May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor
Before we begin, the odds are long. Assuming the Pelicans remain in the 10-12 spot (Passing Minnesota is a pipe dream, one of Cleveland/Detroit will commit to tanking soon, Detroit is the safe bet) they will have between a 2.2% and 4% chance of landing in the top three and keeping their pick. Are those long odds? Absolutely. Are they impossible odds? No. As I mentioned in the first article of the series, the 1999 Charlotte Hornets ended up with the third pick as you can see here. Their odds of winning the entire lottery were even lower than the Pelicans.
Sorting out much of a draft board for the Pelicans is going to be difficult. Joel Embiid's recent injury and questionable fit beside Anthony Davis gives me pause to even consider him if the Pelicans end up with a top three pick. Twin Towers sound nice, but this NBA is much different than even the one where the Lakers were dominant with Gasol and Bynum side by side. For example, consider the Lakers with Gasol and Howard side by side.
We do know if the Pelicans have a lottery pick, it will be in the top three. With this in mind (and the above on Embiid), a three player draft board seems enough. As future Pelicans, I rate the incoming class:
- Andrew Wiggins (19) - Wiggins on top is about the upside. If the Pelicans end up with the first pick, they should select Wiggins without question. Draft Express and Sports Reference are handy to look at both measurements (7'0" wingspan) and stats. Wiggins has been an efficient, albeit not prolific (compared to the next two), scorer in college. But Wiggins upside is the expectation that with his length and athleticism, he will morph into an elite wing defender. The next two on my list fail to provide that upside.
- Jabari Parker (19) - Parker sits below Wiggins for defensive issues and my concerns on the Pelicans using him correctly. Parker should be a smallish power forward in the NBA in order to reduce the impact of his defensive limitations. Nothing about this current front office and coaching staff leads me to believe they would ever buy into that concept. Draft Express and Sports Reference again for more information. I think Parker has a much higher floor than Wiggins, but his ceiling is also much lower.
- Julius Randle (20) - He is not yet 20 but will be by next November. His position is unambiguous for the front office: he is a back to the basket big man who slots best at power forward. Draft Express lists his wingspan at 6'11" and Jonathan Tjarks of SBNation went in depth on the problems his limited wingspan could create in the NBA. The stats show a rebounding monster. His ability to handle the ball makes a quick "he's like x player in the NBA you know" difficult. Whereas with Wiggins the comparison to Paul George and Parker compared to Carmelo Anthony seem relatively easy.
The more I look into each player, I would be ecstatic if any of them were coming to New Orleans. If the Pelicans were keeping their pick, I would not be excited in the least to welcome anyone likely to be there in the 10-12 range. That is the bet Dell Demps and the Pelican front office made this past summer. Underwhelmed by both the 2013 Draft Class in total and the 2014 Class beyond the first five players, New Orleans made the move to trade both for Jrue Holiday.
Future Still Bright
Anthony Davis remains the future in New Orleans. His performance in the last two weeks has taken it to another level. Functioning as the primary option on offense Davis has responded in six games averaging 32.3 points, 14.3 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game on 57.9% shooting from the field. He is currently 4th in the NBA in PER at 27.1, behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Love. He is in the top 20 in the league in points (13th), rebounds (9th), blocks (1st), and field goal percentage (17th).
Beyond that, Anthony Davis is in the midst of the greatest season by a 20 year old in NBA history. Look hard at that list. Adrian Dantley and Magic Johnson are both already in the Hall of Fame. Shaquille O'Neal's inclusion is just around the corner. LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are some of the biggest superstars of the last decade. Andre Drummond is a monster and we in New Orleans can cry ourselves to sleep wondering what if Joe Dumars passed on him. Needless to say, there are a ton of All-Star appearances (58), MVPs (8), and All-NBA Teams (47) on that list.
Selection to an All-NBA Team or All-Defensive Team this season should not be beyond the realm of possibility for Davis. If Davis gets selected to two All-NBA teams in the next three seasons (including this one), he will be eligible for the "Rose Rule" extension. CBA FAQ spells it out, but it ultimately means instead of a 5 year, $79M extension the Pelicans (and only the Pelicans) could offer a $94M contract. The window to sign that extension opens in July 2015. Expect New Orleans to offer the max and the only haggling to be if the final year is guaranteed or a player option/early termination option. Anthony Davis will be in a Pelican jersey through the 2020-2021 season at a minimum. The key now is to build a winning franchise around him to turn that nine year commitment into a dynasty like San Antonio did with Tim Duncan. The idea that Anthony Davis is in New Orleans long term is not one held just by Pelican homers either.
Keep seeing people say New Orleans is on the clock to get a team around Davis. He'll likely be there for 7 years no matter what. See: CBA— Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) March 17, 2014
The Pelicans do have flexibility this summer to bring in players. They will also have flexibility next summer (with the MLE again, and Bi-Annual Exception if they do not use it this summer) along with their first round draft pick. Expect that pick to be in the teens or early twenties.