The New Orleans Pelicans have two second round picks, the 39th and 40th overall. Selecting functional NBA players in the early second round is where many teams separate themselves; look no further than the Golden State Warriors and Draymond Green. As I outlined in April, successful second round picks have a bit of a pattern. Typically older college players with outstanding measurements for their position. Clemson star Jaron Blossomgame fits the bill.
The Pelicans as well fit what Blossomgame is looking for in the NBA. Blossomgame is hoping to be drafted within the first 40 picks. If he expects to be drafted beyond 40th he said he would return to school to continue to work on his game. As Bobby Marks discusses in great detail, both parties can get what they want in the form of a guarantee, where the Pelicans would promise to select Blossomgame with the 39th pick. This would keep him in the draft and give New Orleans a possible 3&D prospect with one of their second round picks.
Now, about Blossomgame the NBA prospect.
Long and Athletic
Jaron Blossomgame was considered one of the big winners at the NBA combine. He measured out with near-ideal size for an NBA wing; 6'7.25" in shoes with a 6'10" wingspan and 8'6" standing reach. Then he went out and crushed the athletic testing with an impressive 41" maximum vertical. That absurd measurement is not a surprise to Clemson fans, who watched in awe as he converted this ridiculous dunk.
It is one thing to be a combine warrior who can run fast and jump high. Turning those athletic gifts is highlights on the court? That's the next step. However, Blossomgame is more than just an athletic player. He's got real skills and most importantly, range behind the arc.
Injury Concerns and Rapid Development
One reason Blossomgame has been in college for four seasons is a rash of injuries. He first broke his leg in 2012 as a senior in high school. Another surgery in the summer of 2013, after taking a redshirt his freshman year at Clemson, got him well enough to start 30 games. However, during the NIT tournament he suffered another fracture and missed the last three games of Clemson's season. Two years of leg injuries, three fractures, and two surgeries.
In the next two years Jaron Blossomgame improved dramatically. He played all 62 Clemson games with a significantly higher workload in the absence of K.J. McDaniels. His sophomore year saw his points per 40 minutes double from 8.4 to 17.0 as his PER climbed from 10.9 to 22.5. As an NBA prospect, he was still off the map thanks to 28.8% mark behind the arc. As a junior he added that to his game as well, knocking down 45 of 102 attempts. Again he increased his production with his points per 40 minutes climbing to 21.9 all while improving his efficiency from his sophomore year (22.5 PER, 55.8% TS%, 112.9 ORtg) to his junior season (27.1 PER, 61.3% TS%, 122.4 ORtg).
At the combine he had the chance to show off his range and did not disappoint pouring in 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while converting all three 3-point attempts. If this was a sudden outburst we could reasonably cry small sample size theater but considering his performance all season long it was simply a culmination of his development into a shooting threat. Will he shoot 40% from 3-point range in the NBA? Probably not. But combined with his continued development at the free throw line a sign that he could be passable from deep.
Fit with the Pelicans
Blossomgame could be an immediate contributor off the bench. Could be. He fits the mold of a good second round pick; a number of years in college with some time as an effective and efficient first option. He's got a real NBA body with that wingspan and elite athleticism with his combine scores. He fits the typical second round success story. Blossomgame also fills a need for the Pelicans, a small forward who can shift down to power forward in small ball lineups.
Will he be on the board when the Pelicans get back on the clock? Let's hope so.