Some notes on the Pels picks... (1 Viewer)

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Sam Vecenie did a live-blog during the draft. Here are some excerpts of what he posted:

Zion Williamson

No surprises here. From the moment the Pelicans won the lottery, this was always going to be the pick. I’ve written extensively about why I think Williamson is the best prospect since Anthony Davis. From a scouting standpoint, the elite traits are obvious. He’s the most explosive player at his size and weight to ever enter the NBA, but he’s not just that. He pairs his prodigious leaping ability and quickness with tremendous body control and a high level feel for the game.

He’s a great scorer around the basket, can you can’t stop him from getting there. He’s also an underrated passer. Defensively, the upside here is legitimately All-Defense. From a production standpoint, he put up 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting an insane 68 percent from the field. It kind of goes without saying, but no one in the last 25 years of college basketball has achieved those benchmarks. Honestly, no one has really come close to that level of across-the-board production. His 40.8 PER doesn’t just set the record for the highest mark in the last decade; it shatters it. And to top it off, he did while still only being 18 years old.

Williamson is deserving of all the accolades he gets, and should be a wildly successful centerpiece for David Griffin to build around in New Orleans.
 
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Jaxson Hayes

Hayes is a bit lower on my board and my No. 2 center behind Goga Bitadze, so it’s not necessarily the pick I would have made. But he’s within this tier of talent, for sure, and I understand why Pelicans general manager David Griffin made the selection. He fits extremely well with what figures to be an incredibly uptempo scheme under Alvin Gentry, with point guards Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt and Zion Williamson next to him in the front line. It’s very easy to imagine the Pelicans next season leading the NBA in pace of play and alley-oops, as that is the skill Hayes is best at right now. He’s a rim-running, high-flying center with about as much athleticism as any big man in the league.

Defensively, he also fits as an inside-out defender that could allow the Pelicans to run a defensive scheme that switches 1 through 5 when he’s at his peak. He’s comfortable defending against guards when switched in pick-and-roll settings, and is a high-level shot-blocker. If there is a weakness, though, it’s rebounding. Hayes is not a particularly strong rebounder, in part due to his size but also in part because he’s a pretty chronic chaster of blocks. With Williamson and some of the other help defenders the Pelicans have, it would probably behoove him to cut that out as he continues to develop his game. Additionally, he’s also going to be pretty limited offensively to the rim-running role, although he has shown some flashes as a short roll driver (he’s a non-existent passer right now). It’s a fine pick that fits within what they’re building, but not a home run like the rest of the Pelicans’ offseason.
 
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Nickeil Alexander-Walker

This is going to be one of my favorite picks of the draft because of the perfect fit with the rest of this roster. Alexander-Walker is a three-level scorer with extremely high feel for the game offensively. He can play both on and off the ball, and he’ll consistently knock down shots both off the catch or off the dribble. He can take over as a half-court initiator at times, which will be a huge help next to Lonzo Ball, and he can play away from the ball and act as a floor spacer, something that will really help when he’s paired with Jrue Holiday.

His overall athleticism level ultimately hinders him a bit, which is the reason he’s more of a secondary ball-handler as opposed to a primary one that you can consistently run your offense through. But given the way the rest of this roster is built, and given its immense need for floor spacing around Zion Williamson, I can’t give this pick high enough marks. Great pick.
 
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I encourage you to make the investment into The Athletic. I rarely make these kinds of purchases, but I have not regretted this one for a second. There is always good content and I often don't have time to read it all. Larry Holder covers the Saints and LSU. Will Guillory has some great insights for the Pelicans. Nick Underhill covers the Pats now, but I expect to find myself reading up anyway. Lots of great national people too keep the content coming.
 

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