Imagine this scenario coming to fruition: Simmons/Ingram/Dunn/Murray/Hield are all off the board and there sits Dragan Bender as the best available player at New Orleans selection. Should the Pelicans draft him, trade him (list one realistic trade partner) or look the other way and spend their pick on another player altogether?
Jason Albert: Personally I am not a fan of the idea of New Orleans drafting Dragan Bender. I watched a few of his highlight videos and I was left unimpressed. He finishes softly, often on second chances, over players who don’t look like they can play D1 college basketball. In the NBA he is too small to play center which would force Anthony Davis to move over to the 5 (which I am also not a fan of). Bender does not fill any of the Pelicans’ needs and does not look NBA ready in my eyes.
If this scenario comes to fruition, I would like to see the Pelicans either trade the pick to a team that was inquiring about Ryan Anderson (because Bender looks like a softer, worse Ryan Anderson) such as the Miami Heat or Detroit Pistons, or select Cal forward Jaylen Brown. Maybe the Pelicans can work out a trade for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or more optimistically a sign and trade for Hassan Whiteside (who was rumored to be involved in a trade for Anderson earlier this year).
Brown’s skill set looks as though he can take over for Tyreke Evans right now. He is a very athletic and physical wing at 6’7 225lbs who can drive to the basket with a ferocity that reminds me a bit of Russell Westbrook, with a poor outside shot, sound familiar? Drafting Brown may lead to the Pelicans dealing Evans clearing up extra cap space that can be used to bring another star to the Big Easy. Plus, Brown is only 19 years old with plenty of time to have his shooting form corrected much like what the Pelicans did with Anthony Davis. Brown could follow in the footsteps of a rookie Tyreke Evans with the potential to learn how to shoot from beyond 15 feet.
Joseph Billiot: I would try and trade out for Bender. Lots of draft analysts have him as the third best pick in the draft, unfortunately for New Orleans, he is one of the most raw talents in the draft and plays the same position as the team's best player, Anthony Davis.
The next problem then becomes finding a trade partner. This might be harder than in years past. There are not a ton of teams trying to rebuild this year. Philadelphia, the Lakers, Minnesota, are all likely trying to make the jump to contention. New York, Phoenix, and Denver are all teams that might be interested in a young development PF/C. I would want a 1st round pick and a rotation caliber player back in exchange. By far the best candidate to accommodate that offer would be Denver. Wilson Chandler and Denver's 15th or 19th picks would work for me. (My preferred draft candidates at those spots would be Denzel Valentine, Domantas Sabonis, or Taurean Prince.
If no suitable trade could be worked out, I would just draft Valentine. If you believe in him, then what spot he goes is irrelevant.
David Fisher: Dragan Bender being available at the sixth pick is difficult to consider. I don't like his fit beside Anthony Davis and investing more assets in another power forward, when both Anthony Davis and Dante Cunningham (his best position is probably a small ball power forward) doesn't make sense to me. It took a couple clicks, but here's the scenario if the Pelicans are faced with the situation via ESPN's NBA Lottery Machine.
Are the Nuggets really trading up one slot to get Bender? That sounds like an NFL trade, not an NBA trade. Let's get creative. The Pelicans send the 6th pick and the 38th pick to Toronto for the 9th pick and 27th pick. That makes drafting and stashing a little easier for Raptors GM Masai Ujiri with a second round pick instead of a late first considering their salary cap crunch this summer.
With the 9th pick I would select Denzel Valentine and with the 27th pick (assuming the Draft Express mock draft is relatively accurate) select Patrick McCaw. One more established player who can play right away and one younger project with tons of upside on the wing. Then with the 40th pick select Jaron Blossomgame (prospect preview in the works!) and give this franchise a number of shots at a solid player on the wing.
Quentin Haynes: I think the Pelicans should strongly consider drafting Bender in this situation. From everything I’ve heard about him, he seems like someone that will be able to play some power forward and center and defend on the perimeter. That ability alone makes him interesting to me. If he could play next to Davis and essentially switch with him in defending the rim and on the perimeter, that would be interesting. The issue is the idea that the Pelicans don’t have time to give Bender to develop, something I disagree with, but regardless.
Because of that, I think in this scenario, the Pelicans will probably look to trade down or select Denzel Valentine from Michigan State. I’m not his biggest fan - from everything I’ve read, he had to be practically hidden on defense and not a great athlete - however, for New Orleans, I think that gives them someone who can fill some roles as an additional initiator and playmaker, while (somewhat) assisting in Alvin Gentry’s desire to find a "six-foot-seven wing who can facilitate."
I think the Pelicans should consider Bender, trade Ajinca and fill in the other roles on the team (a starting shooting guard, small-ball four, overall depth) in free agency, but I think they would go with Valentine, even though they didn’t interview him at the draft combine.
Oleh Kosel: Dragan Bender is not without allure. He stands over 7 feet tall, shows the potential to be proficient from 3-point range and can move his hands and feet similar to guards. Once his body finishes maturing and if he reaches close to his potential, Bender will rival Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis as the league's most versatile big man for the next decade. Can you imagine a New Orleans twin tower look where height is joined by attributes of perimeter shooting and defensive versatility?
The problem is, the Pelicans can't wait for that some day far off in the future. The roster is full of holes, and as a small market team, their odds of addressing a weakness are likely better through the draft than free agency. Hence, they should look to flaunt the Bender selection at any interested team. I like Joseph's idea of prodding the Nuggets and Isaac's Pistons, but another tire that needs to be kicked resides in Orlando. With Scott Skiles abrupt departure, it's worth exploring whether the Magic might be interested in grooming Bender at the expense of a package centered around their 2016 first round pick or Mario Hezonja, of course both with an additional sweetener.