BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The 2022 NBA Draft is Thursday night, and it's arrival brings a wave of excitement for Pelicans fans.
After an abysmal start to the 2021-22 season, the team rallied midseason and is coming off an improbable playoff appearance that saw them beat the top seeded Phoenix Suns twice in six games and give them fits throughout the entire series.
The Pelicans are also in the incredibly uncommon, yet fortunate position to have their entire roster currently under contract for the 2022-23 season. Unlike other teams picking in the lottery (top 14 picks), the Pelicans already have a roster that is in position to compete right away, meaning that whomever the team picks at number 8 will likely be a rotational piece early on.
There is also a real possibility of the team trading back to acquire more assets and/or a veteran player that can contribute immediately.
There is a great deal of optimism surrounding this Pelicans team, and come draft time, the team is well positioned to improve even more when they come on the clock eighth overall, which is one of the many picks they acquired when they traded Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019.
When the Pelicans come on the clock, here are some of the names the team will likely be considering:
Bennedict Mathurin, Guard, Arizona
Mathurin is a 6'5 wing player who shot at a 37% rate from three-point range in his sophomore season. He's an analytics darling, as his efficiency translates to numbers frequently seen by most NBA starters. The Canadian national is incredibly athletic, with a strong upper body and a solid base. He's a slasher-type wing, meaning he does his best work off of screens and pick and rolls.
Some have compared his ceiling to NBA All-Star Kawhi Leonard, which is incredibly lofty praise, while a more feasible projection compares him to former NBA starter Quentin Richardson.
Dyson Daniels, Guard, G-League Ignite
The Australian international has been linked to the Pelicans in recent days, and picking him would perhaps most accurately represent the idea of this being a luxury pick for the Pelicans. Daniels is a developmental prospect; he has high upside, but will probably need time to develop into a consistent NBA starter.
Daniels is a playmaking wing, who played some point guard and is comfortable initiating the offense, similar to a traditional point guard.
Daniels averaged 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game this season while playing for G-League Ignite, an exhibition-only prospect team in the NBA G-League.
Shaedon Sharpe, Guard, Kentucky
Sharpe may be the most intriguing prospect in the draft. He was the top recruit out of high school, signed with Kentucky... and then never played a game for the Wildcats. Sharpe has not played competitive basketball in over a year, which has damaged his draft stock and potentially allows him to be available at pick 8.
He has size; Sharpe is 6'5 and has a strong build with good lower body strength. Similar to Mathurin, he's a fantastic slashing wing, working best off screens. However, similar to Daniels, he is raw and would likely need to develop into a consistent NBA player.
Jeremy Sochan, Forward, Baylor
Sochan has been a trendy name in the last few weeks of buildup to the draft. The Baylor forward has been compared at times to Pelicans rookie sensation Herb Jones, which could endear the team to lean in his direction.
In the eyes of many analysts, Sochan does everything well but his defensive acumen is where he really shines, as he exhibited flashes of defensive brilliance both in the paint and on the perimeter.
He may be developmental early on, but he could potentially serve as an above-average complimentary piece to Zion Williamson if the Pelicans choose to take him.
Ousmane Dieng, Forward, New Zealand Breakers
Continuing the theme of developmental players is perhaps the biggest project of all prospects that could go this early in the draft. Dieng is a French international who has excellent playmaking ability and incredible movement for a 6'9 forward. His ceiling could be reminiscent of Paul George and Ben Simmons, both All-Stars.
That being said, he is far from a finished product, and the Pelicans may not opt to wait for him to develop overseas while they are in a mode to compete for a playoff spot already.
Johnny Davis, Guard, Wisconsin
Davis is a name that's floated a bit under the radar but has many of the attributes the Pelicans frequently look for in players.
He isn't an amazing shooter, but he's a terrific ball-handler who has a pension for driving the lane and scoring in the paint. As some would say, he plays with a "toughness," and has also been lauded for his maturity.
His downside would be that he doesn't have the same upside as the majority of his counterparts, as his ceiling likely caps him as nothing more than a decent but reliable starter.
Tari Eason, Forward, LSU
A local product that's been a trendy name moving up draft boards in recent weeks, Eason has incredible upside because of his athleticism and ability to drive the lane. However, his weakness is his shooting, as he doesn't frequently shoot from the mid-range or beyond the three-point line, which can be a detriment in the modern NBA.
Eason would be a name to watch out for if the Pelicans trade down from the eighth pick.
Jaden Ivey, Guard, Purdue
Ivey is viewed by most scouts as one of the three best players in this draft class, which is why it is extremely unlikely that he will fall to the Pelicans at pick 8. Ivey would only become a Pelican if the team were to aggressively pursue him by trading into the top 3 to 5 picks.
If the team were to somehow acquire Ivey, though, his talent would make him an instant starter for a playoff caliber Pelicans team. Ivey projects as a Dwyane Wade and Ja Morant-type All-Star player at his ceiling. He shot 36% from three-point range last season and is also lauded for his ball-handling ability.
Trading up in the NBA Draft usually requires a massive haul of assets, but Ivey may be the type of game-changing player the team would be willing to go all-in on.
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