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2017 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Dwayne Bacon or Malcom Hill could be underrated pick for New Orleans Pelicans

Let’s talk about a couple of solid small forwards!

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Florida State vs Xavier Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dwayne Bacon, the 54th rated prospect on DraftExpress, and Malcolm Hill, further down at 79th, are two small forwards the hopefully will be on the New Orleans Pelicans come the 2017 NBA draft.

First of all, we have to address the elephant in the room: nobody can predict what drafted players are going to turn into stars, especially second rounders. They hit rarely, but when they do, they can change the face of a franchise. Manu Ginobili, Isaiah Thomas and of course Draymond Green, are impact players who all came from the second round.

What comes along with each of those names above was a desire to get better, a well-publicized love for the game and a little bit of crazy. And we don’t know how anybody will react to a long road trip, shooting slump or personal life issues until they go through it.

Will Dwayne Bacon be the next big-time player from the second round? If he can stroke 3s, get his own in the mid-range, get to the free throw line and stay focused on defense, Bacon might be a difference maker for years to come.

Bacon shot over 30 percent from three-point range this past season, his sophomore year, and was a consistent scorer, averaging 17 per game, over 21 if judging per 40 minutes. His “strengths” video (thanks,!) features a lot of isolation, driving plays and finding open spots on the floor to produce a mid-range jumper. It looks incredibly reliable because, well, Bacon’s got a body on him.

The guy is a wide-shouldered 220 pounds, standing about 6’-6’’ with a 6’-10” wingspan. He’s got some decent athleticism for his position, in terms of measurables from the NBA Draft combine. YouTube video on him reminds me of someone in a Joe Johnson mold, a guy who knows how to use different gears to accomplish different goals. Most of the time that goal is getting a shot for himself.

If he shoots 30-something percent from three, forcing defenders to run out to him, he’ll be looking to take a couple dribbles and either get to a mid-range jumper or some sort of floater shot. He had a ton of and-1s in college, which are pretty rare — again, if it involves points, Bacon’s your man.

To me, this means he pretty much doesn’t pass. Bacon didn’t average even two assists per game and had low assist-to-field goal attempt and assist-to-turnover ratios. Bacon might typify what is notable about this generation: guys who were once condsidered tweeners, in a negative sense, now have value because teams so often play perimeter-based 4s.

Lastly, there’s so much video about this guy, it’s almost suspicious. Bacon starred at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, home of many past, present and future NBA stars like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Make no mistake: basketball is a job there. Names that come from these super schools (Findlay Prep, Montverde, Huntington Prep, among others) tend to turn out because they are more exposed to the work ethic it takes to become truly great. He seems to work on his game quite a bit, which is great!

I just wish the guy could pass… because he could be like Joe Johnson, or he could turn into Adam Morrison or Morris Almond.

Which brings me to Malcolm Hill.

I’m a Fighting Illini homer, so forgive this take, but if the Pelicans are interested in taking Bacon, they should take a hard look at Malcolm Hill first. He’s not as athletic as Bacon, but offers a heady offensive and defensive awareness — he’s been the one-man show on Illinois for four years, producing an incredible combination of playmaking and efficient one-on-one scoring for a guy who was never thought of as a can’t miss blue chip NBA prospect.

Hill, like Bacon, produces a bunch of shots from the mid-range by using his body, but he’s better at utilizing both hands and was the team’s best playmaker for two or three of his four college seasons. He’s surprisingly quick, because he’s somehow light on his feet, although I feel like I could beat him in a 100 yard sprint.

He’s only 6’-6’’ and would be a slow-footed small forward who can maybe stretch to the 4 with a solid build and good rebounding instincts — again, he did everything for Illinois, leading the team in nearly every statistical category the last two seasons. Positionality in the NBA is less important than ever, with a value put on defensive versatility, playmaking, smarts and shooting. Hill had to do everything for disappointing Illinois teams and moving him to a catch-and-shoot position on the wing, where he can make plays after a pump fake, might suit him terrifically. Think of a shorter Kyle Anderson of the Spurs, but as a more gifted and natural scorer.

Bacon and Hill, Hill and Bacon. One of these two small forwards could help the New Orleans Pelicans improve their perimeter play.