With the 56th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans select ... someone you have never heard of.
That will likely be the case when the Pelicans make their selection in this year’s draft on Thursday night.
It is the only pick the team has in this year’s draft, leaving for slim pickings for the team with the fifth-from-last pick in the entire draft.
“We’ll look to see if anything else is available, but it’s tough because it’s 56,” Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps said.
It’ll be the third consecutive year the team hasn’t had a pick in the first round, surrendering this year’s first round pick in the deal that brought Omer Asik to the Pelicans from the Houston Rockets.
Alvin Gentry, who was formally introduced as new head coach on Monday after finishing his duties as associate head coach at Golden State, hasn’t any reason to scratch his head and ponder who the team might select Thursday.
“I think it’s one of those deals where we have some guys in mind,” Gentry said. “Obviously you look at all the scenarios that can happen and you think of maybe picking a foreign player.
“Fifty-six is not a number where you usually can get a lot of help.”
Last year’s No. 56 pick, Devin Marble (picked by the Denver Nuggets and traded to Orlando) averaged 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds as a rookie for the Magic. He was assigned to the NBA Development League several times throughout the season.
None of the previous six players selected with the No. 56 pick were on NBA rosters this season.
But there have been some success stories at No. 56 as well. The players picked at that spot in 2007, 2005, and 2002 all made significant contributions to their respective teams this season.
Ramon Sessions, picked at the spot in 2007, was a key reserve for the Washington Wizards. The NBA journeyman averaged 6.3 points for a team that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals and started during the playoffs when John Wall was injured.
Amir Johnson, the No. 56 pick in 2005, averaged 9.3 points and 6.1 rebounds for the Toronto Raptors this season.
Perhaps the most notable player ever selected with the 56th pick (there have been at least 56 picks in the draft since 1995) is Luis Scola.
Scola was chosen by the Spurs in the 2002 draft. After being drafted, the 6-foot-9 power forward from Argentina stayed in Europe to play. His draft rights were eventually traded to the Rockets, who he made his NBA debut with in 2007. He made the first-team All-Rookie team and was third in Rookie of the Year voting that season.
Ironically, Scola almost ended up in New Orleans. He was part of the three-team deal in 2011 that would have brought him to New Orleans, sent Paul Gasol to the Rockets and sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. That deal was nullified by then-Commissioner David Stern.
This past season with the Indiana Pacers, Scola averaged 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in 81 games. He started 16 games.
The Pelicans would like nothing more than to find that type of gem.
“With the 56th pick, you’re looking to take a young international guy that you don’t have to bring along right away,” said ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla. “You can leave him in Europe to percolate a little bit ... There will be a foreign guy they can draft and say OK, let’s keep an eye out on him for the next two or three years.”
But Fraschilla said this year’s draft isn’t as deep with talented foreign players as drafts of the past.
“It is not a great foreign draft, quite frankly, outside of the top three that are going to go in the top eight,” Fraschilla said. “It’s not a great year for international players, but there’s definitely going to be some guys. … With the 56th pick you’re looking to take a guy, a young international guy, that you don’t have to bring him over right away. You can leave him in Europe to percolate a little bit.”
Tom Penn, now an NBA analyst for ESPN, has seen teams get lucky with picks late in the draft. He was part of the Portland Trail Blazers organization that drafted Patty Mills with the 55th pick in 2009. Mills went on to become a key role player on the San Antonio Spurs championship team in 2014.
“You can find talent in the late 50s,” Penn said. “You are going to see the opportunity to take a player and stash him overseas.”
Demps doesn’t anticipate the Pelicans making any deals to move up in the draft.
“If someone slips or someone comes in that we like at 56 then we’ll look at it and we’ll look to see if we can improve our draft status, but I doubt it will happen,” Demps said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”