In a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2013 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans sent their 2013 first round pick (Nerlens Noel) and their 2014 first round pick (top-5 protected) for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson, the 42nd pick in the 2013 draft.
Well, the Pelicans were too good to qualify for a top five pick, so it looks like their selection is being shipped up to Philly. In such a loaded draft, the Pelicans really could have used that draft choice, which will be a mid-lottery pick, but maybe it’s not as bad as it may seem.
The Pelicans, who finished off their regular season with a 34-48 record, have a surprisingly good roster base to build around, and unlike most of the teams drafting in the lottery, they weren’t relying on a top pick to turn their team around.
With franchise cornerstone and All-Star Anthony Davis manning the power forward position, the team already has the single player they need to build around for years to come. Davis, 21, is already one of the best players in the league. Add in the fact that he hasn’t nearly reached his “prime” and there’s suddenly a bright sense of hope down in NOLA.
Next to Davis, you have 25-year old Eric Gordon (left), who at one point averaged 20 points per game in the league. A full, healthy season from him could make all the difference in a team that struggle to put their top players on the court at times. Next come both Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson, both of which had up-and-down seasons. Both players, however, have proven to be more than quality starters at one point or another, but both come with questions entering next season.
Anderson missed most of 2013-14 with a herniated disk, and while he should be healthy come next season, it should be interesting to see how he plays. Evans, on the other hand, struggled for the early parts of the season, but after being named a starter in early March, averaged 20.4 points for the month.
Those four players I mentioned give New Orleans a safe, and talented roster, not to mention the reason why they don’t have a first round pick this draft, Jrue Holiday.
Holiday only appeared in 35 games for the Pelicans this season, and missed some games due to injury. When he saw the floor, he averaged a respectable 14.3 points per game, along with 7.9 assists. Giving up two first rounders in back to back drafts might be a bold move, but if New Orleans can get the All-Star Jrue Holiday next season, it may all be worth it.
You could make a case that New Orleans could use an upgrade at center, where 28-year-old Jason Smith saw most of the minutes. But it’s tough to say their draft pick could help that, as this is a weaker draft as far as centers go aside from Joel Embiid of Kansas.
The Pelicans will also be entering free agency with about $13.5 million in cap space – not a whole lot – but enough to fill up some minor holes on the roster, and maybe go out and sign another depth center to improve the overall roster.
The Pelicans as they are right now are a solid team if healthy, with no gaping holes that could be fixed with a lottery pick. Having a player like Jrue Holiday, who is a proven star in this league, is more valuable than an unproven draft pick, no matter how deep this draft is. Maybe this isn’t the most ideal draft to not have a selection in, but the way the Pelicans’ roster looks come 2014-15, it may not be something to worry about.
Shawn McFarland covers the New Orleans Pelicans for HoopsHabit.com