Can Pelicans Accelerate Rebuild With Pick No. 17?


The New Orleans Pelicans stood 10th in the reverse standings based on their 2020-2021 record, with a 20.3% chance of moving up to a higher pick.

Not-So-Lucky Lottery

The odds were not in their favor, however, with a 60.6% chance of remaining where they were. And when the envelopes were opened, the No. 10 overall pick belonged to David Griffin.

VP of Basketball Ops Swin Cash was not pleased.

July 26th

Monday afternoon, however, the first Woj bomb of draft season resulted in good news for the Pelicans.


This trade moved the Pelicans seven spots back in Thursday’s draft, but it also cleared $20 million in cap space, with the possibility of opening up $36 million if Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball are renounced.

Before we get into potential picks at 17, here are some of the best players selected with this slot over the last 35 years.

Perfect Picks

Corey Kispert – 6’7 220lbs (F – Gonzaga)

2020-21 Stats : 18.6 PPG / 5 RPG / 44% 3Pt

Age: 22 / NBA Comp : More-athletic Joe Harris

If Corey Kispert slips to #17, there’s no doubt he should be the Pelicans’ pick. Kispert is a match made in heaven for Zion Williamson. A sharpshooting big is exactly what is needed in the rotation after the team finished 25th in the league in three-point percentage at 34.8%.

With four seasons at Gonzaga (three starting), Corey racked up accolades including 1st Team All-American, WCC Player of the Year, 2x First Team All-WCC, and the Julius Erving Award, given to the top collegiate small forward. With the Pelicans running “Point Zion” later in the season, Williamson would drive and kick to players around the perimeter, who would either a) miss the shot or b) not attempt it. Kispert is an excellent “bail-out” type shooter as he is constantly moving around to open up the court and free himself for open shots.

In his pre-draft interviews, the Gonzaga forward expressed his thoughts on the possibility of playing for the Pelicans, specifically saying that he is “tailor-made” to play with guys like Zion.

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  • Best shooter in the draft
  • Great in transition
  • Moves to set self up for shots
  • Smooth and quick shooting form


  • Slow to get open space offensively
  • Can be beat off dribble by quicker players
  • Tends to fall back when switched onto guards
  • Bad turnovers

Davion Mitchell – 6’1 205lbs (G – Baylor)

2020-21 Stats : 14 PPG / 5.5 APG / 1.9 SPG / 45% 3Pt

Age : 22 / NBA Comp : Jrue Holiday

Right away, the height glares out at you.

In the past 11 drafts, only five guys 6’1 or shorter have been picked with a top-ten selection. These five are Darius Garland, Trae Young, Collin Sexton, Trey Burke and Kemba Walker. Aside from Sexton, the others have been criticized for not having much of a defensive prowess.

This is not the case for 2021 National Champion Davion Mitchell. The 22-year-old not only is a great defender — averaging 1.9 SPG with a game-high of four twice — but also shoots three pointers at a 45% clip with 4.7 attempts per game.

After transferring from Auburn sophomore year, Mitchell became a two-year starter for the University of Baylor. There, he played in 60 games with a record of 54-6 and finished his collegiate career as a NCAA Champion. Mitchell also claimed the 2021 Big 12 DPOY Award, becoming the first player in school history to earn such honors. With the Eric Bledsoe trade and the potential of losing Lonzo Ball in free agency, Davion Mitchell could be a name for the Pelicans to watch for on draft night.


  • Creates space for shots
  • Quick handles
  • Shows playmaking (5.5 APG)
  • Excellent isolation defender (see Big 12 Semis)


  • Size
  • Free-throw shooting (66% in 2019-20 / 64% in 2020-21)
  • Loses control on drives
  • Lacks foul drawing abilities

Keon Johnson – 6’5 185lbs (G – Tennessee)

2020-21 Stats : 11.3 PPG / 3.5 RPG / 1.1 SPG

Age : 19 / NBA Comp : Jaylen Brown

Johnson only played one year at Tennessee, but he showed he was an NBA-caliber player in that short time. The two-time Tennessee Mr. Basketball winner led his hometown Volunteers to an 18-9 record alongside Jaden Springer (potential late first-round pick). Johnson contributed 14 points, six rebounds and three steals in the Volunteers’ first-round upset loss in the NCAA Tournament.

His performance throughout the season, however, notched him a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team and NBA scouts took notice.

The reason Johnson would fit great with the Pelicans is simple. Defense.

The 6’5 shooting guard was one of the most aggressive defenders in college basketball this season. He was everywhere on the court, diving out of bounds to save balls, heavily pressuring the other team’s ball handlers tightly, staying attached on screens, and even blocking a shot when his back was turned away from his defender. If the Pelicans re-sign Lonzo, they would become a defensive nightmare most NBA backcourts would be terrified of.


  • Explosiveness
  • Constant motor
  • Doesn’t get beat off dribble
  • Post fade-away move (48% on all post ups)


  • Fouling
  • Ballhandling
  • Shot selection
  • Three-point shooting (27%)

Fallback Options

Jalen Johnson – 6’9 220lbs (F – Duke)

  • 2020-21 Stats : 11.2 PPG / 6.1 RPG / 1.2 BPG / 1.2 SPG
  • Age : 19 / NBA Comp : Rudy Gay

Kai Jones – 6’11 220lbs (F – Texas)

  • 2020-21 Stats : 8.8 PPG / 4.8 RPG / 58% FG
  • Age : 20 / NBA Comp : Jaxson Hayes

Deuce McBride – 6’2 1/2 195lbs (G – West Virginia)

Regardless of what transpires tomorrow night, the Pelicans are primed for an uptick in their rebuild.

Follow us on Twitter @PelicansLead for the latest Pelicans news and insight. 

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About Brian Hunter Vollman

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