The 20-year-old Alex Len has great size, length and athleticism for a 7'1" big man.
The New Orleans Pelicans are building for the future. With young talent across the roster, the 2013 NBA Draft is where general manager Dell Demps will look to add prospects to help turn the team around.
The Pelicans were 27-55 last season and possess the sixth pick in the draft on Thursday, June 27.
There are a few ways Demps can approach the draft. With a high lottery pick, there are bound to be players on the board who will fill positions of need. Help is required on the wing and in the frontcourt.
New Orleans’ defense was ranked 28th in opponents’ adjusted field goal percentage in 2012-13.
Demps could go with a small forward or combo-wing player to provide necessary help on the perimeter. He could also choose to strengthen his teams’ defense in the paint by selecting a big to pair alongside last year’s No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis.
There is no certainty in which direction the top-five teams will go, leaving Demps with an open playbook as he will await the Pelicans’ turn.
According to the Associated Press (via the Washington Post), Demps said:
Specifically for us, we’re looking for a guy who can come in and contribute and help. That help may be this year, it may be two years from now, could be three years from now. We’re not going to limit it to "we need help right now."
He may have to address this draft creatively, but there is no need to trade the No. 6 pick—the Pelicans only selection of the night. This isn’t a draft loaded with superstars, but there are plenty of quality players who could be valuable contributors on this team.
The unselfish Indiana forward/center Cody Zeller is projected to be a late lottery selection in next Thursday’s draft.
The 7’0” big man would fit in quite nicely next to Anthony Davis in the Pelicans’ frontcourt. Zeller possesses the ability to put the ball on the floor and has the mobility to make plays with his feet. His basketball IQ shouldn’t go unnoticed as he routinely finds open space on the floor.
His quickness will enable him to fit right into the Pelicans up-tempo offensive system. Additionally, Zeller's ability to run the floor makes him dangerous in transition.
The size, wingspan and vertical ability of Zeller—ESPN’s Chad Ford tweeted his 35.5” vertical leap at the NBA draft combine was the highest in a decade for a player 6’9” or taller—make him an intriguing prospect in this years draft.
He could wind up with similar skill sets to those of Davis. His 8.1 rebounds and 16.5 points per game in his sophomore season at Indiana earned him second team All-America honors by the Associated Press.
As a big man, Zeller has a dynamic mid-range jumper and is excellent around the rim. In his freshman season, Zeller made 73 percent of his shots at the rim. That number dipped to 66 percent last season, but a little extra time devoted to his post game and Zeller could easily make 75 percent of his shots at the rim.
With frontcourt depth a priority for New Orleans, Zeller—though a little higher than his projection—would be a worthy selection at No. 6.
Trey Burke took the basketball world by storm in March as he led the Michigan Wolverines to the national championship game in the NCAA tournament.
The tremendously athletic point guard and Naismith Player of the Year award winner, Burke would come in as a shoot-first style point guard to pair with Greivis Vasquez and his pass-first style.
Burke developed into a floor general during his time as a Wolverine, able to lead his teammates to open spaces and accurately deciding whether to shoot or pass. He averaged 18.5 points and 6.7 assists per game last season.
The Pelicans worked out Burke in New Orleans and the best point guard in the draft is projected to land in the Big Easy by DraftExpress.com, Matt Moore of CBSSports.com and Steve Kyler and Yannis Koutroupis of HoopsWorld.com.
His pull-up jumper is what separates him from the other point guards in the draft. A 46 percent shooter last season, Burke can score off the dribble and finish at the rim while possessing a superb ability to draw the defense and drive-and-kick to an open teammate.
He is a competitive player and is at his best when going up against top competition. His ferocity makes up for his 6’1” frame.
Point guard isn’t an immediate area of need, but it’s not often that a player of Burke’s caliber will be available at pick No. 6.
It would be a dream come true if Victor Oladipo somehow managed to drop to No. 6.
John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune recently reported Oladipo’s draft stock appears to be dropping. This is great news for Dell Demps, who traveled to Washington on Friday to evaluate the former Indiana Hoosier.
The reigning NCAA co-defensive player of the year (sharing the honors with Kansas’ Jeff Withey), Oladipo is a strong on-ball defender and can lock up the best shooter on the opposing team.
At 6’4”, the swingman has the ability to play both the 2 and the 3. For the Pelicans, he will be slotted into the small forward position, becoming an immediate contributor due to his defensive prowess.
Not only is Oladipo an elite defender, but he can knock down jumpers from all over the court. Averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, he shot an overly impressive 59.9 percent from the floor, converting on 44.1 percent of his three-point attempts.
Another unselfish Hoosier, Oladipo was described by senior director of NBA scouting operations Ryan Blake as “a guy that can come in—and will come in—and immediately earn minutes defensively, and that will give him the confidence to even do more,” per Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.
He’d fill the need of a perimeter defensive presence while adding reliable offense to a team that scored just 94.1 points per 100 possessions.
For a few weeks, numerous mock drafts had Maryland center Alex Len as the player the Pelicans will take. He, too, may not be available when No. 6 rolls around, though he'd be a great fit if his name is there.
The 7’1” Ukraine native is a force in the paint on both sides of the ball. The 20-year-old has a wingspan of 7’4”, allowing him to contest shots and tally his share of deflections, blocks and rebounds.
Polishing his overall game during his sophomore season as a Terrapin, Len brought down 7.8 rebounds and scored 11.9 points per game. There is a lot of room for growth, but Len could become a dominating center in the NBA.
New Orleans needs a rebounder on the low post as Robin Lopez averaged under three rebounds on both the offensive and defensive glass (5.6 total boards per game).
Athletic big men of Len’s caliber are few and far between and the Pelicans would greatly improve inside by selecting Len in the draft.
He likely won’t start on day one of the 2013-14 season, but his upside and physical attributes will make it tough for Demps to pass on Len if he’s still on the board.
Plus, the Pelicans need depth at center behind Lopez and Jason Smith.
Up until last week, there was no way Georgetown's small forward Otto Porter was falling out of the top-three, let alone the top-five.
Heading into the offseason, priority No. 1 for the Pelicans is to upgrade the small forward position. The thought was to get this done through free agency (or trades), but if Porter falls to No. 6, the Pelicans need to pounce.
Porter is the best and the most dominant small forward in the draft. He takes high-percentage shots, which resulted in his 48 percent shooting from the field last season.
In his latest mock draft, Chad Ford of ESPN.com says the Washington Wizards’ front office is divided among Porter and UNLV small forward Anthony Bennett at No. 3. If the Wizards don’t take Porter, there is a very good chance he’s still there at No. 6.
Porter could start on the wing right away, providing insurance for the likes of Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers at the 2-guard.
At 6’8”, he has the ability to shoot over defenders who try to contest a shot and is a great post-up player in the paint. He can shoot mid-range, long range and is able to drive the lane to draw a foul or get an easy bucket.
Playing stingy defense, he averaged 7.5 boards per game and added two steals.
Porter may be the best overall player in this draft and he won’t fall past New Orleans if he should still be there upon their selection.
He fills a primary need for the Pelicans and will be ready to contribute immediately.