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2021 NBA Draft: Possible options for Pelicans at 17th pick following trade with Grizzlies

Expect a premium to be placed on shooting

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Louisiana State at Michigan Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Following the agreed-upon trade with the Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas, the New Orleans Pelicans are now slotted to select 17th in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Having dropped down seven spots from their original first round position, let’s get acquainted with several prospects projected to be available in this range.

While it would be great to see Moses Moody or Chris Duarte fall to this point, I’m yet to come across their names in a renowned mock draft.

According to Jonathan Givony in his revised mock draft, the ESPN draft analyst is projecting the pick to be Cameron Thomas, a shooting guard out of LSU, provided the Pelicans don’t flip No. 17 in another deal elsewhere.

The Pelicans now have more than $30 million in cap room after moving down from the No. 10 pick and swapping veterans and future draft assets with the Grizzlies. It still didn’t solve one of the biggest issues on their roster, though — perimeter shooting — which they’ll need to have much more of to give budding superstar Zion Williamson the spacing he needs to put his devastating shot creation to full use. Enter Thomas, who led the SEC in scoring down the road in Baton Rouge and has unlimited range on his jump shot. While only 19, Thomas has some of the best scoring instincts in the draft and will likely need little time to acclimate himself offensively thanks to the aggressiveness and skill he brings on that end of the floor. Some NBA teams think the Pelicans could continue to trade down or out from this slot.

Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated has the Pelicans selecting Trey Murphy III, a forward from Virginia, who has rocketed up draft boards since the NBA combine.

Murphy has been among the biggest winners of the predraft process and has worked his way into the teens, with an appealing combination of positional size, athleticism, shooting, and projectable defense. Murphy isn’t a great ballhandler or creative passer, but has a good sense of his own strengths and weaknesses and shouldn’t be a major liability. Scouts I’ve spoken with have frequently used Phoenix’s Cam Johnson as a comparison.

Although they have yet to update their mock drafts, Kevin O’Connor has Corey Kispert at No. 17 on his Big Board while Sam Vecenie has Jared Butler listed in the same spot.

Three other names to watch if the Pelicans want to gamble on upside and utilize a roster spot on their new G League team in Birmingham for developmental purposes:

  • Ziaire Williams — a 6’8 wing with an even longer wingspan, the 19-year-old was a consensus top 10 player entering college last fall but disappointed during his freshman year while at Stanford. He’s a good athlete, offering some explosive potential to finish above the rim, but has to gain more body mass as contact deters him far too often. If he adds significant weight to his 185-pound frame and irons out his jumper, he could prove to be more than just a role player after several years of strong development.
  • Joshua Primo — is the youngest player in this draft. As an 18-year-old on a good Alabama team, the 6’5 guard with a 6’9 wingspan struggled at times to display his full arsenal, but there’s plenty of upside here. He shot 38.1% from the 3-point line mainly on catch-and-shoots, but there’s a feeling that his handle, size and athleticism will eventual aid him in being a proficient shot-maker on the NBA level.
  • Jaden Springer — another 18-year-old but showed off an impressive array of scoring ability at Tennessee, not showing a fear of attacking the paint nor finishing through contact. The 6’4 combo guard shot 43.5% from the 3-point line, albeit on less than 2.0 attempts per game, and utilized his speed, strength and frame (6’8 wingspan) well defensively, proving to be a player who likes to compete on that end of the floor.

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