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2016 NBA Draft: New Orleans Pelicans have a tough decision if they pick third

Third is so much more difficult than picking second.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If the New Orleans Pelicans win the second pick in the NBA draft, the choice is probably the easiest possible; simply select whoever remains out of Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. In a draft many consider a two player draft, picking second removes the guess work. Third, on the other hand, provides a wealth of questions.

Dragan Bender has been third in the Draft Express Mock Draft for quite a while. Bender goes third in most scenarios in the ESPN Lottery Machine as well, with the notable exception when the Philadelphia 76ers fall to third. Ford has the Sixers, with their glut of big men, selecting Kentucky guard Jamal Murray. Tankathon's mock draft machine follows a similar pattern. Should the Pelicans select an 18-year old power forward who has logged under 400 minutes this season? What about a couple of guards we're more familiar with here in the United States: Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield? We asked our staff.

What if the New Orleans Pelicans win the third pick in the lottery? Let's assume Simmons and Ingram are off the board. Pick? Trade?

Joseph Billiot: Assuming there is no viable trade on the table, the default option should be to take Jamal Murray. I love Buddy Hield, but I think Jamal Murray is the best all around offensive player in this draft. To me, he has the potential to be a James Harden type playmaker on offense.

Because, I have such a high grade on Jamal Murray, a trade for him would really have to knock my socks off. I would consider Denver's 10th pick, 20th pick, and Jusuf Nurkic for the 3rd pick and Denver taking Asik's contract. If Boston had the 4th pick, I would consider that, Terry Rozier, and the 31st or 35th pick.

Chris Cucchiara: If the Pelicans land the third overall pick, I hope that Dell Demps, as a competent GM (haha), would complete his due diligence in exploring all possible scenarios from drafting a player in that slot to trading down or trading for another young veteran. I would lean towards sticking with the third pick, unless another team in the 4-7 range would be interested in trading up to the third pick.

I say that the Pels should probably just utilize their pick for multiple reasons. The first being that the third pick is more likely to succeed than the eighth pick and the Pels need another star player to play alongside AD.

Secondly, I do not believe that trading down in the NBA is as valuable as it is in other leagues, such as the NFL. Maybe if the Pels had a history of drafting, evaluating and developing talent like other successful organizations, this option would be a viable one, but alas, Dell has had no use for rookies not named Anthony Davis.

Lastly, the Pels fan base needs something to get excited about. This season was as big of a catastrophe as could have been imagined in the eyes of the fans and drafting a player like Buddy Hield would give the fan base a boost. A successful organization should not cater to the fans and ticket sales etc., but a successful organization cannot keep running back the same team year after year and expect the fans to buy in. The Pels do not have that type of equity with the fan base and things could be a lot worse than drafting a guy like Buddy Hield.

David Fisher: My first step is seeing options to trade back. Using the most recent mock drafts from Draft Express and ESPN, a trade back with the Denver Nuggets (3rd pick for the 8th and 18th) could net Denzel Valentine or Timothe Luwawu AND Domantas Sabonis. I've been high on Valentine for a long time: shooting, play making, and a tremendous basketball IQ makes for a high floor if Valentine's age and lack of athleticism depresses his ceiling. Luwawu is a high ceiling wing if that's more your flavor.

Sabonis is the kind of third big the Pelicans could use beside Anthony Davis and Omer Asik. He's an excellent rebounder, already developing into a decent shooter, and as he demonstrated against Jakob Poeltl, willing to bang with NBA-sized centers. Oh, and like Denzel Valentine, Sabonis has an incredible basketball IQ.

If the Pelicans are unable to obtain multiple first round picks and must select a player then Jamal Murray is the pick here. Murray was an incredible shooting guard for Kentucky this season and improved dramatically as the year went along. In his first 12 games, Murray averaged 16.7 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 39% behind the arc and a putrid 41.4% inside of it. In the next 24 games he improved everywhere scoring 21.9 points and collecting 5.6 rebounds. He was far more efficient as well shooting 41.5% from deep and 54.6% inside the arc.

This is a pretty good group to join.

Jonny Harvey: Buddy Hield, or trade back if the Pelicans can still get a pick in the top-10. Say, the Boston Celtics get the 5th pick in the draft and they want to move up and snag Dragon Bender, Buddy or someone else. Pelicans could swap first round picks with the Celtics and end up picking up a quality player at that spot, and Buddy Hield could still be available.

Celts Trade 1


Celts Trade 2

Did some of you just do a fist pump? Draft day can always bring teams to make a "panic" or balls-deep trade for a player they deem an up-and-coming superstar. Boston is in this position. I think Pelican fans would love to get Omer Asik off the books and take a player in the top 10, and get back an immediate contributor in the process. (And we all know Brad Stevens would somehow give Asik the ability to catch a pass and it’ll work out for everyone, so…)

Back to Hield, I irrationally love Buddy. I think he’d pair well with Jrue Holiday, as he plays well off the ball coming around screens, and has a beautiful step-back-jumper and extremely fine-tuned footwork. If the Pelicans can trade back from the third spot and still snag Hield, A+ day for the Pelicans on draft day. I do think this draft is deeper in the top-10 than some other analysts, but I’m not sold on any of the big-men, but if the Pelicans can get off Asik’s contract, I could be convinced into drafting a big-man to pair with Anthony Davis in the future.

Quentin Haynes: If the Pelicans get the third overall pick, I think they trade down. I would probably just take Dragan Bender (a nice fit alongside Davis) or Jaylen Brown (think he could become DeMar DeRozan in time), but I think New Orleans would disagree and look to move back and try to acquire some more picks.

The problem is that I don’t know who would want to move up. The teams you would trade with are largely in the same tier as you. Assume Boston is behind you in this scenario, why would they want to move up? I think they’ll be more interesting in turning assets into a star player to entice LeBron James. Denver has several first round picks, but again, if you aren’t moving up for Simmons or Ingram, it doesn’t make much sense to me to move up from 8 to 3 and give up a top 20 pick on top of that in a weak draft. Toronto doesn’t make much sense to me either because you’re moving back several spots for a late first round pick.

Let’s assume that Denver wants Bender (nice international scouting department, could afford to wait a year on him as they figure out their roster), the Pelicans in this scenario move back from 3rd overall to 8th overall and pick up the worse of the Portland/Houston first rounders. For argument’s sake, let’s say the Pelicans get the Portland pick, currently slated at 19.

I would be very, very leery of this move. You look at all the top teams in the draft and they all want some kind of shooting, making Hield and Murray very desirable. Brown isn’t a shooter, but he’s one of the top six prospects in the draft, meaning all three could be gone by the time you get to eight, leaving you with Kris Dunn or Henry Ellenson as the best player on the board.

Who would I pick? One of the three wing players if they’re there. If not, I would go Timothe Luwawu at eight. Has everything you want in a wing prospect, just not there yet. There’s also a bit of creation in his game, too. He’s perfect if you believe that Pondexter will return healthy and the Pelicans can find a wing in free agency, allowing him some time to develop.

Off the board, but at 19, I think I would take Juan Hernangomez. He's 20 years old, could play either forward position and by all accounts, could defend. Versatility is important and something the Pelicans have been missing. Think Hernangomez could be someone who can space the floor, defend larger wings in time and help on the glass. One of my favorite players is Danilo Gallinari and if he could become that, that would be great.

Oleh Kosel: The Pelicans do not need to get cute with their decision and look to make a trade (I.e. trading down) since there exists an obvious selection. For the last month or so, Jamal Murray has occupied the third position on my Big Board. I believe he'd slot perfectly in between a core of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday because this duo needs to add a consistent deadly catch-and-shoot scorer -- Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon are both unrestricted free agents who will likely not be in New Orleans next season.

I'm enamored with Murray for a multitude of reasons: he exhibited solid growth on the biggest stage despite turning 19 less than two months ago, he is a legitimate threat both outside the arc (40.8 FG%) and at the rim (65.5 FG%) and he is leaving Kentucky as their highest freshman scorer. That says a lot considering John Calipari gives his athletes a lot of freedom, and that program has watched John Wall, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe all come and go.

Many of his naysayers have decided to focus on his failed ball-duties experiment or apparent defensive shortcomings. Truthfully, I don't care if Murray fails to develop into a legitimate combo guard because New Orleans doesn't need any more of them. As evidenced by this season, Gentry's system gets bogged down with too many of these players because their first instinct is to make a play, not immediately engage in effective ball movement. One need to look no further than the success the current roster has enjoyed with it's slew of 10-day contracts.

As for his perceived defensive liabilities, there is a good chance Murray never becomes more than average, but can we at least give the kid a chance? He was 18 years old and playing on college's biggest stage. He is still a ways away from his physical prime and has plenty of things to learn in general. Even if he fails to significantly improve his foot speed, thanks to better conditioning, I believe in his IQ. The reason he vastly improved his two-point shooting percentage as the year progressed was due to his craftiness. This same trait could be utilized on the other end of the floor once he learns all the nuances of playing defense as well as realizing the importance of learning opponent tendencies.

Owen Sanborn: The Pelicans should sack up and take Buddy Hield if they end up with the third pick. I mean, why not? Who cares that he may be regarded as an elder in terms of an "NBA prospect." His age range actually falls in line with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday.

Drafting Hield would make trading Tyreke Evans not sting as much and would also generate some much needed buzz heading into next season. He can really shoot it, has sneaky athleticism, and projects to be a useful secondary ball-handler with a "NBA style game." Yes. Please.