Sitting with the No. 6 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, the News Orleans Pelicans will look to use that selection for a player that will help keep the team out of the lottery for a third straight year.
The Pelicans, from a roster standpoint, would be best served drafting a wing player who excels on both ends of the floor. However, there has been much talk about Michigan point guard Trey Burke making his way to New Orleans.
General manager Dell Demps has shot down the notion of selecting a position of need. Demps told Art Garcia of Fox Sports Southwest:
In today's game a lot of guys are interchangeable so I don't know if we can just say we want this position or this guy, I think you want to get a piece that can fit into your system and help you win basketball games.
Of course, that all depends on who's available. If Georgetown’s Otto Porter or Indiana’s Victor Oladipo is on the board, we could see either of those player scooped up by the Pelicans, both of whom would be a steal at No. 6.
With the uncertainty surrounding this year's draft, New Orleans has either worked out or interviewed a total of six players.
The Pelicans are doing their due diligence in preparation for Thursday night’s draft. Demps has had to travel to conduct in-person interviews with some top prospects, while scouting others. As he said in his pre-draft press conference on Tuesday, June 25, via Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Guys that think they are top two or three picks don't want to work out for a team with the sixth pick, and guys that are projected to be taken eighth through 12th don't think you're going to take them so they don't want to waste their time. We were prepared for that, and this year we went in to the college and international seasons thinking, let's prepare as though we won't be able to get anyone to work out. Let's make sure we do all our work, go see guys live, do our interviews and do our background.
Though Demps is hiding exactly how he'll approach the draft, the rumors are swirling around two key players, with others mere hopefuls.
Trey Burke, G
Burke, by account of mock drafts, is the most popular name tied to the team as of late. He worked out in front of Pelicans’ personnel on June 14 and made immediate impressions on coach Monty Williams, who saw added muscle in Burke.
Burke is the best point guard in the draft and could be a solid contributor to this team. He has drawn comparisons to Chris Paul—who was selected fourth overall in 2005 by the very same (then-Hornets) team—namely because of his 6’1” height (Paul is 6'0").
The AP Player of the Year and Naismith award winner put the Wolverines on his shoulders in 2012-13. Averaging 18.6 points during the season, Burke scored 15.5 points per game in the NCAA tournament en route to the national championship game. Additionally, he dished out 6.7 assists for the season.
John Reid of NOLA.com said, despite the logjam of point guards on the Pelicans roster—Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts—they should make room for Burke, a rare talent that could be available at No. 6.
The interest is evident from the workout, and although the players don’t decide where they go in the draft, that interest is mutual.
Burke sat down with Kyle Bass of Pelicans.com and told him:
I know the Pelicans are a very young team. That’s where I want to go. I want to go to a young team that has guys that are willing to win. I definitely think this would be a great start for my career.
Still, Burke isn't the only name floating around the Big Easy.
Alex Len, C
Maryland big man Alex Len, who interviewed with New Orleans, is an intriguing prospect, although recovering from a stress fracture in his left ankle.
Standing at 7’1” with a wingspan of 7’4”, the 20-year-old Ukrainian could have the most upside in the draft. The Pelicans need an inside presence next to Anthony Davis and Len could provide that.
Coach Williams said his bigs were the strength of the team, but followed with, “That doesn’t mean we won’t draft a big man,” according to Darrell Williams of The Advocate.
The former Terrapin has been climbing up draft boards and has recently been linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers as the top pick in the draft. However, if the Cavs decide to trade the pick or go with Nerlens Noel, Len could be available when the Pelicans select.
Scoring 11.8 points and grabbing 8.1 rebounds during his sophomore season, Len possesses athleticism and mobility that not many big men have.
John Reid of NOLA.com opines the best options would be either Burke or Len. He goes on to say Len wouldn’t be a bad choice because of his offensive abilities in the post.
Not only that, Len posted an impressive 2.1 blocks per game. Paired with Anthony Davis, or even coming off the bench, he would give the Pelicans a much stronger inside presence on defense.
Trade to Dallas for No. 13 pick and Shawn Marion?
In an attempt to clear cap space, the Dallas Mavericks have been shopping the No. 13 pick in Thursday’s draft.
New Orleans is reportedly a team that could look to take that pick off of Dallas’ hands, per NBC New Orleans’ (WDSU TV) Fletcher Mackel:
If this indeed happens, Demps could get his potential future small forward in Giannis Adetokunbo, while still possessing that No. 6 pick. The Mavericks are seeking a future first-round pick in return.
Adetokunbo, the 6’9” Greece native, is just 18 years old and far from a sure thing. He would need some development, but possesses the skills necessary to make an impact in the NBA.
While this would wind up giving New Orleans exactly what they need, I can't see this trade happening. It's a longshot to begin with and Dallas owner Mark Cuban has said there have been no discussions concerning Marion.
While there’s no telling how the 2013 NBA Draft will play out, the Pelicans could possibly land a top-tier player like Oladipo or Porter at No. 6. However unlikely this is to occur, we have no idea what’s going to happen in the first five picks.
We could be shocked and see the Pelicans wind up with a gift in Oladipo.
The biggest rumors surround Burke and Len, but even there’s a chance one or both won’t be on the board at No. 6. That will leave Demps with an interesting decision to make.
If the Pelicans were to draft Burke, I would consider this draft a success. He works hard and has a complete game. He would fit right in with the speed of this team and will, in all likelihood, be the best overall player still on the board.
If New Orleans trades for No. 13, that would just be an added bonus and a chance for them to add young talent to an already talented roster.
All in all, despite the rumors, we’re in for an entertaining NBA draft.