Alvin Gentry accidentally let the cat out of the bag after the New Orleans Pelicans collapsed against the Houston Rockets; the pursuit of the playoffs is all but over. Gentry apologized to Dell Demps for the outburst of emotion on Thursday but two more losses, to the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz, push those playoff chances even lower. After the Jazz game both Gentry and Anthony Davis were talking about building for the future, not the playoffs. That begins with moving Jrue Holiday into the starting lineup.
Pelican playoff odds require a microscope.— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) March 6, 2016
Basketball Reference: 0.3%
ESPN: <0.1% pic.twitter.com/7alDK24Gpq
Part of that future might (and in my opinion, should) include the Pelicans first round draft pick this June. There are a number of ways to cover this team. We write coverage about what has happened and what those results might mean. We can try to deduce why the Pelicans are doing what they are doing. And, most importantly right now, we write about what may happen in the future. This can be predictive (what will happen based on previous actions and statements by the coaching staff and front office) or opinion-based (what should happen).
Mock drafts attempt to predict what each team will do in the draft. Right now Draft Express is not doing this, simply providing their own "big board" of sorts, ranking each and every prospect. Others, such as Chad Ford at ESPN, are trying to predict what a team will or should do. Given that the draft order is not yet set and many NBA teams are still gathering information on prospect these predictions are ripe to change.
A month ago I provided my personal list of 10 prospects the Pelicans should focus their eyes on. Let's see where they sit as March Madness is about to begin.
|Average||Draft Express - 3/5||Chad Ford - 3/3||Sam Vecenie - 2/26||Gary Parrish - 3/1|
For now Chad Ford (ESPN) and Gary Parrish (CBS Sports) both have the Pelicans selecting Buddy Hield from Oklahoma. Sam Vecenie (who was once a guest on our very own podcast) instead has the Pelicans picking Jakob Poeltl from Utah. Let's take a look at Vecenie's rationale for sending another big man to the Crescent City.
The Pelicans have said for a while that they view Anthony Davis as a 4 and want to protect him from the pounding taken by centers. With Omer Asik basically looking like a sunk cost for the next three seasons, it would probably be smart for the Pelicans to invest in a center if they want to continue utilizing Davis away from the middle. Poeltl would work with Davis, as Davis is a terrific pick-and-roll 4 who can stretch the floor, and Poeltl is a great post big man. He's also physical and athletic, and might be able to work well in an uptempo scheme.
While Ford's piece is buried behind ESPN's paywall we can look at why Gary Parrish likes Hield for the Pelicans.
Hield was extremely close to entering the 2015 NBA Draft. But he opted to remain in school, and it's literally made him millions of dollars based on little more than where he'll be selected in this year's draft compared to where he would've been selected in last year's draft. The Oklahoma star can really shoot it, and that skill is more desired these days than ever. Beyond that, there are absolutely no questions about his work ethic or character, meaning some team is going to fall in love with him during a pre-draft workout and interview.
Both players have some weaknesses that concern me. For Poeltl I have serious issues with investing even more assets in another big man. Asik has played much better in the last 40 games and while his contract is near impossible to move his negative impact is overblown. Buddy Hield is incredible but for next season (and beyond) he's a reasonable facsimile of Eric Gordon with a body that can hold up and a better mental approach on the high end of his projection.
Who is your favorite prospect for the Pelicans? Let's hear it in the comments or even write your own FanPost to explain your position.