Early this morning, Chad Ford of ESPN released his latest and final NBA Mock Draft for the 2016 season, and he has Buddy Hield going to the New Orleans Pelicans at the sixth overall pick. His early versions had linked Hield to New Orleans, but of late, the names of Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, Dragan Bender and Jaylen Brown have all occupied the Pelicans first round selection at one time or another.
There are several reasons for this. Ford, like the rest of the internet writing world, is in the business of promoting page views. No changes periodically would dwindle interest and therefore revenue. However -- and that's a big however -- he has a duty to report all tidbits of information and rumors, and considering his close contacts across the NBA, he has enough ammunition to validate all of his different mock drafts.
That said, I do believe he saved most of the truth for the final copy of his mock draft.
The Pelicans are also looking for trade partners. GM Dell Demps is under fire, and his goal is to move the Pelicans from the lottery to the playoffs next season. Any player they select at No. 6 is unlikely to significantly affect that.
The Pelicans need guards badly. Dunn and Hield are both strongly in the mix here. Dunn's creative and defensive abilities are coveted by coach Alvin Gentry. However, I doubt he's here when the Pelicans draft.
Hield gives them an elite shooter who can create instant offense. Gentry's a fan, and Hield should be a great fit in New Orleans. If the Wolves take Hield, then Brown and Bender come into the picture.
You can make an argument for both. Brown would give them a potentially elite defender at the 3. Bender could fill a major hole for them if Ryan Anderson decides to bolt as a free agent. If Dunn and Hield are gone, I think Brown will be the pick.
The world is fully aware of Dell Demps' m.o. -- foregoing playing development in favor of young, NBA-experienced veterans to speed up the team's learning curve and bring about faster success. In theory, this plan has backfired time and again thanks to the high number of injuries to key personnel. However, don't expect Demps to deviate far from his original plan and Chad Ford smartly does not. Plan A for the Pelicans remains the same: dangle the sixth pick and hope to catch a youthful game-changer.
If no proposal suits the front office in New Orleans, plan B will be in effect: draft Buddy Hield or Kris Dunn. The two prospects have spent years on the collegiate level, developing their games so they're more likely going to be ready to step into an NBA rotation than most freshman, especially the ones that will be available at the sixth pick.
Now, things would get interesting if both Dunn and Hield are off the board. Notice how Ford doesn't even make mention of Jamal Murray for New Orleans (it's why I've never been high on Murray for the Pelicans -- youth + loads of defensive questions). Ford elects to go with Brown over Bender, but I think the selection would be the Croatian. Yes, I'm most definitely biased towards the 18-year-old European, but I believe the front office is too. Alvin Gentry just spent an entire season watching defenses collapse off of Alonzo Gee, a very good defender but a terribly poor floor spacer and flawed decision maker. Bender's biggest flaws are his age and weight, all more likely correctable over time.