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2015 NBA Draft: The Pelicans should shop locally and select Jarell Martin

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The Pelicans could use a small forward. Why not invest in a homegrown, LSU product?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft is a little over three weeks away and the Pelicans, by way of the Quincy Pondexter trade, have the 56th overall selection.

Picks toward the end of a draft are a lot like loose change: not especially valuable but still nice to have. If you blow the pick, the price won't be too costly. If you nail it, you can get anywhere from a productive bench player to an All-Star, or maybe even a future Hall of Famer like the Spurs did with Manu Ginboli. So while it's easy to look at pick No. 56 overall and assume there's not much value to be had, don't be so certain the Pelicans can't fill a need with it.

Of course there are other ways No. 56 could be used to the Pelicans advantage. The pick could also be used as part of a deal to move up in the draft in order to choose a player that would fill their small forward need. Someone like LSU's Jarell Martin.

New Kid on the Court

There's a difference in a prospect who's "raw" and one who is still new to the game of basketball. Martin belongs to the latter category. His junior year of high school was his first season of organized basketball and in it he averaged a measly 26 and 14. During his senior year, he led Madison Prep to a state championship, was a McDonald's All-American selection and considered the No. 14 overall prospect coming out of high school. I guess you could say that Martin had "upside."

**Cut to Jay Bilas nodding approvingly

You Always Remember Your First Time

Martin is a two-and-through player coming out of LSU. In his 65 games in Baton Rouge, He averaged 14 and 7 on 49 percent shooting. As a freshman, Martin -- as with all things LSU-basketball related -- left little to be desired. He had a decent season (10 points and four rebounds) and made the SEC's All-Freshman team, but you felt like there was more to this kid.

Maybe the ankle that he sprained on LSU's first possession of their opening game against UMass nagged him all season long and prevented him form making a greater impact. Or, maybe it was the fact that he was still new to basketball and for the first time in his three years of organized competition, he was playing against guys as big and talented as he was and he needed some time to adjust to the collegiate level. Overall, Martin's freshman year was a lot like The Office's first season: not great, but fairly promising. And like The Office, season two was something special.

Twice Was Nice

LSU made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2009 largely in part to Martin's ascension to one of the best players in the SEC. As a sophomore, he nearly averaged a double-double for the season with 16.9 points and 9.2 rebounds. He also bumped his shooting percentage up from 47 percent to 51 percent.

On the other side of the floor, Martin improved as a defender his second season in Baton Rouge. The college basketball page of sports-reference.com shows us that as a freshman, Martin's defensive rating was 103.5. As a sophomore, that figure dropped to 94.2.

I watched just about every single LSU basketball game this past season and I can tell you that the Tigers wouldn't have made it into the NCAA Tournament if Jarell Martin had not emerged as the team's alpha dog. Going into the 2014-15 season, LSU had one of the better frontcourt tandems in Martin and fellow sophomore Jordan Mickey. If the Tigers were to live up to expectations and make it to March Madness, the two would have to lead the team there.

For awhile, things went as scheduled. The M&M boys, as they were affectionately called, navigated LSU through non-conference play and even picked up a win over then No. 20 West Virginia in Morgantown. Then SEC play started and Mickey started to fade; Martin didn't.

Martin closed out 2014-15 with eight straight double digit point games, highlighted by a career high 28 against Florida, 25 at Auburn and 27 in the regular season finale at Arkansas. For the year, Martin had 28 games where he reached double figures in scoring and recorded 15 of his 16 career double-doubles. If you scan the SEC individual leader boards for this past season, you'll find Martin's name in the top-10 in just about every offensive category: points scored, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, offensive and defensive rebounding and minutes played. Simply put, Jarell Martin was one of the conference's best players.

Forward's Progress

As he prepares to enter the NBA, Martin's future position is a bit cloudy. He's more of a tweener than a true small or power forward. At the NBA Combine, Martin measured in at 6'9", has a similarly long wingspan and weighed 239 pounds  He could be your traditional starting small forward or a small-ball four. Personally I can see a small-ball lineup featuring Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Quincy Pondexter, Martin and Anthony Davis. Then again, my eyesight is certifiably awful so what do I know?

With the expectation being new head coach Alvin Gentry will increase the Pelicans' pace, Martin's athleticism makes him a good fit  for the up and down style of play. Plus, he's a total wrecking ball in transition, as noted by this ballsy dunk he threw down against Florida this past season.


Martin's a guy that's comfortable with the ball in his hands. He can get to the rim, has a pretty decent pull up jumper and even possess a surprisingly good handle for a guy his size. Martin hit on 59 percent of his shots at the rim and 65 percent of his attempts in transition.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Poor Shooter

Here's the cons with Jarell Martin: he can't shoot worth a lick. His 33 percent from three as a freshman dipped down to 27 percent this past season. He was also a sub-30 percent shooter off the catch and dribble and that will be a problem if he's teammates with Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. He also never shot better than 70 percent from the free throw line at LSU, checking in at 68.9 percent in 2013-14 and 69.0 percent in 2014-15. Martin also doesn't seem to understand just how big he is. Only 13 percent of his shot attempts were post ups.

The biggest complaint I have with Martin is that he doesn't seem to have the highest basketball IQ. If you saw him play in person as many times as I did, you could tell he was still figuring out the whole basketball thing. He'd pick up a lot of dumb fouls early and he had a really poor understanding of what opponents were doing. Then again, he was coached by Johnny Jones, so maybe it's not all on Martin.

All things considered, I like Jarell Martin as a Pelican. He's got a ton of unpolished talent and I think Darren Erman could squeeze that out of him. Remember, he's only been playing organized basketball for about five years now so the fact that he's a borderline first round pick should speak to his potential. I think Martin can be a poor man's Jeff Green. Both are 6'9" and in that 235 range, they aren't the best jump shooters but they compensate by getting to the rim.

The problem is that unless something catastrophic happens, Martin will be long gone by the time New Orleans picks at 56. But, if Dell Demps can find a way to move up in the draft, Jarell Martin's a solid pick to make.