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Grading possible Pelican selections in the NBA Draft

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How would Buddy Hield, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Dragan Bender, or Jaylen Brown look in a Pelicans uniform?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft is three and a half weeks away. Dell Demps and the New Orleans Pelicans are still working out a wide variety of prospects for their three selections on June 23rd. While we hope the Pelicans can nail one (or two!) of those second round picks it is more than likely the players selected turn into bit role players and find their stay in the NBA very short. Painful to recognize I know, but that's what history tells us with second round picks. Those picks are earlier in the second round, so the possibility is greater. But, that says more about picks 45-60 turning into NBA players than the real chance early second rounders become rotation players.

The sixth pick, on the other hand, has a strong likelihood of turning into a starter in this league and a chance at becoming a quality player for years beside Anthony Davis. There is a danger in looking at just how players selected with the sixth pick turn out. Players picked with the seventh, eighth, etc in those same drafts may have turned out well. Some times GMs just pick duds. Other times a player with potential fails to pan out for any number of reasons; work ethic and environment chief among them in my opinion.

We asked the staff here to project the first six picks in the draft without concocting any trade scenarios. This is how they see it breaking down.

Chris Cucchiara David Fisher Quentin Haynes Jonathan Harvey Oleh Kosel Fernando Ritzman Owen Sanborn
Philadelphia 76ers Simmons Simmons Simmons Ingram Simmons Simmons Simmons
Los Angeles Lakers Ingram Ingram Ingram Simmons Ingram Ingram Ingram
Boston Celtics Bender Bender Bender Bender Murray Bender Dunn
Phoenix Suns Murray Chriss Brown Brown Bender Brown Bender
Minnesota Timberwolves Dunn Dunn Hield Murray Hield Dunn Brown
New Orleans Pelicans Hield Hield Dunn Hield Dunn Hield Murray

Next, we asked them to grade five different potential picks the Pelicans could make at six.

Grade these potential draft picks at #6 for the Pelicans

Chris Cucchiara:

Buddy Hield: (A) Would give the Pelicans a shooting threat in the mold of a Lillard or Curry who could carry the team to a few wins each year on his own. He possesses the swagger and the intangibles that the Pelicans sorely lack at this time.

Kris Dunn: (B) He is an elite athlete and is long for his position.  Dunn has had to deal with some injuries which make me a little uneasy with the Pels injury luck.

Jamal Murray: (A-) He is young and the outside threat that the Pels desperately need at the guard position.

Dragan Bender: (B) Intriguing prospect that would definitely bring plenty of buzz with him to NOLA. Will he be the next international superstar or international bust?

Jaylen Brown: (C) In my mind, he seems to be the built in the Jeff Green mold, meaning, he is physically more gifted than anyone on the planet but will not live up to the expectations.

David Fisher:

Buddy Hield: (B+) A lot of each grade depends on the other choices the Pelicans could make instead. Hield feels like a lower upside play than Dunn (thanks to athleticism) or Murray (thanks to youth). However, I do believe there is a chance that Hield becomes a superb NBA player and it begins with his strengths; work ethic and shooting.

Kris Dunn: (A-) There is a very thin line between Hield and Dunn and a lot of that is due to who might be playing the small forward position next season and beyond. Jrue Holiday has thrived with another ball handler and shot creator beside him. Kris Dunn gives the Pelicans a duel point guard look and incredible potential defensively at the point of attack.

Jamal Murray: (A) What Murray did as a 19 year old kid should not be diminished. Scoring 20 points per game while shooting 40% behind the arc on that volume is very rare, let alone at a major college power. This is not to say Murray is not without his warts. However, the Pelicans investing in a young talent with incredible upside should be celebrated as a long view move. Jamal Murray is already an incredibly skilled basketball player, that matters.

Dragan Bender: (B) Like Murray, drafting Bender is the long play. Unlike Murray, Bender doesn't really fit with the Pelicans. His best position is probably going to be power forward and small ball center; exactly what Anthony Davis already does. There's just too much overlap between the two that makes their complimentary fit unlikely.

Jaylen Brown: (C-) This is simple in my opinion. Yes, Brown has upside thanks to his athletic gifts. But, he isn't an absolute stud athlete, his measurements are simply average for a small forward, and he cannot do a whole host of basketball things. He's a poor shooter, a poor finisher, turns the ball over at a troubling rate, and has yet to demonstrate feel or understanding of the game. Could he develop into a stud? Absolutely. Is New Orleans a place that probably occurs? No.

Jonathan Harvey:

Draft "grades" are silly, in my opinion. So many variables go into whether a player will succeed with the team that drafts him, but i’ll give my preferred list of selections.

  1. Buddy Hield
  2. Kris Dunn
  3. Dragan Bender
  4. Jamal Murray
  5. Jaylen Brown

I don’t think any of these players are "bad" selections, but I could foresee some growing pains from developing a young player like Jaylen Brown, when the Pelicans need production at the wing position right away. The same would apply with Murray, but compared to Kris Dunn, I would imagine he would not pair well with Jrue Holiday. It’d be excellent for the Pelicans to find a backup point guard for the future, but I see Jamal Murray as a starter, and the log jam would be confusing.

With Bender, odds of him truly impacting the game right away are slim, scouts don’t see the immediate impact of a Kristaps Porzingis right off the back. Though taking some time to develop the foreign Swiss Army knife of a player might benefit the Pels down the road. Anthony Davis plays that position, and the Pelicans aren’t in a huge need for production at the four spot. Bender may turn into a jack-of-all-trades player that can gel with Davis down the road. I could see him thriving with an uptempo offense like Alvin Gentry’s with some experience under his belt.

With Dunn, the argument with Murray remains the same, though Dunn is older, and again, I can see the Dunn-Holiday fit easier than Murray. But if the Pelicans have the option of taking one of the two point guards, it should look to move them, whether that gives back two first round picks later, or a first and a veteran at the wing, Demps should heed pairing Holiday with another ball dominant guard. Dunn has concerns with getting drafted by a team with established point guards, and has reportedly backed away from the Celtics and Suns that both have two guards getting minutes. Though, it’d be hard pressed for me to believe he wouldn’t want to play with the best two way power forward in the world.

Hield can play off ball better than both point guards, and has experience as a ball handler in the pick and roll. Seems like the natural fit to pair with Holiday, and he’d have the green light to score in the fast pace offense. The fit seems perfect to me. The defensive concerns are there, but the opportunity to groom him alongside the 22 year old Davis excites me. Also, the Pelicans could use a heat check guy if Demps does not intend to pay Ryan Anderson.

Quentin Haynes:

Buddy Hield: (A) Best pick for what the Pelicans want to do right now. Hield has ways to grow on the defensive end, but with a hard work ethic, he should be able to reach a 3-and-D ceiling with ease.

Kris Dunn: (A) Best point guard in the draft, two-way upside and very similar to Detroit’s Reggie Jackson. Should be able to play alongside Holiday in 2016 before taking over the position in 2017.

Jamal Murray: (C) Murray is a knockdown shooter, but I have questions if he can ever evolve into a good defender, which limits his ceiling. The pick gives New Orleans young talent, but doesn’t help on the defensive end now or in the future.

Dragan Bender: (B) Similar to the Knicks selecting Kristaps Porzingis last year, the Pelicans have several needs, but swing for the fences with a similar talent. Bender is arguably the number two prospect in the draft because of his ability to defend at the rim and on the perimeter. I’m not sure if he can bring the same impact as Porzingis right away, but if the Pelicans can groom him correctly, he may form a two-headed monster with Davis soon enough.

Jaylen Brown: (B) Brown is a good prototype for what you want in a wing - capable of bring it on the defensive end, good on the offensive end, but I think New Orleans wanted someone who can come in and provide right away. I’m not sure if Brown can do that due to issues with his jumpshot. He joins New Orleans’ group of young wing players, but it puts more pressure on the Pels to find a starter in free agency.

Oleh Kosel:

Buddy Hield: (A+) Have been saying this for awhile now: he's the best fit for the Pelicans not named Ingram. Hield's three-point stroke will be as important as his intangibles in the locker room.

Kris Dunn: (A) A starting backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Dunn is positively dreamy. Both players can push the ball in transition, get their own shot when warranted and hassle opponents relentlessly on defense.

Jamal Murray: (A-) Murray isn't a bad consolation prize, but I don't feel as strongly about him as I once did. His measurables, specifically his reach, could hold him back from being a solid starter in this league if his footspeed fails to improve enough allowing him to stay with most opposing point guards.

Dragan Bender: (C) Sorry, the road to the championship in New Orleans does not have Anthony Davis spending the majority of his time at power forward. Bender's skill set is intriguing, and if he reaches his potential, he could team with Davis to be one of the most lethal frontcourts in the league some day. However, how long would that take?

Jaylen Brown: (F) The thought of adding another non-perimeter player under Gentry or subjecting Pelicans fans to another maddening small forward is... no, I refuse to go there.

Fernando Ritzman:

Buddy Hield: (A) Buddy is an ideal fit in this system and has the best chance of his game translating to the NBA level.

Kris Dunn: (A) Another guy that just fits, with his D and ability be a playmaker on the ball opens up a lot.

Jamal Murray: (B) Jamal is a younger Buddy Hield but what he lacks in athletic ability he makes up for with his ball handling and shooting.

Dragan Bender: (C) Bender he would be interesting next to Davis but there is still a lot of unknowns with him.

Jaylen Brown: (D) is a lot more raw then any of the other guys, I don't know how much time the pels would want to invest in developing.

Owen Sanborn:

Buddy Hield: (B+) I am a firmer believer in Hield's talents than most. He has a scorer's instinct, a quirky handle, and can shoot the lights out. He isn't a defensive stopper by any means, but dammit, he tries hard. Plus, his age range fits well with the rest of the core.

Kris Dunn: (A) I think I have made my opinion on Dunn very apparent here.

Jamal Murray: (B+) Murray would be a solid get for the Pelicans as an off-ball guard with enough playmaking chops to handle the load as a lead ball-handler on some units. What he has in size he lacks in athleticism, but his pristine shooting stroke should allow him to make the transition to the NBA a smooth one.

Dragan Bender: (B) Honestly, I am not too familiar with Bender's game yet, but from what I have heard, he is going to be a nice combo forward. Unfortunately for the Pelicans, there are enough forwards/big men on the roster to pass on Bender for a wing or guard.

Jaylen Brown: (A) I do not understand the hysteria surrounding Brown's draft stock. The dude is a force and still only 19 years-old. There are some limitations to his game -- he is not the best finisher or shooter yet -- but man, there are tools aplenty here, and he figures to be a solid fit with Alvin Gentry's go-go scheme. Nabbing Brown at six would be a coup for the Pelicans.

Chris David Quentin Oleh Fernando Owen
Buddy Hield A B+ A A+ A B+
Kris Dunn B A- A A A A
Jamal Murray A- A C A- B B+
Dragan Bender B B B C C B
Jaylen Brown C C- B F D A