The Pelicans won’t know until next week where they’ll land in the June NBA draft.
But as the team prepares to meet with and scout prospects at this week’s NBA draft combine, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said there should be a strong prospect on the board no matter where in the top nine New Orleans lands.
The Pelicans could jump into the top three or draft between sixth and ninth, depending on the outcome of Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery. The draft is deep enough with potential starters, Fraschilla said, that New Orleans should find one in that range.
“It’s my opinion that the drop (in talent) takes place around 11 or 12, and I’ve also had a lot of teams tell me that’s what the cutoff is,” Fraschilla said on a conference call Wednesday. “So you are looking in the six to nine range at some intriguing prospects.”
The best of the possible picks might be one from a trio of perimeter players, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, Providence’s Kris Dunn and Kentucky’s Jamal Murray, who are the cream of the draft’s guard crop.
Any of those three players could go as high as third, Fraschilla said, or could slip to the six range.
If New Orleans opts to go bigger, there will be options available.
“A Jakob Poeltl (from Utah) or Henry Ellenson (from Marquette) seem to be in that range, two young big guys with a lot of potential,” Fraschilla said. “And then I think a guy that may be the best athlete in the entire draft is going to be in that range, and that’s (power forward) Marquese Chriss from the University of Washington.”
Chriss, who is climbing up draft boards, is a “freak athlete” with an “improving skill level,” Fraschilla said.
All of those prospective picks will be in Chicago for this week’s draft combine, which got under way on Wednesday and gets into full swing on Thursday. The Pelicans are expected to meet with a number of prospects.
That’s just one step in the scouting process between now and the June 23 NBA draft. By that time, a number of good players should be “staring the Pelicans in the face,” Fraschilla said.
“Each of those guys in their own way has a chance to be a very solid NBA player at various times down the road,” he said.