Analyzing New Orleans Pelicans' Best Options in 2013 NBA Draft

Eric GuyCorrespondent IIIJune 4, 2013

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 22:  Shabazz Muhammad #15 of the UCLA Bruins shoots a free throw while playing the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at The Frank Erwin Center on March 22, 2013 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans are one piece away from becoming a legitimate threat in the NBA

Possessing the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, such status may arrive sooner than later.

Coming off a campaign in which Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon rode what seemed like a never-ending injury carousel, the Pelicans are confident and ready to return New Orleans’ basketball to prominence in the NBA.

In order for the good vibes to be more than temporary, it is vital that the Pelicans land a player capable of launching the squad to new heights.


Shabazz Muhammad

For the Pelicans, who lack a swingman, selecting Shabazz Muhammad would immediately bolster their offense and provide needed length on defense.

In just under 31 minutes a game in his lone season at UCLA, the former Bruin averaged 17.8 points and consistently proved to be a force late in games.

Although the Pelicans already have Darius Miller and Al-Farouq Aminu, selecting Muhammad would give New Orleans a player who can play off the penetration of Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers. Muhammad possesses the ability to spot-up and knock down shots with range.

Although not a clinical finisher around the rim, Muhammad’s overpowering strength and superior length gives him the ability to bully defenders one-on-one on the block.

Despite having a killer instinct on the offensive end, Muhammad is thought to be too much of a liability on defense. According to, one Eastern Conference executive warned that if Muhammad is "not a great scorer, he doesn't help you much."

Although such doubts are warranted, Muhammad's strength and length will prove to be a tremendous presence on the defensive end. By the start of the 2013-14 season, Muhammad may be primed and ready to take on the challenge of defending in the NBA.  

Although multiple NBA mock drafts—including and Sporting News—have Muhammad out of the NBA draft lottery completely, selecting Muhammad would immediately strengthen the Pelicans' frontcourt.

Cody Zeller

With Alex Len most likely to be snagged with the fourth or fifth overall pick, selecting Cody Zeller would be a practical move for the Pelicans.

Zeller would provide the Pelicans with a big man alongside Anthony Davis, creating a dynamic high-low game that would prove to be extremely difficult for teams to contest.

Just imagine the problems presented by the length and mobility of Zeller and Davis on both ends of the court. Such a vision is quite scary.

In a league where a small percentage of teams—notably San Antonio, Memphis and Indiana—possess front lines of towering “redwoods,” the pairing of Zeller and Davis, along with Robin Lopez, would certainly give the Pelicans an overwhelming advantage over many teams in the NBA.  

Zeller impressed scouts at the NBA draft combine with a standing vertical leap of 35.5 inches and an eye-popping sprint time of 3.15 seconds, narrowly edging the 3.16 recorded by Indiana teammate Victor Oladipo.

No doubt the athleticism of Zeller would be an immediate upgrade in the Pelicans' starting five over the cement-footed Lopez.  


Trey Burke

While the latter would make more sense in terms of need—in my mind anyway—selecting Trey Burke would be a praiseworthy move.

For the past two years, all have been mesmerized by the YouTube skills and competitive nature that Burke possesses. In his sophomore campaign for the Wolverines, Burke averaged 18.6 points  on efficient 46 percent shooting from the field.

In addition, according to, Burke matured into a floor general, turning the ball over on just 13 percent of his possessions.

His fearless drives to the rim, ability to knock down the deep-ball late in games and the ridiculous handles that Burke possesses somewhat mirror those of one of the game's most courageous warriors, Allen Iverson.

Keep in my mind, I am not saying that Burke will be the second coming of “The Answer” because that would be disrespectful to Iverson. However, one cannot ignore the significant advantage that Burke’s skill and determination give him over opponents despite the obvious size differential.

The New Orleans Pelicans are oh-so-close to the path that leads to success. Selecting Muhammad, Zeller or Burke would more than likely propel New Orleans into the playoff picture, freeing the franchise of its work-in-progress label annually attached to it.

Whatever route the Pelicans choose to travel, the pressure will be on.