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ESPN 7.0 Big Board more favorable to New Orleans Pelicans wish list

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But the looming 2016 NBA Draft Combine will probably jumble the rankings once more.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It appears a lack of live basketball has NBA draft analysts and talent evaluators second-guessing their thoughts and rankings. ESPN's Chris Ford and his Big Board 7.0 have appropriately captured the scouts wavering on a few candidates including names like Dragon Bender, Buddy Hield and Jaylen Brown. However, outside of Timothe Luwawu, the drops have not been precipitous.

For some time, we've been aware that the New Orleans Pelicans are interested in either Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram or an experienced prospect. Sweet-shooting Hield likely sits atop the mystery list, and with Ford's ranking of sixth, he sits right in the cross-hairs.

After him, though, it's anyone's guess. Kris Dunn is 22 years old and possesses enviable athleticism and size at the guard position. However, his higher turnover rate and somewhat questionable shot proficiency might be significant turnoffs.

Then, there's Denzel Valentine sitting in twelfth position on Ford's Board. If the front office misses out on their top 3 or so selections and they fail to flip their 2016 first round pick for some proven wing veteran like Jimmy Butler, will the Pelicans seek to trade down in the draft for value purposes to snag a player like Valentine? It would make plenty of sense.

As we have done for months, we will continue to ponder the possibilities, but thankfully this time is nearing an end. The NBA Combine is set to occur from May 11th to the 15th in Chicago. Soon after, the draft lottery will take place on the 17th.

Starting this year, college underclassmen have until May 25th to decide their future (provided they have not hired agents yet) -- declaring for the draft or returning to school. I expect some will take advantage of this new rule. If they score well in the combine, they will enter the draft. If not, hello again alma mater!

Thus, expect industry opinions to significantly change at least once more before the NBA draft on June 25th. One has to believe it would help the New Orleans organization were several freshmen or sophomores to captivate imaginations and push say a Buddy Hield down a little further on most team's lists.