A number of potent perimeter options could be available to the Pelicans in this month’s NBA draft, and New Orleans is getting a closer look at a pair of them this week.
California swingman Jaylen Brown is expected to visit the Pelicans on Friday, a league source said. Kentucky shooting guard Jamal Murray met with the team earlier this week.
Brown, a 6-foot-7, 223-pound small forward, met with the Pelicans — who have the No. 6 pick in the June 23 draft — at last month’s NBA draft combine in Chicago. The 19-year-old averaged 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and two steals per game in his lone collegiate season at Cal.
He shot 43.1 percent from the field, including 29.4 percent (30 for 102) from 3-point range. But Brown is considered a strong, versatile defender, an area of need for a Pelicans team that went 30-45 this season and lacked effective two-way players on the wing.
“That’s something I see myself doing is being a two-way player in the NBA, coming in right away and focusing on defense,” Brown said at the Combine. “I think I’m a good defensive player. I have a long way to go and I have a lot to learn, but that’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to hang my hat on.”
In their most recent mock drafts, Ford and DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony projected Brown to land with the Denver Nuggets, who hold the seventh pick. CBS Sports’ Sam Vecenie has Brown going to the Phoenix Suns with the fourth pick.
Murray, who met with the Pelicans earlier this week, is a 6-5, 207-pound shooting specialist who made 113 of 277 3-pointers (40.8 percent) in his only season at Kentucky.
A native of Ontario, Canada, Murray averaged 20 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as a freshman.
Analysts differ significantly on Murray’s draft-day landing spot. Ford projects him to the Celtics at No. 3; Givony to the Kings at No. 8 and Vecenie to the Timberwolves at No. 5.
Ford and Givony have the Pelicans selecting Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield with the No. 6 pick. Vecenie has them landing Providence point guard Kris Dunn. Neither has visited New Orleans, but the Pelicans have seen Hield in a workout in Los Angeles.
But if he’s available at No. 6, Murray could be a strong fit in New Orleans, where he might have the opportunity to show skills he didn’t display at Kentucky, Vecenie said in an interview this week.
Because Murray was the Wildcats’ only consistent outside shooting threat, Vecenie said, he found little room to operate off the dribble inside the arc.
“The college game is obviously a little bit more condensed because of the shortened 3-point line and teams just (crowd) the paint,” Vecenie said. “In high school, he showed a lot of different change-of-space stuff, a lot of different change-of-direction stuff, that I think is going to translate better to the NBA than it did in his time at Kentucky.”