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2016 NBA Draft: New Orleans Pelicans should trade their pick for D'Angelo Russell if offered

Shooting, physical tools, basketball IQ, and youth. Russell is the only guard to check every box the Pelicans could reasonably obtain.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans may have a very different avenue to acquire an elite talent with their draft pick. The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly on the hunt for another lottery pick and dangling D'Angelo Russell to acquire such a pick. Chad Ford said on Sportscenter that it is likely they are shopping for another pick, possibly in the top five.

I think more likely the Lakers are trying to pick up another pick in this draft, in the top five. And the guy they have that they can shop is D'Angelo Russell. A guy who was their number two pick in the draft last year. But, burned some bridges in the locker room.

Let's not take the "top five" part of this too seriously and rule out the Pelicans immediately. If the Lakers are willing to trade Russell it is likely they are chasing a specific prospect and should that prospect remain available when New Orleans is on the clock a trade could be arranged. One prospect who could certainly be on the board with the 6th pick, Buddy Hield, has worked out for the Lakers twice.

There will certainly be some hard negotiating by General Manager Mitch Kupchak to save face and not trade away the second pick from last year's vastly superior draft for the sixth pick in this one straight up. One of the Pelicans second round picks (maybe one from 2017) could be used to sweeten the pot. However, it may be in Dell Demps best interests to stand firm hoping that the Lakers cave.

Why the Pelicans should trade for D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is a vastly superior NBA prospect than any of the three guards. Vastly. He went higher than any of them are projected to go in a far deeper draft. He was better in college. He has superior physical tools, a tight handle, and generational court vision.

Height Weight Wingspan Standing Reach
Jamal Murray 6'4.25" 207 6'6.5" 8'1"
Kris Dunn 6'4.25" 205 6'9.5" 8'4"
Buddy Hield 6'5" 212 6'9.25" 8'5"
D'Angelo Russell 6'5" 193 6'9.75" 8'6"

Your eyes are not deceiving you. Despite being the purest point guard in the group Russell is also the largest. His wingspan and standing reach eclipse even Kris Dunn. Russell is not the explosive athlete that Dunn is, but his superior physical tools give him a leg up on Jamal Murray defensively. There is the hope that Murray could become a combo guard; Russell already is right now. Statistically there is not much of a contest comparing their last seasons at the collegiate level.

Jamal Murray Feb 1997 22.7 59.0% 65.5% 40.8% 78.3% 8.2% 12.1% 12.1%
Kris Dunn Mar 1994 23.2 54.1% 62.6% 37.2% 69.5% 9.0% 41.8% 18.8%
Buddy Hield Dec 1993 28.7 67.0% 63.7% 46.5% 88.0% 8.7% 12.7% 13.7%
D'Angelo Russell Feb 1996 26.6 57.3% 62.2% 41.1% 75.6% 9.8% 30.1% 14.8%

D'Angelo Russell did not have an excellent rookie season, thanks in large part to the duel forces of the Kobe Bryant farewell tour and Byron Scott serving as headmaster coach. (Russell was selected to the All-Rookie Second Team.) In December he was moved out of the starting lineup in favor of Lou Williams and struggled thanks to strange rotations and inconsistent minutes. He moved back into the starting lineup after the All-Star break and improved somewhat.

Then Laker drama happened as only it could. Videos surfaced in late March, recorded secretly by Russell, of Nick Young discussing relationships outside his engagement with Iggy Azalea. (Azalea and Young recently split.) D'Angelo Russell was branded a "snitch" for breaking the holy covenant of the locker room. It is all truly ridiculous.

Highlights galore

A week later D'Angelo Russell came to New Orleans and torched the remaining healthy Pelicans to the tune of 32 points on just 16 shot attempts. It was his second best scoring night of the season. The previous month he dropped 39 points on 21 shots against the Brooklyn Nets.

Simply put, D'Angelo Russell provides a far higher chance of becoming a star with a lower chance of failing to turn into a rotation player than any player New Orleans could select with sixth pick. Unlike the typical "trade for a young veteran" plan out of the Pelicans front office Russell is on his rookie scale contract for another three years. In fact despite already playing a season in the NBA Russell is two years younger than Kris Dunn or Buddy Hield.

Each guard the Pelicans could select with the sixth pick has significant negatives on the court. Kris Dunn has question marks surrounding his shooting stroke and high turnover rate. Buddy Hield is not a creator for others and has defensive question marks. Jamal Murray is undersized for a shooting guard and struggled when he initiated the offense as a freshman. Murray also has massive question marks regarding his athleticism and defensive potential.

Russell's primary negative is not on the court at all. It is born out of his own immaturity and a poor locker room culture in a losing organization that did not understand how to manage failure.

Should a trade with the Lakers for D'Angelo Russell emerge as an option New Orleans would be wise to jump at the chance. No prospect provides such a high ceiling with fewer on court negatives.

Trading for D'Angelo Russell is the best chance to get a superstar beside Anthony Davis.