The New Orleans Pelicans did exactly what our writers expected them to do and picked Buddy Hield with the sixth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. That is both a blessing and a curse for General Manager Dell Demps. Fans are thrilled but many of those grading the draft are simply passing out a shrugging B to the embattled GM. Meeting expectations is a difficult thing for some to get excited about.
Buddy Hield is 22 years old and will turn 23 this December. He fits the timeline of Anthony Davis, who turned 23 in March. Hield has a "low ceiling" according to almost everyone that examines the draft thanks to his age. As if, somehow, a senior is incapable of exceeding expectations. There are plenty of examples where this turns out to be terribly untrue. Two four year players drafted recently, Damian Lillard and Draymond Green, just made Second Team All-NBA.
This is not to say that Hield will become a star, but that whatever you read about his ceiling is a purely abstract and hypothetical construct. Buddy Hield can become a star, regardless what you read. His own work ethic and the position the Pelicans put him in will be the primary factors deciding the outcome. Few players come into the league with a better reputation than Hield.
I am sorry.I know I have @buddyhield bias but I've NEVER seen player with better work ethic & IT factor. Every team passing on him beware.— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) June 24, 2016
Told that Buddy Hield had a 40-inch vertical today in his Lakers workout.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 18, 2016
Buddy Hield was a monster in the biggest game of the college basketball season, pouring in 46 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists in a triple overtime thriller against Kansas. Hield did all that on the road in one of college basketball's most hostile arenas. The highlights are incredible.
Many writers and fans expected Dell Demps to sell one of the two second round picks, in keeping with the long tradition of Tom Benson being cheap. Instead those two picks were packaged to move up and select Kansas big man Cheick Diallo. While personally I preferred the Pelicans select a wing (or two) in the second round I applaud Dell Demps. New Orleans selected a young big man to develop, likely while logging few actual minutes as a rookie behind a number of other forwards and centers.
Cheick Diallo hardly played at Kansas last season. Reasons behind his lack of playing time center on an eligibility dispute at the beginning of the season and the plethora of upperclassmen (Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, and Landen Lucas) on the Jayhawks depth chart. However, Diallo is immensely talented and oozing the "upside" many thought Demps should chase in the first round. There's a reason he won the MVP at the McDonald's All-American Game over Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, and Jaylen Brown. Cheick Diallo was the 5th ranked prospect coming out of high school.
The best case scenario for Diallo is his physical doppelganger Tristan Thompson.
In case you're wondering what Diallo's ceiling might look like, I hope you watched the Finals. pic.twitter.com/hg6kaefvhs— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) June 24, 2016
While Diallo didn't have much opportunity at Kansas he was productive in the few minutes he did receive. At the NBA Combine he was one of the few prospects with first round aspirations to participate and he did not disappoint. In 44 minutes Diallo piled up 27 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 blocks while shooting 11-18 from the floor and 5-6 from the foul line. Small sample size? Absolutely. Under enormous pressure to perform? That might matter too.
In the second round to get a first round talent with excellent measurables is another lottery ticket. If Diallo pans out New Orleans will trot out a terrifying combination of length (7'4.5" wingspan for Diallo, 7'7.75" for Davis) and quick feet in the front court to combat the small ball movement. Pelican fans should prepare to be patient with Diallo, it took Tristan Thompson a couple years before he was a solid contributor.
Dell Demps came into the draft with one first round pick and left with two first round talents. He didn't swing for the fences in the first round, but he certainly did in the second.