The New Orleans Pelicans have three draft picks on June 23rd. Hopefully they land one or two impact players, giving the franchise a couple young player on bargain contracts. To get another possible development chip they could scan the market for undervalued free agents, a specialty of Dell Demps, by diving back into Europe. One target high on my list, former Arizona Wildcat Brandon Ashley.
Ashley was a five star prospect coming out of high school and ranked 17th in the relatively lightly regarded 2012 recruiting class. That recruiting class has a number of names in this year's draft class; Kris Dunn (20th), Brice Johnson (40th), and Denzel Valentine (96th), and Buddy Hield (111th) among them. Not yet 22 years old, Ashley is younger than all four possible first round picks. However, Ashley is already a professional basketball player, if not yet an NBA player.
Last year, after three successful (if underwhelming) seasons at Arizona, Brandon Ashley declared for the NBA Draft. At the time he was expected to be a mid-to-late second round pick. Instead he went undrafted. Ashley has a solid set of physical tools, 6'8.5" with a massive 7'3.25" wingspan and an 8'9" standing reach. Very similar measurements to former Pelicans Al-Farouq Aminu. Unlike Aminu, Ashley has already demonstrated an ability to shoot behind the arc.
In an admittedly small sample size of just 68 attempts Ashley shot 38.2% from 3-point land at Arizona. Additionally he shot 42.2% on two point jump shots on a far higher 345 attempts according to Hoop Math. Were those stats just a mirage? During 33 games in the D-League with the Texas Legends Ashley converted 39.3% of 117 attempts behind the arc. In his last game with the team before leaving for Europe Ashley scored 30 points while shooting 10-14 from the field and 5-9 from deep. Not content to only pour in the points he tacked on 8 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Ashley does more than just stretch the floor. He is a solid rebounder at power forward at every level he has played, including his current stretch for ALBA Berlin (he signed after the trade deadline passed without getting called up to the NBA) where he's posting an impressive 26.4% defensive rebound rate. In the D-League it was a still solid 19.5%. While we fawn over the stats collegiate players put up understand that Ashley, while younger than most seniors in this draft class, put up solid numbers against grown men.
Relative youth, superb measurables, and a solid shot on the perimeter should get Ashley a hard look this summer from a number of teams. His production on the glass and racking up a decent amount of steals and assists, combined with that massive 7'3" wingspan, means there is some defensive potential yet to be tapped by the right coaching staff.
Brandon Ashley didn't get to the NBA on his preferred schedule. New Orleans, still hunting for the ideal small ball front court mate for Anthony Davis, could find a cheap potential answer drifting in Europe.