What Pelicans Should Do With Sixth Pick
After being the winners of the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery, the Pelicans are now picking sixth in this year’s draft. They’ve already put together a pretty talented young core, and HOOPSWORLD asked their writers to debate who would be the best piece to add to that with their lottery pick:
Draft Alex Len
The best pick for the New Orleans Pelicans would be Alex Len out of Maryland. Len is arguably the best center in this draft and he could form a Twin Towers alongside Anthony Davis.
It’s not a stretch to think that Len and Davis could become one of the best frontcourts in the NBA in several years since both players have plenty of upside. They would complement each other well since Davis is more of a defensive-oriented player and Len is more of an offensive-oriented player. However, both players have the potential to be well-rounded big men and dominate on both ends of the court.
The Pelicans don’t need to use this pick on a guard since they have Greivis Vazquez and Eric Gordon in the backcourt along with Austin Rivers, who may still develop into a part of their core. Assuming they can re-sign Al-Farouq Aminu, they also already have their small forward of the future on the roster.
However, they don’t have a long-term solution at center, which is why Len should be the pick. Robin Lopez did a solid job last year for New Orleans, but he doesn’t have the potential to become an elite big man like the 7’1 Len does.
The 19-year-old has the frame of a top-tier big man, which is why he has drawn comparisons to Roy Hibbert. Put Len next to Davis in the frontcourt, and the Pelicans will be one step closer to becoming a playoff team. Once he has NBA-level coaches and resources, he’s going to continue to develop and flourish.
Len recently underwent surgery to repair a partial stress fracture in his left ankle. It will keep him sidelined for several months and has some teams worried since ankle injuries can be troubling and nagging, especially for a big man who weighs 255 lbs. However, Len is expected to make a full recovery.
The injury could be a blessing in disguise for the Pelicans. If Len had been completely healthy, he would’ve been able to participate in the draft combine and individual workouts so he may not have been available at No. 6. Now, he’s almost a lock to be there when the Pelicans are on the clock. If New Orleans is smart, they’ll make him the sixth player selected.
- Alex Kennedy
Draft Shabazz Muhammad
A quick trip around the internet and all the mock drafts housed therein will lead many people to conclude that, if available, the newly re-christened New Orleans Pelicans will select point guard Trey Burke with the sixth overall selection in this month’s NBA Draft.
To a certain extent, it makes sense; with Eric Gordon always hurt, Burke would help shoulder some of the scoring load while allowing Greivis Vasquez to play off the ball a little more, but considering that Vasquez was one of the most improved players last season and finished the year third in the league in assists with 9.0 APG, it would appear that the Pelicans have larger needs than finding a point guard.
And if Gordon does come back and Austin Rivers shows any sort of growth, drafting a guard—any guard—would be redundant, especially considering New Orleans has pretty gaping hole at small forward. Should free agent Farouq Al-Aminu decide to head elsewhere this offseason or should New Orleans decide he’s simply not worth re-signing, that need becomes even greater.
So how does a team bring in some scoring, fill its hole at small forward, and give fans a big name worth getting excited about? By drafting Shabazz Muhammad, of course.
Muhammad has the ability to be a premier scorer in this league, but he also is great in transition and rebounds the ball better than you’d expect. He averaged 17.9 PPG as a freshman at UCLA last season, and he’s got the charisma and calm, cool demeanor to be successful at the next level. Put him next to Gordon, Vasquez, and last year’s #1 overall pick Anthony Davis, and you’ve got the foundations of something really interesting.
It’s absolutely possible that Burke ends a better pro than Muhammad, but New Orleans fans might not see that full potential for a while if Burke is battling so many other good guards for minutes and shots. Why not grab the guy who would have the opportunity to step right in and play (a la Harrison Barnes in Golden State this past season) so that the lineup is more balanced with players that can all contribute simultaneously?
If Burke is off the board by pick #6 anyway, this feels like an easy pick to me. Honestly, it’s a fairly easy pick even if Burke is still there.
- Joel Brigham
Draft Trey Burke
The New Orleans Pelicans are in a pretty good position to walk away with an impact player and have several different positions they could address. There’s an argument to be made for going big with a center since that is the strongest position in the draft. Cody Zeller would really make a nice fit alongside Anthony Davis in the interior. The two had some intense battles in college and really brought out the best in each other, something that would hopefully carry over if they became teammates.
However, as attractive of an option as going big is, it’s going to be awfully difficult for the Pelicans to pass on point guard Trey Burke. Greivis Vasquez is coming off of a career year running the point for the Pelicans, but he’s going to be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2013-14 season. Plus, Burke, as someone who is getting consideration as high as second overall, would be great value at six.
As a rookie Burke could provide some much needed depth behind Vasquez. Then, at the end of the season if Pelicans management sees fit, they could let Vasquez walk and hand the reins over to Burke if they see fit.
While comparing him to former Pelicans point guard Chris Paul would be unfair, there are some similarities between Paul and Burke. Burke plays bigger than his listed height of 6’1 and he’s a fiery competitor who comes up big when the game is on the line. He was the best point guard in college basketball this past season, taking a huge step forward from his freshman season. If he continues to improve, we could be talking about one of the best players in this draft class.
The Pelicans are in the process of rebuilding and forming an identity. They want to copy the San Antonio Spurs blueprint, and having a true leader like Burke could help them get back into the playoff mix sooner rather than later.
- Yannis Koutroupis