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Grading the New Orleans Pelicans 2021 NBA Draft

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Landing Trey Murphy and Herbert Jones at picks 17 and 35 garnered good grades

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What overall grade would you give the Pelicans for emerging from the 2021 NBA Draft with Trey Murphy III and Herbert Jones, while moving their final three second round picks (2 trades, 1 sold outright)? Why? Was there a player you overwhelming preferred that was still on the board at any selection?

Kevin: B+

This B+ is sniffing an A-. I do really like the offseason so far — even with some moves feeling two years after they should have been made and others like they are mainly righting old wrongs. That being said, the capital of getting out of the Bledsoe and Adams’ contracts can be found in between my couch cushions.

Sliding down in the first round did hurt some because Moses Moody, my top target, fell to 14. Without having to dump two contracts (though we did also pick up a nice player in the trade), we could have landed my top guy. However, Trey Murphy III, or 3M3 as some unknown genius has already dubbed him, is a stiffer, slightly less play-makey, but longer version of Moody. Murphy can light it up from deep and the Pelicans need all of the help on that end that they can get. Jonas Valančiūnas is also a nice bonus to come along with the 3M3.

I know some are excited about his floor stretching ability, and while I do believe JV’s 3-point attempts will increase significantly this coming season, I find all stretch 5s to be a bit of a stretch. I do not think he will pull any defenders out of the paint when the other choice is leaving Zion Williamson single or double covered instead of triple covered. That being said, having a guy who can knock down and is willing to take an open 3, or even a midrange shot, opens up options for Zion so that’s certainly a positive.

Valanciunas is also a much more skilled offensive player around the basket than Adams, but he won’t do a lot to improve the Pelicans defense individually. However, if you lump him into the 1st round pick of Murphy it’s a really nice haul — especially because I don’t see anyone that was picked after Murphy that I’d rather have had.

The 2nd round was more disappointing to me. I wish we would have taken more swings. We need a lot of help, so landing a 2nd round gem would have been massive. I would have loved to have used all of the picks we had to do some internal stashing in Birmingham like the Spurs did for a few years with Jaron Blossomgame. It would have been nice to also have fielded a super stocked Summer League team.

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I definitely don’t have an issue with the Herb Jones pick — he’s a very promising player who could be a steal if he learns how to shoot, but I would have liked to have grabbed Joe Wieskamp there as he has the most needed and easy to translate skill. We could have had both if the salary dump trade had not have had to take place as the Pels had the 40th pick and Wieskamp was selected 41. Then the Pels traded the pick that became Greg Brown III — another tantalizing prospect that at his ceiling could be a more athletic version of Jerami Grant — a guy many of us think would be a great fit in the forward rotation with Zion and Ingram. If nothing else he would have lit up Summer League like Jaxson Hayes did and given the Squadron some box office magic with his highlight reel dunks. The Pels also could have used that pick to grab Sharife Cooper who fell into the 2nd round to the shock of many draft experts.

I’m not going to lose sleep over wasted 2nd round opportunities, but I will take a few points off of the overall grade.

Chris: A

They deserve an A when you consider the entire process involved to get to 17. When you’re able to shed Adams/Bledsoe, get back the best player in the deal in Valanciunas, and get the perfect fit with upside seven picks later? You did a damn good job in playing your cards.

Trey Murphy can be a player for this team right away if they need him to be, without having immense pressure to play above his current standing, or develop too quickly. You know about all the 3-and-D stuff so you don’t need to hear it from me.

The Herb Jones pick also addressed the team’s needs to get more flexible on the wing. While the shooting isn’t there yet, it won’t need to be immediately as he’ll probably spend most of his time in Birmingham. Jones brings a defense-first mentality that this team can use down the line, along with good ball handling and passing ability for a guy his size.

On basketball IQ alone, New Orleans came out winners. A really great start to an important off season.

Mike: B

Consensus be damned, many teams every year are purportedly thrilled that they were able to secure players that they’d targeted in their draft preparation. The failure of many such “successes” beyond the night the names are called hasn’t affected any team’s desire to boast in some way or another, a behavior that former Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy poked fun at once the dust settled.

Unsurprisingly, the organization seems happy with their haul in the lead up to new head coach Willie Green’s first season leading the bench. Murphy and Jones lack the shine of the potentially star-studded top five picks, but both stand to bring real translatable skills to a team that should still be welcoming any and all rotation configurations.

Picking two players and trading the rest of the picks was sensible given the already high concentration of young players. Prior to their trade with Memphis, I could’ve been tantalized by the possibility of trading up into the top half of the lottery. Alas, the Pelicans seemed to play the cards they had on Thursday night about as well as they could have.

All signs point towards many more moves to come this off-season, which will push both rookies out of the spotlight in their first season. Even so, more roster turnover and the opportunity to compete with the many other young players means they could wind up playing meaningful minutes sooner rather than later. The Pelicans may have pronounced their happiness with the outcome of Thursday night no matter what, but there is reason to trust that assessment this time around.

Preston: B+

Following a clunky start to the offseason, with the removal of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams for draft position and capital one year after giving up assets to acquire them, the Pelicans have rebounded nicely with a draft that fits both the timeline and needs perfectly.

How long have we openly pined for the ideal 3-and-D perimeter player who can properly complement the team’s stars while opening up the floor? Not only did the Pelicans nail upside and fit with Trey Murphy III, they may have grabbed a steal in Herb Jones. Jones is a wing who adds playmaking, defense, and most importantly, a vet’s level of intelligence.

That’s what sticks out most to me. While it’s rare for rookies drafted in the latter half of the first round or second to contribute, these two athletes are about as close as they can get. Each adds an NBA-ready skill (defense, shooting) that should make them as close to plug-and-play as it gets. Though Murphy is likely to struggle out of the gate, by the time the Pelicans get close to the back half of the schedule, he should be ready to contribute. If the Pelicans wind up adding Kyle Lowry next week, they’ll be in an optimal position to surge up the standings in the Western Conference and right into the playoff mix.

Murphy and Jones were optimal selections for the Pelicans position and should fill roles nicely. However, if not for the Steven Adams extension and the decision to keep Bledsoe rather than George Hill, the Pelicans may very well have been selecting James Bouknight, Moses Moody or Corey Kispert. Still, given their circumstance, they did as well as they could have, though, I would’ve liked to see the Pelicans spend at least one more second-round selection on either Jared Butler, Sharife Cooper, or Kessler Edwards. Still all in all, a very solid draft and a lot to be excited about.

David: B

I’ll give the Pelicans a B for the 2021 NBA Draft. They managed to move down seven slots (and get Jonas Valanciunas while sending out Bledsoe, Adams, and a protected 2022 Lakers 1st) and still got their guy. Preferred Moses Moody, but Trey Murphy III was high on my list too.

At 35, I would have much rather watched the Pelicans select Ayo Dosunmu from Illinois. Granted, there’s some overlap with Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis, but I felt like Dosunmu was the best value there for New Orleans. That’s the difference between a B and an A for me. Herbert Jones gets to enroll in the Fred Vinson School for Wayward Shooters and spend a lot of time I’d guess with the Birmingham Squadron. Pelicans had a type in the draft (high-IQ defending wings) and got two of them.

I expected the Pelicans to flip the rest of their seconds into the future or for cash. They did that. Just not enough roster spots (or coaching time) to have that many rookies around. I was impressed they managed to snag a second out of the Clippers.

Charlie: A

Despite my beloved Moses Moody falling past the original Pelicans pick at 10 and all the way to 14, I give the front office an A for this draft performance.

Let’s start with the trade itself, the Pels were able to get off to notably onerous contracts while *adding* a top 10 Center in the league. Effectively for the cost of one protected Lakers pick.

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Landing Trey Murphy III at 17 is an absolute dream come true. Murphy gives you a hard working 3-and-D wing that this franchise has lacked since the days of Trevor Ariza. Not only that, but Murphy’s demonstrated a maturity beyond his years, excitement to be with the franchise and sensational track record of improving year over year. For a team that already has two young superstars, he’s the exact fit you hope for. Getting him while adding Valanciunas and getting off Bledsoe and Adams makes it a masterstroke.

Herb Jones was a bit of a surprise to me at 35; however, I feel the team looked itself in the mirror and decided not to overthink things. Getting a superb defensive forward who’s got a great motor and needs to simply add a jumpshot is something this franchise can work with. We all know The Magnificent Vinson is licking his chops for his next great shooting project. Should Jones get a reformed jump shot, he could be an immensely valuable rotation piece down the line.

Selling one pick and flipping the other two down the road that also included cash consideration equates to the SVG tax in my eyes, so that was perfectly fine. Though I would have liked them to grab Sharife Cooper in the second round, the teams’ core of eight or so players should be getting a few more additions through free agency so the roster didn’t need to be overcrowded.

Oleh: B

Entering this draft armed with five selections, I had hoped to see the Pelicans either trade up and land a favorite lottery pick of mine or leave with three players at their draft slots, two smart fits destined for regular contracts and one two-way or draft-and-stash candidate. They came darn close.

Trey Murphy III and Herbert Jones are what the doctor had ordered. I was high on Murphy’s 3-and-D ways prior to the draft, but Jones’ abilities much less so — until I started reading up on him and then came across this.

True story: I’ve already watched this clip 10+ times.

Seeing Kessler Edwards, one of my personal favorites, selected 44th and Juhann Begarin, a great potential draft-and-stash, go 45th stung a bit. New Orleans had the 43rd pick, but it was flipped to Portland in a trade for a future second and cash.

One other thing that I’ll ponder for at least the next few years, this draft had three players in the lottery that I strongly believe would have made for home run additions to a Zion-Ingram core: Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner. Seeing the Magic wind up with two of them, well, let’s just say I’m already planning to watch 10+ Orlando games next season. Life is funny like that sometimes.

Travis: B+

I can appreciate the styles of play as represented by these two. Statistically, the best tall shooter and defender in Murphy, and a skills and ball-moving man with major defensive chops in Jones. This team has got to defend and maybe these two grow into helpful D roles; would love to see how they do their thing on offense, but “if you squint” you could see Zion with other tall wings all over the floor: how about them 3 with NAW and BI? Whoa. Or pairing Jones with Naji Marshall? Call me crazy, but I’d watch a lot of that. They could both play immediately, appearing in important minutes for a team desperate to make the playoffs now. I’ll call it a B+ just to make sure I don’t go overboard…

Justin: A-

Overall, I would give the Pelicans an A-. I firmly believe that the drafting of Murphy was exactly what the squad needed. After a season of viewing less than ideal shooting, drafting a solid 3-and-D wing is just what the fans asked for.

Herb Jones was interesting to me, but I think he represents good value for where the team was able to get him. The reason I gave them an A- comes with what they did with the last few picks. I feel like selling one to Philadelphia was a bit of a head scratcher if the plan was also to move away from the other two.

On one hand, they were and still are a young team, so adding more young, raw talent would not make much sense. But on the other hand, a steal can happen at any point of the draft. Trading away two of your last three picks and selling the third may come back to bite the Pels in the butt. I hope it doesn’t, but who knows.

All in all, another positive for this crucial offseason for the Pelicans front office.

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