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New Orleans Pelicans to seek high character, strong-minded talent in future NBA drafts that will supplement young nucleus

GM Trajan Langdon wants to add tough, competitive players for the betterment of the team

New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Trajan Langdon, the Pelicans general manager, joined Daniel Sallerson on the latest version of the team’s podcast and touched on a number of topics; however, I was particularly drawn to his thoughts on how New Orleans plans to approach future NBA drafts because it signals a solid faith in the existing young core.

After the hiring of David Griffin, we learned practically overnight that the front office was going to place a premium on high character players who possessed gladiator-like competitiveness. For instance, recall how much the Exec VP gushed about the impressive human qualities of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant around the time of the last draft lottery and also compared their hunger for the game to Jrue Holiday’s. Now, Langdon is following in Griffin’s footsteps but this time mentioning those traits as necessary in future draft picks.

“Obviously, Zion at one but then Jaxson, Nickeil, Didi in the second round, they’re all high character guys that love playing the game,” Langdon said. “Competitive, work their butts off — that’s exactly what we’re going to be looking for in this next draft and in drafts to come.”

The reason for wanting like-minded individuals in the locker room is a straightforward concept; however, there’s more to it than that. The Pelicans’ core already personifies an ideal composition and they’re on the verge of becoming a consistent force in the Western Conference.

“We have a group of guys that are very competitive,” Langdon said. “The guys that are going to come in here, mentally, are going to have to be ready. They’re going to have to be tough. They’re going to have to be strong-minded. Because I think we have a group, if you fast forward a year, is going to be ready to take a big step. Whoever’s not on board to do that — to sacrifice, to step their game up — it’s going to be difficult for those guys to survive in this environment because I just think it’s going to get more competitive and {there will be} higher expectations every year. We need to have guys with the mental fortitude and that will to be a part of this group and push this group in not only games but in practice every day. And that takes a special kind of person and those kind of people are the ones we’re looking for.”

In my opinion, the tea leaves are reading that the New Orleans Pelicans are not going to be avidly seeking to develop more star power — players that require a ton of personal freedom and teams enduring a substantial period of growing pains — but rather unearthing well-suited complimentary pieces, and this mentality makes all the sense in the world.

This isn’t to say that if an opportunity to grab a young stud arises it would be ignored, but New Orleans isn’t likely to go out of its way to prioritize talent over other characteristics.

Since their turnaround right before Christmas, thanks to much improved health and individual growth, the Pelicans resembled a legitimate playoff contender. A 22-14 record since Dec. 18th translates into a 61.1 winning percentage so that level of performance should not be ignored. This is especially true when considering three of the five starters — of one of the most potent lineups — are 22 years of age or younger.

New Orleans possesses the horses and good potential. Of course the overall product can be improved upon — we’ve witnessed several holes — but not at the expense of being at odds with the progress of the current group.

With the suspension in NBA activity, Langdon and key members of the front office have taken advantage of the downtime by focusing on what’s next, placing an emphasis on the upcoming draft.

“I have talks with Bryson Graham, Todd Quinter – the two guys that oversee our college and pro scouting staffs, respectively,” Langdon said. “Those two guys and Griff, I’m on pretty regularly with…just trying to get an understanding of what we want to do going forward. A lot of time I spend right now reading scouting reports, watching a lot of film on the draft prospects, and just trying to understand how we’re going to put together our top 45 right now and getting into our top 60 we’re going to have.”

As it stands, New Orleans is likely to enter the 2020 NBA Draft with a pick somewhere in the first round and then three second round selections. If I had to wager a guess, they might be eyeing an upperclassman or two and one of those second round choices would get put on the Didi Development Track — getting more seasoning elsewhere like the NBL without taking up space on the roster.

The Pelicans will undoubtedly add to their nucleus in due time, but with the front office continuing to echo a lot of positivity about their young core, Langdon sounds determined to supplement their competitive drive and locker room behavior with well-rounded individuals, ones who showcase more than just the ability to put the ball through the hoop, make a wonderful pass or can grow into a defensive stopper.

To hear the this interview with Trajan Langdon in its entirety, please visit Pelicans.com, download the Pelicans mobile app or hit the link below.