NBA Draft – Pelicans Don’t Deserve an A, Winners, Losers and Other Takeaways

What a night last night! This was the first time I have actually sat down and watched the NBA Draft in years. When you live in New Orleans, basketball is an after thought. They have always been the B-Franchise to the Saints or the red-headed stepchild.

Since the passing of Tom Benson, new owner and wife Gayle Benson of the late former has done everything in her power to make sure that notion is no longer valid. If you thought they were here to mess around, think no more.

Now I know you probably read that headline thinking either click bait or shock jock. Quite frankly, it is neither. The Pelicans don’t deserve an A for last night’s draft. Because what they did is far beyond worthy of an A.

Quite frankly, they went from graduating high school to taking the Bar exam.

They did the one thing they should have done, not overthink anything. They made the right moves in acquiring draft capital as well as young players to keep them afloat for years to come. Even if this team only wins 35 games this year, this will be the most exciting 35 win team you ever see.

I am more excited about the state of the Pelicans than I ever have been. This isn’t someone who says this year after year when they overpay guys like Solomon Hill. This isn’t the hometown guy who screams that every player brought in by the Saints or Pelicans is THE ANSWER.

One of the reasons the sister team that is the Saints have found success is because they draft smart. They don’t go for sexy. They are willing to take guys like Cam Jordan or Ryan Ramczyk early. That is the formula the Pelicans followed.

1st Pick – Zion Williamson

There was not another option here. Of course this pick is by all definitions sexy. But you get my point. No overthinking. “We got number one. We got Zion.” He is the most coveted prize piece since LeBron James. Did you see the draft party in Fulton Alley yesterday? That party isn’t happening without Zion. He gives an instant uplift to a desperate franchise who can’t seem to keep their stars happy.

8th Pick – Jaxson Hayes

Although intriguing prospect Cam Reddish was sitting here at 8, they decided to address a desperate need, bigs. They added a towering big here who is known for his defensive prowess, rim protecting and ability to finish underneath.

17th Pick – Nickeil Alexander-Walker

With some of the other perimeter offensive studs off the board here, the Pelicans land Alexander-Walker. He gives the Pels a solid scoring option off the bench as a ball handler who excels in the pick-and-roll and someone who can knock them down from long range. That addresses another need for the Pels, 3 point shooting.

35th Pick – Marcos Louzada Silva

Call it a project because that is what it is. Once you reach the latter part of the draft, you hope for the best. The glaring need for 3 point shooters made sense for the Pels to take a shot at Silva. Across 3 leagues in 2018-19, the guy knocked down 73 of 171 long balls. When you have someone sitting there at 35 who can shoot at nearly 43% from deep, go for it.

Final Grade: Whatever Grade You Can Possibly Give Above “A+”

The Pelicans made all the right moves leading up to the draft and using their picks wisely. I am in complete disbelief that the Pelicans actually look like a competent organization. I texted some buddies last night and it may be bold, but I’ll go on record and in writing with it. New Orleans will become a basketball city more so than a football city in 5 years. The combination of the Pelicans on the rise and life after Brees makes that a very possible situation. A bold one, but possible.

New Orleans is a front-runner market whether you want to believe it or not. That is perfectly ok. One of my friends who has season tickets was bitching about how much love the Pels are getting now. I said just remember that those are the people who will keep them here long term. Embrace them. Front runner are the sure sign that things look good.

Other Winners

Aside from the Pelicans, some of the other draft classes I liked were the following…

Atlanta Hawks

After trading some of their draft capital with the Pelicans to move up, the Hawks found themselves in prime position to take two guys they want and need.

They land De’Andre Hunter at 4 and then Cam Reddish falls to them at 10. Hunter gives them a 3 and D wing they need to pair with rookie star Trae Young. Reddish carries more upside than most of the picks preceding him. The Hawks get two prime pieces to add to an already young and exciting roster.

Memphis Grizzlies

They moved Mike Conley and his large contract to begin their rebuilding process which will be centered around the number two pick, Ja Morant. They also landed Brandon Clarke at 21 who gives them an explosive power forward. Run and gun baby.

Portland Trail Blazers

They had one draft pick and sometimes better lucky than good. They landed Nassir Little who fell all the way down to 25. For a team that found themselves in the Western Conference Finals, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Nassir Little sounds like a damn good trio.

San Antonio Spurs

What else is new?

Losers

Phoenix Suns

Point blank, they traded away number 6 and reached for Cameron Johnson at number 11.

Houston Rockets

With no draft picks for a franchise that has a lot of off-season noise already, probably not a good thing.

Bol Bol

Yikes. What a fall he had considering he was supposed to be a top 5 pick. What does the NBA know about him that no one is telling us? Nuggets certainly got a fantastic value pick in the 2nd round getting him.

Biggest Takeaway

One of the things I loved about this year’s NBA draft is the humility, professionalism, emotion and human element to the class. There were so many amazing feel good moments and laughs throughout the night. It was refreshing to see in all honesty.

I am all for trash talk and I am all for competition, but on nights like draft night, it should be a celebration of all the victories leading up to it. That is all we got.

Zion, Ja and RJ All Get Choked Up

From 1st pick when the Pels took Zion, he couldn’t even muster up any words for his emotions. You could tell it was genuine as it gets. Then, when he goes to talk about his mom, it just gets better from there. After his mom begins telling everyone watching how proud she is and the standard she has held him to his entire life, he regains composure and two words heard in New Orleans made everyone jump for joy. “Let’s Dance.”

Dance we will Zion. Dance, we will.

It was followed up with Ja Morant getting choked up with his father talking about the sacrifices his dad made to help him get to this position. It showed them working out together on fundamentals, strength and endurance.

Another top star selected, another emotional moment with dad from RJ Barrett. As his dad walks up, he just rests his head on his shoulder and starts letting the emotion pour out. As his dad is trying to answer the questions, he too gets choked up when he talks about setting goals and making sure to go out and achieve them.

I think with sports, society tends to forget these are humans. In a lot of cases in sports, you can tell when the emotions are fake and not one of those moments with the parents were fake. If they were, they all may want to consider careers in acting. It was just great to see.

As the great Jim Valvano said,

“To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”

You got all the that from the sure fire top 3 picks last night.

Coby White Reaction to Cameron Johnson Going 11th

It has been about 24 hours since the video was released and I have already watched it half a dozen times. As Coby White is doing his presser for being selected 6th overall, a reporter breaks the news that his former teammate Cam Johnson was selected at 11. Between the look of shock and awe and pure joy on his face and in his words, it was the coolest moment of the draft. Here he is in the biggest moment of his life, he seems genuinely happier for his teammate than himself. If the Bulls want to know what kind of teammate they got, they received their answer during that presser.

RJ Barrett Post Draft Hilarity

During his presser for being selected by the Knicks, he says into the microphone as he walked off the podium “Yo, I’m a Knick!”

Not only did he do that, earlier today he was speaking french answering a question for a french reporter. As soon as he finished answering the question, he says “that was nice. Wasn’t it?”

Considering he is in New York, that means he will need to keep that big personality up and I love it. It seems like New York loves him too. Quite frankly, the dumpster fire in New York has been fun to laugh at. But it would be cool if a guy like RJ could help turn it around.

Final Thoughts

Let’s Dance because ZOLA is here babyyyyy!

 

 

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