With One Month Until The NBA Draft Pelicans Have Decisions To Make

The 2023 NBA Draft is officially one month away.

Commissioner Adam Silver will stride to the podium at the Barclay’s Center on June 22, ready to announce the next wave of young prospects who will enter the league.

The New Orleans Pelicans currently have only one pick in the draft, number 14 overall. Unless the Pelicans acquire another pick via trade, this will be the fewest bites at the apple that David Griffin and company will have had since his tenure began in 2019.

Griffin has shown his willingness to deal on draft night. Of the 14 selections he’s made over the past four years, eight have been traded.

This year’s draft has exceptional high-end talent with Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson, Brandon Miller, and Jarace Walker each considered franchise-changing players.

That type of player won’t be available at 14, especially if recent history is any indication.

YearPlayer/Drafted ByCurrent TeamGamesPPGRPGAPG
2022Ochai Agbaji (CLE)UTAH597.92.11.1
2021Moses Moody (GSW)GSW1154.61.60.8
2020Aaron Nesmith (BOS)IND1716.72.91.3
2019Romeo Langford (BOS)SAS1414.62.10.7

Since the 2019 draft, three of the four players who heard their name called as the 14th overall pick are on their second teams. Langford and Moody have yet to make an impact. Agbaji had a solid debut season with the Jazz, reaching double figures in 20 of his 59 appearances, and Nesmith may have found a home with the Pacers after posting career highs across the board while averaging 10.1 ppg and making 60 starts.

Of the 19 other players taken with the 14th pick between 2000-2018, only Bam Adebayo (2017), Michael Porter Jr. (2018), and Marcus Morris (2011) have been consistent starters in the league.

The New Orleans Pelicans aren’t in position to wait for another young player to develop. There are 10 players on the current roster aged 25 and under, and only six with at least five years of NBA experience.

David Griffin and Willie Green are under immense pressure this season to take a significant step forward. While the Pelicans’ 42-40 record was the franchise’s best in five years, the team’s lackluster effort in the play-in tournament and overall inconsistency throughout the season left a bitter taste in the mouths of fans.

The one place where it seems that the Pelicans have their biggest need, rim protection from the front court, is the most shallow portion of the first round talent pool.

There are a number of combo guards available, but the Pelicans are dealing with an incredible logjam in the backcourt with Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Herbert Jones, Jose Alvarado, Dyson Daniels, and Kira Lewis Jr. all expected to be on the roster next season.

Add in Willie Green’s apparent reluctance to give heavy minutes to young players unless out of necessity, and it becomes more difficult to imagine adding a rookie to that mix.

One area that can always be improved is shot making. Fortunately the Pelicans do have a number of options to choose from in finding someone to provide offense with the second unit, particularly from distance.

The consensus among analysts is that New Orleans will take a shooter in the draft, with Kobe Bufkin of Michigan, Baylor’s Keyonte George, UConn marksman Jordan Hawkins, and Arkansas freshman Nick Smith Jr. mentioned most often.

Kobe BufkinGMichiganSO6-49.0.325The Athletic, For The Win, NBC Sports
Keyonte GeorgeGBaylorFR6-415.3.338ESPN.com, NBA Draft Room,
Jordan HawkinsGUConnSO6-511.8.376New York Post, USA Today
Jalen Hood-SchifinoGIndianaFR6-613.5.333Yahoo!
Jett HowardG/FMichiganFR6-814.2.368Bleacher Report
Kris MurrayFIowaJR6-812.1.348CBS Sports
Brice SensabaughGOhio St.FR6-616.3.405SB Nation
Nick Smith Jr.GArkansasFR6-512.5.338NBA.com Consensus, The Ringer

If the Pelicans do decide to hold onto the pick, rather than package it for immediate veteran help, the question becomes which player has the mental strength and maturity to make a difference sooner rather than later.

As the draft nears, we will dig deeper into the pros and cons of these likely picks, as well as examine potential trades that would make sense for the Pelicans.

The franchise is in a strange position.

It has talent but it needs more. It’s biggest variable is health, something it has no ability to control.

If there’s anything we’ve learned from this NBA postseason, it’s that experience and availability have significant influence on the outcomes of these series.

The temptation is always there to get the newest thing on the lot. The best option for the New Orleans Pelicans, however, may be a certified used player. One with a high floor, who can provide consistent production and minutes.

The Pelicans have choices, but today it isn’t clear which one is their best.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunesSpotifyStitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @DMGrubb.


2 thoughts on “With One Month Until The NBA Draft Pelicans Have Decisions To Make

  1. The Pelicans are not necessarily a “young” team. Val and CJ are in their 30s, and both are starting to show some worn treads on their wheels. BI is a veteran. The average age of the roster makes it only the 11th youngest roster in the NBA. And four of the younger rosters (including the TWolves) made the playoffs.

    The Pels have very specific needs– a defensive presence in the lane, one more shooter. Those have to be addressed for the team to continue to progress.

  2. They are young in terms of league experience, especially relative to teams that advanced the farthest in the postseason. After 5 seasons, qualifying for the playoffs isn’t the goal is it? They have to get to at least the second round. I’d also add a third need, shot creation. Not one-on-one, but for others in half court sets.

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