Earlier this month, Peyton zeroed in on one player that the Pelicans could select with their 2015 second round pick: Pat Connaughton. However, with his performance at the combine, I fully expect he'll be drafted well before pick #56. Taller guards with his shooting ability, athleticism and makeup don't fall towards the end of NBA drafts.
Instead, we're going to have a look at a group of players who fail to appear or did not rate well on the latest Chris Ford mock draft, yet all four could potentially help soak up minutes on the wing starting as soon as next season. The best part is that all of the players were 4-year collegiate athletes, the type Dell Demps likes to bring to New Orleans (Quincy Pondexter, Jeff Withey, Russ Smith).
Tom Izzo heads one of the most storied NCAA programs at Michigan State, and everyone is seeking his next facsimile of Draymond Green. On the surface, Branden Dawson has similar attributes as he's nearly as tall (6'6'') with close to the same girth (225 lbs.). He is known for having the ability in defending both forward positions, hitting the glass hard and possessing leadership characteristics. Dawson finished first or near the top in the Big Ten in a number of defensive and rebounding categories.
However, on paper, there are some discrepancies that might indicate Dawson is not the second coming.
A lack of playmaking and perimeter shot appear disconcerting; however, there is upside. First, in high school, Dawson was known for being a do-it-all type of player. In one game, he had a line of 37 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals.
Although Dawson never displayed an outside shot at Michigan State, there are rumors he can shoot and avoided the perimeter during college. Sure enough, have a look at a recent workout with the Charlotte Hornets. A little more than halfway through the video, he nailed 4 out of 6 three point attempts.
Even if he never develops into the next Draymond Green, Dawson would still have value. Guess which player he compares to well in Layne Vashro's NCAA Player Comparison Tool?
Yep, if Demps doesn't think re-signing DC is possible or a smart business decision, he could immediately replace him in the upcoming draft and yet still be looking at possibly much more down the road. Remember, PJ Tucker didn't flash a perimeter shot until after he had entered the NBA.
If another team swoops in ahead of the Pelicans and nabs Dawson, I'd next like to see Demps strongly consider Holmes, a graduate of the University of Texas. In his senior season, he averaged 10.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg and shot 33.1% from the perimeter.
Although Holmes only averaged 26.1 minutes a game, those numbers would have been much stronger were it not for a concussion he suffered this past February. Just have a look his game stats before and after the injury; there is no doubt it had a significant effect.
However, a slip in his numbers should not discourage the Pelicans from looking his way. A promising skill set, ability and motor are there. Listen to how highly his teammates spoke of him or the fact that he has shown the ability to hit the big perimeter shot down the stretch of games.
Moreover, guess which name several scouts mentioned could be the next coming of Draymond Green? No, not Branden Dawson but rather Jonathan Holmes.
So who is a player scouts think could be the next Green or Diaw? Two scouts from Western Conference teams mentioned the same name to me this week: Jonathan Holmes of Texas.
If by chance Holmes remains on the table at the Pelicans pick, Dell Demps will need to send a gift basket to all the other teams who pass on him in the second round.
Anybody who has followed VCU and Shaka Smart's uptempo offense the last few years is familiar with Graham. In his final two seasons, he averaged approximately 16 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and close to 2 three's a game.
However, some are put off by a lack of noticeable improvement between his junior and senior seasons. Like Holmes, I believe an ankle injury derailed Graham's statistical finish to his final season. This fact is supported by his recent performance at the Portsmouth Invitational. He earned the MVP honors for the event by averaging 19.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 2.3 3pg.
Treveon Graham's biggest issue appears to be his athleticism. As evidenced by his NBA combine results, he's not an explosive leaper nor one of the quickest players. However, were he to add a little more weight to an impressive wingspan (6'10.5''), I believe Darren Erman could fix any perceived defensive weaknesses.
Although he doesn't have the size of the either Dawson or Holmes, Graham does have the ability to play either wing position. At his position, he was one of the best rebounders, and playing under Smart, he is familiar with quick-paced teams. That in itself should make him for an appealing pick at #56 as he fits the Pelicans new strategy to a tee and that's before the coaching staff get their hands on him.
Hilliard may appear last on this list but his resume is just as strong as the three names preceding him. In his senior campaign, he finished with averages of 14.3 points, 2.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.3 threes.
Many probably remember how he nearly willed the Villanova Wildcats to a victory over the North Carolina Wolfpack in the 2015 NCAA tournament. Sadly, his 2 three's in the final minute were for naught, but he had plenty of other happier highlights during his wonderful collegiate career, perhaps none bigger than the following shot.
Based on his regular statistics, Hilliard makes for a fine 3-and-D candidate, but there appears to be more to his impact. On a Villanova team that finished 33-3, the advanced statistics loved him.
In '13-14, according to HoopLens.com's plus-minus data, the Wildcats had an efficiency margin of +0.201 points per possession when Hilliard was on the floor—the highest margin of anyone in their rotation. And in '14-15, Villanova was an amazing +0.273 PPP with Hilliard on the floor—again the highest margin of anyone in its rotation. He had massive, positive impact on 'Nova's offense and D, and was quietly one of the nation's most valuable players. He's worth a late-second-round pick.
Back in 2010, Dell Demps drafted Quincy Pondexter, a 4-year college athlete, via a trade with the OKC Thunder. Not too many people were impressed by the selection, but have you lately glanced at all the names that surrounded him in that draft?
Last season, the addition of Q-Pon, a versatile wing, might have been the single largest reason for the Pelicans improbable playoff run. The 2015-16 Pelicans will be a talent-laden squad (Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon), but another role player could be just what the doctor ordered. If things really go Dell Demps' way, the 56th pick just might end up following a path similar to Draymond Green or P.J. Tucker.