Four players the Pelicans could target with No. 4 pick in NBA Draft

Seth Dunlap
June 19, 2019 - 6:51 pm
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Attempting to predict the 2019 NBA draft is a paradoxical exercise, with initial inevitability followed by Choose Your Own Adventure-style uncertainty.

It's been a forgone conclusion for months -- years, really -- that Zion Williamson will be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.  The only bit of drama was centered around which team's ping pong balls would fortuitously fall in their favor.  The New Orleans Pelicans voodoo-ed their way into that franchise-altering moment, and are set to select Zion with the top pick tomorrow.  

Behind Zion, it seems clear that Ja Morant, the outstanding point guard from small-school Murray State, will be taken by Memphis with the second pick.  Then, unless the Knicks have a last minute change of heart -- something that shouldn't shock anybody familiar with dysfunctional Jim Dolan owned franchise -- they'll draft forward R.J. Barrett, Williamson's teammate at Duke, with pick No. 3.  

Then?  Well, nobody seems to know.  Multiple franchises holding picks in the No. 4-15 range are reportedly interested in trading back.  Likewise, multiple teams with lottery selections are currently exploring options to move up.  This will likely make the first half of Round 1 as volatile as any draft in recent memory.

The linchpin to this chaos seems to be the Pelicans, who acquired the fourth selection from the Lakers in their blockbuster Anthony Davis trade.  While it's apparent they'd prefer to move back from that pick, they will only do so if the assets offered are palatable to David Griffin, the shewed basketball mind behind the organization's quick re-emergence from the ashes of the Dell Demps era.

If the Pelicans decide to keep the that pick, or they trade back and pick just a few spots later, then there are a multitude of players who could fit in nicely with the young core they'll integrate into coach Alvin Gentry's system.  Here are four prospects they are most likely to select tomorrow with the No. 4 overall selection.

Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
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Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

Garland is both the most highly regarded prospect outside of the Williamson-Morant-Barrett trio, and the least likely to land in New Orleans.  The Pelicans are now overloaded with young players at his position, with Ball, a former No. 2 overall selection, entering his third season in the league, and Frank Jackson emerging as an intriguing young player behind him.  There's also the possibility the Pelicans bring back Elfrid Payon, who was born in New Orleans and showed flashes of excellence when he was healthy late in the season.  

The former Commodore projects as a top-level three point shooter, and he shot 47.8% in limited action at Vanderbilt.   He can create shots off the dribble and is an elite spot-up shooter.  Scouts have been impressed by his ability to run the pick-and-roll, and grades high in ball-handling and penetration to the basket.  There are concerns over his size, as he stands just over six-feet tall without shoes, and may have problems against the more lengthy defenders he'll encounter in the NBA.  He was also turnover prone at times in both high school and college, which could be a red-flag to any team expecting Garland to be a big-time facilitator running their offense. 

Still, his scoring ability and his upside means it would be a major surprise if Garland falls past the top-five selections in the draft.  There's a reason teams like the Hawks, Bulls, and others seem to be salivating at the prospect of moving up and grabbing him.

DeAndre Hunter, SF, Virginia
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De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

There may be no better instant-fit for the Pelicans than Hunter, who is coming off a national championship season at Virginia.  Hunter was the NABC national defensive player of the year for the Cavaliers, and projects as an elite defender at the next level.  He has great length with a 7'2" wingspan that will allow him to defend multiple positions with ease, even though his natural fit is at the small forward spot.  Hunter isn't just an elite defender; he's one of the best mid-range players in this draft and has developed an excellent long-range game, shooting nearly 44% from 3-point range last season at Virginia.  He's also regarded as one of the more unselfish, team-oriented prospects in this draft, with high praise of his leadership skills coming from his Virginia teammates and coaching staff.

The knocks on Hunter are that he doesn't do one thing exceptionally well offensively, and never showed the ability to take over games at Virginia.  Also, his blocked shot rate was oddly low for a guy widely considered the best defender in college basketball last season, and he never developed into a consistent rebounder.  Hunter will also be turning 22 this year, meaning he's one of the older prospects near the top of most draft boards.

Hunter wouldn't be expected to develop into an elite scorer with the Pelicans, who will have their offense run thru Williamson, Ingram, and Holiday for the foreseeable future.  Griffin has also expressed a desire to avoid overloading his roster with teenage players who will take years to acclimate to the pro game. This makes New Orleans perhaps the best natural fit for his skill-set.

Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
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Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

Culver projects similarly to Hunter, sacrificing a bit of defensive size and versatility for a more well-rounded offensive game.  He led Texas Tech with 18.5 points per game last season, which is even more impressive considering the snails-pace the Red Raiders often played at.  He also acted as the team's primary ball handler, and has the ability to play the one, two, and three positions.  Culver has impressive rebounding instincts and skills, a highly desirable trait for a natural shooting guard.  Most scouts believe he can be an above-average scorer and defender in the NBA, although projections vary as to whether he'll ever be elite on either side of the floor.

Most questions around Culver relate to his size and three-point shooting ability.  Let's face it, it's nearly impossible to put a shooting-guard on the court in the modern NBA who has trouble from long-range, and Culver shot just 30.4% from distance last season in Lubbock.  While that part of his game could develop -- and he did shoot 38.2% from three-point range his freshman season -- the concerns over lack of size are more prominent.  He checks in at just 195 pounds, a full 30 pounds lighter than Hunter.  That frame could get bullied in the NBA.  At 6'6", he also would have problems playing long stretches at the small-forward position, meaning his true versatility is really limited to the backcourt positions.

Perhaps the questions around his size are overblown in the modern, positionless NBA.  Regardless, Culver will hear his name called early on Thursday night.

Cam Reddish, PF, Duke
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Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

Reddish has the biggest boom-or-bust potential of the four players we are profiling.  He looks the part of an NBA All-Star swingman, standing at 6'8" with a solid frame and 7'1" wingspan, but he struggled to produce offensively at times last season.  However, Reddish has a natural ability to create his own shot as ease, whether that be driving to the bucket or pulling up from outside.  Concerns about his offensive production and low three-point percentage (33% last season) can likely be attributed to his deference to Williamson and Barrett, his teammates at Duke.  He also showed flashes of elite defensive and rebounding skills with the Blue Devils, and looked much more comfortable on the court late in the season.

As mentioned, the biggest concern around Reddish is his failure to live up to his potential at Duke.  Perhaps the spotlight on his teammates was too much for the young freshman to handle, but if he didn't acclimate well at Duke then what can you expect of him in the NBA?  He also isn't a naturally quick player, and struggled to score against lengthier defenders.  He also lacks that natural high-motor we see from so many of the great NBA stars.

Again, it's likely unfair to judge Reddish in the vacuum of his one season at Duke.  Plenty of NBA stars developed their game at the pro level more quickly than they did in college.  If you're looking for a high-ceiling player who can play four positions on the court, Reddish is your guy.  His versatility in the frontcourt would fit well with Williamson and Ingram, but are the Pelicans ready to gamble on a player who may never be worth the draft pick used to select him?

Keep An Eye On. . .

Coby White, PG, North Carolina:  If the Pelicans are going to draft a score-first point guard, then Garland is likely their guy.  Still, White has elite size (6'5") for his position, and can score from anywhere on the court.  He could develop into a great complimentary backcourt piece around Ball and Holiday, and would be a nice scorer off the bench for Alvin Gentry.  He doesn't' project as a great facilitator and can struggle defensively.  

Sekou Doumboya, PF, France:  This year's highest-rated international prospect, Doumboya is the prototypical stretch-four that enters the league from Europe.  Scouts also love his defensive effort, and he projects as an elite-level rebounder.  The Pelicans are interested in bolstering their frontcourt around Williamson, and it wouldn't be completely shocking to see them reach a bit for a player with little bust potential, but one that could develop into a versatile scoring machine for years to come in the Big Easy.

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