Although the Pelicans don’t have their own 1st or 2nd round picks this year, they do have the 56th pick in the upcoming NBA draft. It's one of the very last picks in the draft so it is unlikely this pick will contribute or even make the team. However, this doesn't mean the Pelicans may not be able to fill one of their biggest needs going into next year: long-armed wings.
Drafts come with all sorts of surprises; thus, I could see the Pelicans trade for an early 2nd round pick to land that potential wing player. I’m not going to examine the ways they can acquire said pick but rather several players who could be potentially drafted during this part of the 2015 draft.
Early Second Round
Timothe Luwawu (Projected to go 42nd by Draft Express)
Luwa-who? Timothe Luwawu was an unknown until last year where he made a few appearances in the French First Division. However, he was then taken with the French U-20s to an Adidas Euro camp where he performed well.
Luwawu is 6’7 and an exceptional athlete when you combine his quickness and strength; he should be able to guard both the 2’s and 3’s. He showed a defensive versatility in France where he has guarded 1 through 4 on any given night. He possesses a pit bull mentality and will chase assignments all over the court, including pressing opposing point guards full court.
On offense, he displays a solid shot, shooting 32% from deep and although he has a fairly low shot release, it is fundamentally sound and should see success in the NBA. His athleticism grants a fantastic first step and his court vision is a plus. Luwawu is a willing passer and he consistently finds open shooters either with skip passes or on attacks to the rim.
Luwawu does struggle with finishing at the rim because of recklessness: he has not yet learned to control his bodily movements well. His ball handling needs improvement as it currently would be considered below average for an NBA wing. It's noticeable enough to where opponents would make him put it on the ground with each possession. Not surprisingly, Timothe struggles to create offence for himself.
Overall, Luwawu is one of my favorite prospects the Pelicans may have an opportunity to draft. His ability to shoot combined with his insane athleticism and love of defense is something New Orleans needs. He would be a project in the areas mentioned above, but I think he fits the mold of an athletic 3 and D wing, an area of need on the roster.
Johnathon Holmes (Projected to go 35th By Draft Express)
Holmes is a senior coming out of Texas at the age of 22 and has the versatility to play the 3 and 4. His length and strength (6’9 with a 6’11 wingspan) allow him to play power forward and his lateral quickness and speed overall allows him to guard shooting forwards.
Johnathon Holmes largely played small forward in his final year at UT so he was mainly a perimeter player. He was a solid three point shooter (33% on 4 attempts a game) and displayed an aesthetically pleasing shot, especially when he had a chance to step into his shot.
This weapon allowed him to space the floor but one of the main areas that could be improved upon is his free throw rate. Getting to the line three times a game is inadequate for an athletic player like Holmes. However, he did demonstrate using his advantage versus smaller defenders by finishing in the post and through contact on drives.
As mentioned above, Holmes had to guard 3’s all throughout his senior year and did a very solid job doing so. Although he was caught ball watching every so often, he was a very competent defender at the collegiate level. The question is can he defend NBA caliber 3s? I personally think he would be able to but he is better suited defending other bigs due to his strength and ability to keep others off the boards.
Overall, Holmes’s defensive versatility and fairly polished offensive repertoire would be a huge bonus for the Pelicans, yet there are plenty of question marks exist how much of his game would translate at the next level. He would undoubtedly have a lesser role on the Pelicans but would be able to potentially contribute in the rookie season. His length and defensive abilities combined with the physical tools is something the Pelicans could use; consequently, I would be more than happy to have him brought on board in the second round.
Aleksandar Vezenkov (Projected to go 33rd By Draft Express)
Vezenkov is a 6’9 small forward who plays in the top league in Greece and represents Bulgaria at a national level. He is a tremendous shooter with a high and quick release (when you watch highlights and tape of the guy the first thing you notice is his quick release). He has improved on his 3pt % each year in Greece and finished the season shooting 39% from deep, 49% from inside the arc whilst scoring 18 points a game and nabbing 7.4 rebounds in an average of 32 minutes.
Vezenkov could bring lots of spacing to the Pels but could also play some small ball 4 in a pinch due to his rebounding prowess. He has the highest floor on this list due to his proven ability to shoot the 3 with a quick release and at the age of 19 he still has time to continue developing his game. Vezenkov isn’t just a shooter -- he mainly played in the paint in his last year in Greece, working in the post after bulking up the previous summer.
Aleksander still has lots of question marks mainly due to his athleticism, yett if he is quick enough to guard NBA athletes, his ability to score will be the main selling point. I don’t doubt he could be a contributor off the bench, but I don’t believe he is the ideal candidate the Pelicans would want due to other options being much better defensively.