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2016 NBA Draft: Do Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine measure up?

Looking at options on the wing in the draft if the lottery is unkind.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans current hold the 6th worst record in the NBA. If they can remain in that position the Pels will have a 21.5% chance of moving into the top three. However, the most likely outcomes are staying at 6th (43.9%) or moving back to 7th (30.5%). In that case it is nearly guaranteed that Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will be unavailable.

This franchise continues to have a vacancy on the wing. Quincy Pondexter and Bryce Dejean-Jones are both out for the remainder of the season due to injury. While BDJ should be back the sample size is minuscule; he might not actually be an NBA player. Pondexter is on an excellent contract but has not played a game in nearly a year. Dante Cunningham is logging 75% of his minutes at small forward according to Basketball Reference but is probably best suited as a small ball power forward. Even if Pondexter comes back 100% and Bryce Dejean-Jones proves to be a rotation NBA player the Pelicans need more depth on the wing.

Of my ten prospects to watch four are collegiate players who project to play on the wing and be available outside the top three picks according to most mock drafts. Since they are based on this side of the Atlantic we have recent measurements in the DraftExpress database. Let's see how those four measure up to an average NBA wing.

Height (in shoes) Wingspan Standing Reach
Jamal Murray 6'4.25" 6'6.5" 8'1"
Buddy Hield 6'4.5" 6'8.5" N/A
Average NBA SG 6'5.6" 6'8.6" 8'5.5"
Denzel Valentine 6'6" 6'10" 8'7"
Average NBA SF 6'7.7" 6'10.9" 8'8.2"
Jaylen Brown 6'6.5" 7'0.5" 8'9"

Average SG and SF size thanks to this excellent post on Nylon Calculus

Above I ordered players by their standing reach, and not their height. Basketball players rarely block passes or secure rebounds with the top of their heads, and in such cases find themselves on a blooper reel more often than not. Standing reach is far more functional in comparing the effective height of these players on the floor.

Murray, who is more of a combo guard than a wing, is positively tiny. His wingspan and standing reach are more akin to a point guard in the NBA than a shooting guard. Combine a lack of length with his well-publicized limited athleticism and there are some serious red flags.

On the other end of the spectrum is Jaylen Brown, who is already sporting an NBA-ready body at age 19. Watch any game and his athleticism jumps off the screen; a lightening quick first step and ridiculous leaping ability. Brown misses this dunk but is in the tiny fraction of human beings who can even consider attempting such a feat.


Real debate is between Hield and Valentine

Brown and Murray, thanks in large part to their age, have rocketed up recent mock drafts. A recent average of four prominent mock drafts has both in the top five joining Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, and Dragan Bender. All five will be 19 or younger on draft night. After those five the draft gets more murky, especially on the wings. Young European options, Timothe Luwawu and Furkan Korkmaz, have no measurements in the Draft Express database and are unlikely to participate in the NBA Combine. That leaves two collegiate seniors; wings who happen to be battling for the National Player of the Year Award.

Hield is just about an average shooting guard. He's been measured twice at the Nike Skills Academy with identical results. Given his height and wingspan his standing reach should be right around average as well. While Hield is perfectly average as a shooting guard that also makes it unlikely he would be terribly successful switching onto bigger wings at the small forward position.

Valentine, on the other hand, is either a massive shooting guard prospect or quite nearly an average small forward. He's about as big as Klay Thompson or Gordon Hayward were coming out of college in standing reach. There are concerns about Valentine's athleticism translating to the NBA level.

Klay Thompson is one of the most potent scorers in college while he made noticeable strides in multiple areas of his game this year, though he has some athletic limitations from an NBA perspective.

His status as a small conference star with questionable athleticism elicits a wide spectrum of opinions when projecting him to the next level.

The Pelicans picking between Hield and Valentine will probably have just as tough a time as voters selecting one as the player of the year in college.

Which one is the right choice? Or do you have a different prospect in mind? Let's hear it in the comments.