines what the former Hoosier could bring to the table:
"He fills a stat sheet with the zeal of a locavore at a farmers’ market — steals, rebounds, assists, points and blocks, all crammed onto the nightly résumé of perhaps the country’s most versatile, improved and exciting player."
He shot almost 60 percent from the floor last season (59.9 percent), scoring 13.6 points a game. On the Pelicans, Oladipo will complement Eric Gordon and give Austin Rivers the opportunity to shift back to point guard.
One area he needs to work on is his ball protection. He turns the ball over much too often, with an average of over two turnovers per game last season.
This is a situation where the Pelicans would be taking the best available player, but also a game changer who immediately upgrades the defense. While there is no clear need for another guard at this time, Brian Roberts could potentially become a free agent, and Xavier Henry will likely not be back.
If they see fit, the Pelicans could strike gold with an efficient all-around talent who is explosive to the rim and gritty on defense.
A perfect player for Monty Williams.