The Pelicans have made their final picks in the 2016 draft. More importantly, they have set themselves up for sustainable long-term success.
Dell Demps has never been a fan of the NBA draft.
The last time he kept a pick was 2012, when he selected Anthony Davis first overall. Since then, most of his picks have been traded on draft night or the season before it. Instead of gambling, he’s played it safe. Instead of building for the future, he’s prioritized the present.
After a playoff berth last season most Pelicans fans expected an improvement this season. A new coach, bolstered bench, and a fully healthy roster for the first time in years were all signs of an exciting upcoming season.
Everyone got injured, players struggled to adjust, and the Pelicans quickly became one of the worst teams in the league. Attention immediately shifted to Demps, who had total control over the Pelicans 2016 draft pick. Would he wait patiently and reap the picks benefits in June? or would he trade it away and try to salvage a lost season?
For whatever reason, Demps was smart enough to sit tight. In fact, he dealt away fan favorite Ish Smith to get another pick in the upcoming draft despite the short-term consequences. When the lottery balls fell earlier this month, he secured the 6th, 39th, and 40th picks as his reward.
Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) is interviewed after being selected as the number six overall pick to the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Buddy Hield – A+
Make no mistake, the perils of the 2015-2016 season are officially worth the reward.
With the 6th pick in the draft Demps has selected Buddy Hield, a player who has stardom written all over him. In my mind, and the minds of dozens of other scouts and writers, Buddy is a special talent. He’s a self-made player who prides himself on his work ethic and drive, not his talent or potential.
Buddy has been criticized for his age more than anything else. Few can deny his skill-set or mentality, so they turn to his birthday as his greatest weakness. At 22 years old with four years of college basketball under his belt, the expectations he faces are greater than that of a freshman or sophomore.
He has met and surpassed those expectations completely.
Buddy averaged 25.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game on an insane 45% from three and 66% TS% from the floor. He’s an athlete, he has a 6’10” wingspan, and he has the perfect head on his shoulders to keep improving despite his age.
Buddy has already begun to electrify the city of New Orleans. His personality and confidence quickly charmed those who interviewed and spoke to him, and his appreciation for the culture here in New Orleans is evident. To quote the Mr. Hield, “They felt like family.”
Combining his rookie deal and restricted extension, the Pelicans will have Buddy locked down until the day he turns 30. Expect those eight years to be filled with cherished memories and sustained excitement.
Buddy is the definition of a fan favorite.
Cheick Diallo – B+
Demps traded the 39th and 40th picks in the draft for the 33rd to swoop in and grab Cheick Diallo.
Diallo isn’t remarkably versatile, but he undeniably brings hustle and energy. He’s faster and more athletic than most NBA big men and can run the floor at an uptempo pace. Diallo is short (6’9″) for a center, but he has a remarkable 7’4″ wingspan and averages 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes.
The dream scenario for Diallo is that he could be a Ben Wallace type. An undersized center who competes hard on the defensive end and hustles for rebounds and blocks. Diallo could legitimately compete for a spot in the Pelicans regular season rotation, and fans will fall in love with his dedication and effort.
Diallo averaged 16.0 points and 13.4 rebounds per 40 minutes in just his freshman year and never looked outmatched on the floor. He and Davis could compose an elite defensive front court that stifles slashing guards with their unrelenting athleticism.
Demps has chosen two guys who love to compete. Two high character machines filled with energy and a drive. In a league where everyone is talented in one way or another, betting on will and determination is a smart move both on the court and in the locker room.
For the first time in a long time, the Draft has given Pelicans fans reason to be optimistic about the future of their team…..