With the 2018 NBA draft fast approaching, it’s time to break down the options for the New Orleans Pelicans and their lone, 51st overall selection. GM Dell Demps has put together packages in the last two drafts to move up and grab a coveted piece so the following prospects will not be limited to the probable scope of late second rounders. Late-first round picks were considered as well as all basketball positions.
Josh Okogie: SG, 6’4” - 213 lbs, Sophomore, Georgia Tech, 19 years old
18.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.8 spg, 41.6% FG, 38% 3PT, 71.2% FT
Awards: ACC All-Freshman Team (2017), ACC All-Third Team (2018)
Eye Test: Okogie is well built to play either guard role at the next level. He has the makings of a strong NBA defender to go with his superb athleticism. If you were thinking we somehow just described Jrue Holiday, that’s okay.
Okogie is a solid shooter, who uses instinct and strength to either bully his way into good looks or get to the free throw line. Although his overall offensive game remains raw, blinded by too much tunnel vision, he still can find his way to the basket. If he particularly focuses on his jump shot, his versatility as a defender — aided by a 7-foot wingspan — could easily make him a successful 3-and-D contributor.
The Fit: Don’t we have enough of these?
Everything that works in the favor of Okogie could work against him on the Pelicans roster. Okogie is 6’4, and while New Orleans would definitely appreciate his willingness to play both sides, his height is an issue from a fit perspective.
It’s not that the logjam at the guard position hard to infiltrate, the Pelicans simply just have too many guards at Okogie’s size and day-1 ability already. Elite shooters or a restructuring of the roster are really the only way an undersized guard can seemingly fit in NOLA currently. He’s an interesting prospect, but his draft stock is a little too high for the Pelicans to make a move considering the lack of fit.
Moritz Wagner: F, 6’11” - 245 lbs, Junior, Michigan, 21 years old
14.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 52.8% FG, 39.4% 3PT, 69.4% FT
Awards: 2018 All-Big Ten Team, 2018 All-Final Four Team
Eye Test: If you like high motors, fist pumps, and big man shooting, Wagner is definitely your guy. Wagner could enter the NBA and last as a crafty 6’11 offensive staple with a reliable shot from deep and leadership qualities. He has pick and pop ability and can create for himself in pinches on the block. Wagner’s lack of quickness and poor defense should catch up to him, but if he can continue to shoot like he does at his size and can be molded into a rim protector, there will be a place for him in the Association.
The Fit: Do they believe Boogie is returning?
Adding Wagner to Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Cheick Diallo would make sense. It gives you another finesse big to possibly add similar shooting potency that Mirotic can provide. With Boogie in the fold, though, the Pels would be no better than when the Sacramento Kings drafted pointless additional towers at an already seemingly clogged position.
The difference for the Pelicans is there’s no guarantee that Cousins will be back. So, in the end, they should look at protecting themselves. But with Wagner’s draft stock sitting early in the second round, it remains unlikely that New Orleans would make this jump.
Bruce Brown: SG, 6’5” - 195 lbs, Sophomore, Miami, 21 years old
11.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 41.5% FG, 26.7% 3PT, 63% FT
Eye Test: Brown has massive potential, and with so much about the NBA drafts being left on those steps, he is quite the prospect.
Brown gets inside of his own head at times, trying to make plays that aren’t there and as a result commits poor turnovers. He doesn’t have the ability to create and separate on offense, and the confidence in his jump shot wained during his sophomore season. Brown shot much better during freshman campaign at Miami so it will be interesting which take GM’s buys his stock based on that merit. To make matters worse, though, he lost half of this season due to a foot injury.
Despite the negatives, Brown remains elite on the defensive end and that help him find his way comfortably onto a roster. He has the grit and toughness you like to see in a young player and can be depended upon to guard multiple positions. A good comparison was made by our friends at Peachtree Hoops to Marcus Smart.
The Fit: How much value versus risk do you get here?
On one end, the thought of having another young perimeter defender at the wing sounds fun. But on the other, a space disruptor offensively does not and another guard dealing with a foot injury doesn’t make that any more ideal. Having a wing threat with a poor long-range shot makes it automatically difficult for them to share the floor with Rondo. Moving up to select Brown wouldn’t bring the Pelicans a ton of value, yet we doubt he will be available at No. 51.
Alize Johnson: F, 6’9” - 212 lbs, Senior, Missouri State, 22 years old
15 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 43% FG, 28% 3PT, 75% FT
Eye Test: Johnson was just 5-foot-9 when he entered high school; however, he quickly adapted to his new size. Johnson averaged a double-double in both of his years at Missouri State and brings a level of consistency in the rebounding department that should not be ignored.
Johnson’s jump shot could use some work, but the form overall has potential. As a defender, Johnson has perimeter skills and lateral quickness. He has the makings of a point-forward, but gaining comfort with his left hand and spreading his wings as a shooter is essential. He’s definitely a second-round talent, but a team willing to take a chance on his development will expect his offensive game to eventually break a barrier in terms of improvement.
The Fit: What is he at the next level?
If available, there are many small forward tools to work with from Johnson’s kit. But if he translates better as a power forward, it’s hard to see a positive fit for New Orleans. Outside of him having conversations with Anthony Davis about growth spurts, there’s not much Johnson can currently offer the Pelicans.
Malik Newman: G, 6’3” - 189 lbs, Sophomore, Kansas, 21 years old
14.2 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 46.3% FG, 41.5% 3PT, 83.5% FT
Awards: 2018 NCAA Tournament All-Region
Eye Test: Let’s put it simply: the kid gets buckets. Newman is extremely explosive and generates a ton of offense. His shooting numbers speak for themselves, but he also knows how to finish once he gets to the rim.
Newman also possesses solid point guard defending traits with a 6’5 wingspan, but outside of that he becomes a liability. The only real knock on Newman outside of his size is his lackluster playmaking, as he’s never shown much of an ability to create for others.
He has the potential to become a sixth man on almost any team, electrifying many with his ability to score in a hurry and work in transition. His elite shooting also makes him a perfect fit for the space and pace world of 2018 basketball.
The Fit: What happens with Ian Clark, Jordan Crawford?
We mentioned elite shooting could allow a guard to find time in the Pelicans rotation and Newman could be a prime candidate. Alvin Gentry can never have enough shooters and has developed many over his time in the NBA — many around the size of Newman as well.
With 2017 rookie guard Frank Jackson still present, the Pelicans drafting another combo guard type would seem redundant. New Orleans should have other needs in mind, but if the team loses depth at the guard position, Newman presents a Dion Waitors-esque option.
Vince Edwards: SF, 6’8” - 225 lbs, Senior, Purdue, 22 years old
14.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, 47.6% FG, 40% 3PT, 83% FT
Eye Test: Edwards has a lot of things to like about his game. After originally declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft, Edwards came back for his senior year to the delight of many. Edwards has nice size, is comfortable with the ball in his hands, and possesses decent athleticism for his position.
Edwards is a capable shooter but was reluctant to let attempts fly at Purdue. He lacks the burst and quickness to be effective on his first step, but whatever role is given to him, he doesn’t mind playing it. He can score from just about anywhere on the court if he has the confidence. Purdue averaged around 80 points per game — in large part due to Edwards. On the other end of the court, Edwards has the potential to guard 3 through some reserve 5s. The question is can he compete against stronger NBA athletes while shooting a comparable percentage from three at a higher volume.
The Fit: Is there more to his game?
You can almost say any true small forward fits for the Pelicans. If they like to play up-tempo, you can almost pencil them in. But the last thing they need is another agility-challenged forward with limited shooting ability. We understand New Orleans can’t be picky in their draft position, but there may be better fits from a ceiling perspective by the time their name is called.
Devon Hall: SG, 6’5” - 205 lbs, Senior, Virginia, 22 years old
11.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 45.4% FG, 43.3% 3PT, 89.4% FT (all percentages were career highs)
Eye Test: Devon Hall looks like a glue guy if there ever was one. Hell, he was the glue guy on this Virginia team throughout his stay. Hall won’t impress you one-on-one with his athleticism, but he’s a defensive stopper and a phenomenal spot up shooter. Hall is also talented at finding others in advantageous positions, mostly due to the cerebral aspect of his game. He has a 3.06 assist-to-turnover ratio, showing he has the vision and instinct to be a solid playmaker. Not only that, but Hall’s intangibles seem to be off the chart as both a vocal leader and locker room presence.
The Fit: Elite shooting and unselfish mannerisms? Sounds like a fit. Hall has a high basketball IQ with experience in a winning system, fitting the bill as well for the Pelicans. Hall would be a great fit in New Orleans at the shooting guard position if the board is devoid of more favorable targets.
Tony Carr: G, 6’5” - 205 lbs, Sophomore, Penn State, 20 years old
19.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg. 5.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 40.8% FG, 43.3% 3PT, 80% FT
Awards: First team All-Big Ten (2018)
Eye Test: Tony Carr could be one of the most balanced, smoothest players in the 2018 draft. He checks every box you could ask for offensively. The only thing that could stand his way is athleticism, which many graded poorly at the combine. But after putting on a reported 28 pounds of muscle over the summer of 2017, the proof of Carr’s work ethic is there.
Carr could improve from an efficiency standpoint, but his scoring upside from the perimeter is through the roof. He is a shot-making guard who could instantly provide a spark off the bench — maybe even as the next Instant Grits. Carr can operate well in the post, can score off the dribble and is a decent defender. His game as a true point guard could improve, but surrounding him with veteran guard leadership (*hint*) would help exponentially.
The Fit: How good is he off the ball?
New Orleans is not a place where many great post opportunities will be available from the guard spot. However, he is another guard that shot well during his final year in college and at 6’5 could offer some flexibility on the wing at times. While Carr seems comfortable as a spot-up shooter, he is not ready to be Rip Hamilton just yet — cutting and running off screens that would improve his versatility.
His poise would make for a nice fit in NOLA. Carr’s balanced offensive game should be worth the gamble for almost any team in the second round.
Kevin Hervey: SF, 6’7” - 230lbs, Senior, Texas-Arlington, 21 years old
20.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 spg. 44.6% FG, 33.9% 3PT, 80% FT
Awards: 2016-17 Sun Belt Player of the Year
Eye Test: Kevin Hervey possesses an NBA-ready body. Everything he lacks athletically (partly due to tearing both ACLs) is offset by his reach (8’11”) and wingspan (7’3”), making him an overall intriguing prospect.
Hervey looks like an NBA tweener at the forward position; he is probably better suited as a stretch four in today’s NBA. He’s a scorer with a J.R. Smth-like mindset but a lengthier Taurean Prince build. Offensively, he is still a work in progress, but comfortable from almost any space on the floor. Hervey makes hustle plays, finishes well at the rim and is a solid overall shooter. He can be streaky at times. but can score off the dribble when his shot fades and his length will allow him to become a serviceable defender at the next level. Add a decent sense of vision and abilities as a rebounder, Hervey could be a steal late in the second if he can translate into a supporting cast while maintaining his health.
The Fit: Can he stay at small forward?
It really depends, as there’s an argument for both sides. If he’s a small forward there could be worry that he’s too stiff to hang consistently with the fluid pace of today’s small-ball style. If Hervey continues to improve as a shooter, his potential and size alone should be appealing to the wing-needy Pelicans. If he’s more valuable as a power forward; however, as he was at the NBA Combine, things get a little bit murkier.
Justin Jackson: F, 6’7” - 230 lbs, Sophomore, Maryland, 21 years old
9.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 36.6% FG, 25% 3PT, 82.8% FT
Eye Test: A torn labrum in Jackson’s final season ruined what should have been a special year for the sophomore. Many thought he had potential to be a lottery pick after a very good first year in Maryland. Jackson has a lean, defined body full of length and massive potential. His 7’3 wingspan alone should attract many teams from a defensive perspective as he also moves very well for his size. A lot of the raw tools are at Jackson’s disposal already so a little polish would do the finishing touch. He’s also naturally gifted as a productive rebounder.
In the handful of games Jackson played this past season, he shot 25 percent from beyond the arc. However, Jackson shot 43 percent on 105 three-point attempts during his freshman campaign. While that’s not a ton of attempts, it’s still impressive adding in Jackson’s other surrounding talents. How that will translate is a mystery at this point. He’s a risk but with a chance for a high reward.
The Fit: New Orleans shouldn’t think twice if Jackson is still available when they’re on the clock. His upside leans toward a Kelly Oubre Jr. type at a position of need. Oubre comparisons are interesting considering he’s a player that seems popular in figurative sign-and-trade options for DeMarcus Cousins. Should the Pelicans retain, this young prospect may be able to assume that same type of tile.
Defensively the lineups and flexibility would be endless. And if Jackson comes close to regaining his freshman form, the Pelicans could have that perfect addition to their roster.