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ESPN Mock 9.0 has Pelicans passing on Dragan Bender and Buddy Hield in favor of Jamal Murray

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Alvin Gentry reportedly covets Kris Dunn, but New Orleans has to settle for another highly regarded guard.

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In his latest 9.0 Big Board, Chad Ford linked the New Orleans Pelicans to both Jamal Murray and Marquese Chriss. At the time, various images were quite fresh: a photograph displaying Murray dining with Dell Demps and Alvin Gentry was in circulation and his workout schedule was revealed to the media. Just four teams were penciled in on the exclusive list: the Celtics, Suns, Timberwolves and Pelicans.

Fast forward almost two weeks later, Ford's belief in New Orleans fascination for Murray has only grown stronger. Mock Draft 9.0 not only has the Pelicans drafting the 1-year Kentucky Wildcat, but at the expense of Dragan Bender and Buddy Hield.

When draft rumors became earnest following the end of the regular season, Hield's name was the first one associated with New Orleans. His experience, character and playing position all seemed like natural fits on a team desiring to find their way back into the playoffs as soon as next spring.

Bender's ties to New Orleans came later, but it wasn't out of left field. Ryan Anderson is expected to take his talents elsewhere while Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca have yet to look anything but perpetually lost under Gentry. Anthony Davis could use a new sidekick. With Bender possessing a ceiling as high as any other prospect in the 2016 Draft, Dell Demps might be reliving his Giannis Antetokounmpo nightmare. The Pelicans general manager had reportedly been enamored with the European so he probably regrets letting him slip through the franchise's fingers to this day. He is likely eager to not repeat the same mistake.

Hence, Ford's reasoning in the accompanying blurb on ESPN is a bit perplexing.

The Pelicans need guards, badly. Eric Gordon is a free agent. Jrue Holiday is in the last year of his deal and has struggled to stay healthy. Murray, Dunn and Buddy Hield will all be intriguing.

Dunn's point guard abilities are coveted by head coach Alvin Gentry. Both Murray and Hield can come in and improve the team's shooting from day one. This will be a very tough call for the Pelicans, but given the way the draft board is playing out, Murray seems like a terrific fit. His ability to shoot and play multiple positions should be a big help in New Orleans.

The first paragraph reads similar to what The Bird Writes has been calling for months now -- the Pelicans are most desperate to add another perimeter threat to the roster. (It's such a wonderful step up from the days of seeing either Jakob Poeltl or Henry Ellenson at the sixth overall position.)  Odds are Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson will be in different uniforms next season so New Orleans will be left scrambling to replace 35% of their three-point total.

However, chances are there exists a stipulation for adding the necessary offense. On several occasions, the franchise has made references to two-way players in the past. Murray has yet to be classified as such so it's rather difficult to agree with Chad Ford on his latest choice. With Hield, one at least would feel more comfortable with stronger measurables and an unbeatable work ethic in tow. And in case you missed it, Bender's middle name is purportedly the Croatian word for versatile.

Appropriately later today, look for a roundtable discussion on Jamal Murray. Some of the answers may surprise you!