The New Orleans Pelicans don’t figure to add any notable talent from the NBA Draft next week, but they do have the 51st pick. If they hang onto their second round choice, there’s several avenues being advocated: take a flyer on youth — possibly in the form of draft-and-stash in Europe — or grabbing an undervalued upperclassman who could possibly contribute immediately.
According to ESPN’s last three mock drafts, they’ve wavered on the subject as much as anyone. In their latest version published yesterday, Trevon Duval, a freshman point guard out of Duke, was linked to the Pelicans. Previously, Kevin Hervey, a senior small forward out of the University of Texas at Arlington, and Issac Bonga, an 18-year-old who played for the Frankfurt Skyliners in Germany, were slated for New Orleans at number 51 overall.
Duval, who opted to not play in the 5-on-5 portion of the Combine, was once considered to be a strong candidate for the lottery, but due to an up-and-down season, his stock fell dramatically. He possesses an NBA-ready body (6’-3’’ with 6’-9’’ reach), but his game sits miles behind. He converted 29% of his three-point attempts, and more troubling, just 59.6% of his free throw attempts. While he dished out a reasonable 5.6 assists per 29.7 minutes of action, his 2.8 turnovers a game signal questionable decision-making.
The 21-year-old senior turned in an excellent couple of days, measuring impressively, posting the third-best PER with per 40-minute averages of 26.0 points and 2.6 steals while knocking down 6-of-10 triples. At 6-73⁄4 in shoes, 212 pounds with a 7-31⁄2 wingspan and 8-11 standing reach, Hervey has a similar physical profile to Robert Covington, a player who was also seen as a bit soft coming out of college (like Hervey). Hervey’s smooth shooting stroke was on display, knocking down rhythm 3s while also showing his talent operating in the mid-post.
However, the reason many peg him for the second round is because he spent four years at a mid-major and his health is a huge red flag going forward — he’s already torn the ACL’s in both of his knees during his amateur career.
Bonga is the most interesting name of the group because he stands at a height of 6’-9’’ and possesses point guard skills. Also, the 18-year-old, who boasts a 7-foot wingspan, showed improvement with his shot. While a 43.1 FG%, 30.2 3PT% and 90.0 FT% isn’t all that inspiring, it is far better than a 38.6 FG%, 21.5 3PT% and 67.8 FT% line he posted two years ago.
That said, more development is needed and he could continue to work on his game and mature while in Europe. Unlike some other teams that have taken advantage of this route, New Orleans currently has no legitimate draft-and-stash players and Bonga could make for a fine first experiment.