Headed into executive vice president David Griffin’s fifth season in charge, the New Orleans Pelicans are in the lottery once again.
The Pelicans, who finished in ninth place in the Western Conference, hold the No. 14 pick in next week’s draft. It is the fourth time in five years they will be in the lottery with one of their own picks. (Last year’s draft was the exception. The Pelicans chose Dyson Daniels at No. 8 with one of the selections the Los Angeles Lakers owed them from the Anthony Davis trade.)
If things go right this offseason, the Pelicans won’t be back in the lottery anytime soon — at least with one of their own picks.
Here are what four different outlets predict the Pelicans will do at No. 14.
The pick: Keyonte George, 6-foot-4 guard, Baylor
The Ringer says: "George could develop slowly behind CJ McCollum and eventually take over in the starting role once it’s his time. Lively scorer with the ability to shred defenses. His playmaking and defensive intensity give him the upside to be a complete guard."
Our analysis: George has a lot of upside as a shot creator. He’s a talented playmaker off the dribble who can make difficult step-back and pull-up shots look easy. He had a productive freshman season at Baylor. He was not an especially efficient player, however, shooting 37.6% from the field. George is a skilled offensive player, but he will have to show he can fit into a team concept at the next level.
The pick: Bilal Coulibaly, 6-foot-7 wing, Metropolitans 92
ESPN says: "His physical tools, playmaking potential and two-way upside present a nice developmental bet for any type of roster construction. The Pelicans should have quite a few options at this slot, depending on which players fall here, and should be in position to deepen their perimeter options regardless."
Our analysis: Only 18 years old, Coulibaly is one of the most interesting prospects. Talent evaluators believe he has one of the widest ranges of outcomes among his peers. Coulibaly consistently plays with great effort, and he has impressive physical tools, including a 7-foot-2 wingspan. He’s a high-energy defender who has shown he can smother opponents in France. He looks good in transition, but in half-court settings, he still has a ways to go. The team that takes Coulibaly will have to be patient with him. He might need a lot of time in the G League in his rookie year.
The pick: Nick Smith, 6-foot-5 guard, Arkansas
Bleacher Report says: "After injuries affected Smith's season and inefficiency cast a cloud over it, scouts sounded pleased with his pro day. There is still plenty of confidence in his shot-making and three-level scoring, despite what the percentages at Arkansas say. Smith would give New Orleans some extra self-creation and three-level scoring off the bench."
Our analysis: Smith was a five-star recruit out of high school who had a disappointing one-and-done season at Arkansas. He dealt with a right knee injury that affected him. Smith is a scoring-minded guard. He showed nice touch on floaters, and he is a confident shooter. Like George, there are major questions about his ability to play efficient basketball. Smith shot 37.6% from the field in college.
The pick: Dereck Lively, 7-foot-1 center, Duke
CBS says: "A prototypical rim-running, shot-blocking center, Lively's athleticism and 7-7 wingspan should get him minutes right away. If New Orleans lets Jaxson Hayes walk in restricted free agency, Lively could become the center of the future for the Pelicans with Jonas Valanciunas' contract set to expire at the end of next season."
Our analysis: Lively was one of the top recruits in the 2022 high school class. His best skill, by far, is rim protection. Lively blocked 2.4 shots per game in 20.6 minutes per game in college. He had an eight-block game against North Carolina. Lively moves well for a player his size. In time, he might be able to switch screens and defend along the perimeter in spurts. He has a long ways to go offensively. Right now, he can only score if he’s being spoon-fed dunks. He averaged 5.2 points per game in college.