The New Orleans Pelicans would benefit from an additional pick in June's draft.
A year after having two lottery selections, the Pelicans will pick again in the lottery. Currently, this is the only pick in New Orleans’ possession.
That being said, while there are a small amount of standout players in this year’s draft, there are certainly quality players that could entice general manager Dell Demps and help push the Pelicans over the hump.
We could see roster changes throughout the summer, including the possible trade of shooting guard and max-contract player Eric Gordon, and acquiring an extra pick or two could really propel the Pelicans in the direction they want to go.
A rebuilding team that is perhaps one player away from contention, New Orleans also owes its 2014 second-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves and their 2015 second-round pick to the Washington Wizards.
The question is, does New Orleans need another pick in this year’s draft to add depth to a team with loads of question marks? There won't be many draft picks for the Pelicans in the immediate future (barring any trades of course).
The team has only five roster spots filled at this point, and five more players with non-guaranteed contracts. That leaves a lot of holes to fill.
If the opportunity is there, depending on what Demps would have to part with, he shouldn’t hesitate to make a deal.
For the purpose of this article, I will focus on non-lottery, or late-first-round and second-round picks that would be intriguing for Demps, Monty Williams and the Pelicans to make a push for.
The Pelicans have a center in Robin Lopez who started all 82 games in the 2012-13 season, but he has a non-guaranteed contract. If management chooses to part ways with Lopez, this draft is deep with quality centers.
Jeff Withey would be a worthy addition with his length, size and defensive prowess.
An elite defender and powerful inside presence, Withey does it all on defense and is a true team player. He can block shots, contest shots and take away the paint without fouling. He averaged just 2.1 fouls in his senior season at Kansas.
In the draft prospect video below, you can see the dynamic defense (starting at the 2:09 mark) that he brings to his team.
It is clear that Withey’s game lies with his ability to clog the paint. On the biggest stage, he led Kansas, almost single-handedly, to the Sweet 16 in this year’s NCAA tournament. He blocked almost six shots per game in those three contests, unable to be stopped on both ends of the floor, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Preparing for the upcoming draft, he’s been working on his offense and mid-range jump shot. Per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Withey said his mid-range jumper is “something I want to prove to everybody.”
ESPN’s John Hollinger (Insider access required) puts his player efficiency rating at a 27.23 and a projection of a mid-first-round pick.
Though Anthony Davis could eventually move to the 5 spot, Withey would complement Davis’ defense coming off the bench. When on the floor together, this duo could potentially be the best 4-5 defensive combination in the NBA.
If he can get his offense figured out (you can see his struggles in the video at the 8:00 mark), including his offensive rebounding, Withey will be a very good professional basketball player.
The biggest priority for the Pelicans is to add a small forward.
Needing a strong shooting presence, the 22-year-old All-ACC Second Team selection Reggie Bullock is a versatile, athletic wing man who has improved drastically during his time at North Carolina. His points, assists, steals and rebounds have all gone up yearly as he matured under Roy Williams.
The best scenario surrounding Bullock and the Pelicans is for New Orleans to sign a proven small forward in free agency and select Bullock as a role player who could spark the team with his dynamic shooting.
In this clip, you can see the quick release and range of the former Tar Heel.
Starting all 35 games in his junior season, the 6’7” Bullock shot over 48 percent from the floor and 43.6 percent from beyond the arc.
He brings energy on the defensive end with great lateral quickness and is one of the most dangerous shooters in the draft. Compared by Hoops World to Houston’s Chandler Parsons, Bullock is a late-first- or second-round option.
Bullock was manned up against the top scorers for the opposition in nearly every game this past year, proving he was trusted with his defense. He rarely makes mental mistakes, owning an impressive 2.35 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, with a 24.13 player efficiency rating.
Needing to polish his overall offensive game, if he develops a strong drive to the basket and becomes less one dimensional with his shooting, he will be a solid role player in the NBA.
Here’s his full NBA draft profile, complete with strengths and weaknesses:
With the possibility that Brian Roberts doesn’t return to the team next year, the Pelicans will need depth at point guard. Though he may undersized, Myck Kabongo is a true point guard capable of facilitating the offense just as effectively as Greivis Vasquez.
A top prospect out of high school, Kabongo sat out 23 games this past season due to NCAA sanctions.
When he played, he showed his impact on the game. At 6’1”, Kabongo has a great first step with the ability to hit a jumper or pass to the open man. His overall game is on display in this highlight reel:
Here you can see him drive the lane and force the defense to converge to the middle, while he dishes it out for an open shot or explode past the defense for an easy bucket.
Despite his shortened season, he has tremendous upside with his ball-handling abilities. But there are still question marks surrounding the 20-year-old.
He turned the ball over a considerable amount (37 in 11 games) and he is a little undersized for the point. The turnovers need to be cut down to be a solid point guard, but learning from one of the most improved point guards in the league would benefit the young playmaker.
He is a pass-first type of player who needs to improve his jump shot, but his speed along with his ability to cut in front of passing lanes on defense makes him an NBA caliber player.
After missing the 23 games, he recently told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star on the subject, “Imagine your job got taken away from you, that’s what it feels like, really.”
Kabongo is a natural talent that is hungry for success. He has room to grow and mature, though his athleticism and commitment to being a force on both ends of the floor make him an intriguing prospect.
This kind of pickup would certainly add depth and talent to a thin Pelicans point guard position.
So, in the next couple of years, the Pelicans will have only first-round picks that they hope aren’t in the lottery.
Still in a rebuilding phase, this is the year an extra pick, either late in the first round or the second round, needs to be made. It will enable the Pelicans to get stronger and address an area that needs additional help.
Will it be worth it to acquire an additional pick on June 27? Absolutely.
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