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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 10: Bennedict Mathurin #0 of the Arizona Wildcats shoots against James Keefe #22 of the Stanford Cardinal during the Pac-12 Conference basketball tournament quarterfinals at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats defeated the Cardinal 84-80. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Draft sites project Pelicans to focus on shooting at No. 8 pick

En route to defying the odds and qualifying for the 2022 Western Conference playoffs, New Orleans was forced to overcome 1-12 and 3-16 records to open the regular season. The Pelicans also needed to compensate for below-average perimeter shooting, as one of just two teams to finish 27th or lower in both three-point percentage (27th at 33.2) and three-pointers made (28th at 10.6 per game).

As three-point shooting becomes an increasingly greater factor in today’s NBA, how difficult is it to reach the postseason without average accuracy in that category? Well, New Orleans (36-46) was the only club to finish in the bottom 10 in three-point percentage and still reach the playoffs. The league’s four worst records all came from that group (Houston 21st in percentage, Orlando 28th, Detroit 29th, Oklahoma City 30th), as well as three squads that went from a ’21 playoff berth to lottery status (Washington 26th, Portland 23rd, Lakers 22nd).

Given that reality, NBA teams are constantly trying to find more shooting. While perusing national websites and their recently-released mock drafts, that was a common theme as they tried to project what New Orleans will do with the eighth overall pick, which was conveyed as part of a 2019 trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. The following predictions and comments are opinions from the respective sites:

The Athletic: Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona guard

“The Pelicans should continue to look to add shooting to surround a core around Zion Williamson. Mathurin fits really well as a player who could make an impact as soon as next year on a playoff team and fits really well potentially on the wing with defensive dynamo Herb Jones.”

Basketball News: AJ Griffin, Duke forward

“AJ Griffin is 6-6 and possesses a 7-foot wingspan. He is a powerful and versatile wing with a tremendous physical profile and promising skill set. Griffin has also shown the ability to create for both himself and others. After missing the early part of this season due to injury, he has solidified himself as one of the best shooters in the country at 44.7% from deep.”

Bleacher Report: Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona guard

“The Pelicans would feel Mathurin’s explosiveness and shot-making from day one. Regardless of how much his off-the-dribble game develops, he is built to fit in quickly and contribute as a catch-and-shoot weapon and finisher off transition and cuts.”

CBSSports.com: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas guard

“Agbaji could make an NBA team better immediately as a plug and play 3-and-D wing. Considering the Pelicans are already a playoff team, he makes sense here, even though he’s an older prospect. Solid NBA starter may be his ceiling, but the development he showed from his junior to senior season showcased his relentless work ethic and capacity for improvement.”

ESPN.com: AJ Griffin, Duke forward

“The Pelicans really struggled to space the floor effectively at times this past season, ranking among the worst 3-point shooting teams in the NBA in both makes and accuracy. Griffin, who made 45% of his 3-pointers, is arguably the best shooter in the draft and also one of the youngest players in this class.”

NBA.com (consensus): Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona guard

“A willing shooter who established himself as one of the nation’s best shooters off the catch. His skillset should translate well to the NBA, where spacing should help him get his shot.”

NBADraft.net: Shaedon Sharpe, Kentucky guard

“An elite run/jump athlete with very good strength to play through contact and play physical.”

The Ringer: Johnny Davis, Wisconsin guard

“Jose Alvarado and his viral defensive tactics make him a perfect backup behind CJ McCollum, who is playing the best individual basketball of his life since the Pelicans empowered him to be the team’s lead playmaker. Their respective success should give New Orleans only more reason to find one more guard, and Davis could be the perfect two-way addition.”

SB Nation: Keegan Murray, Iowa forward

“While Murray certainly has a high floor in the league, his ceiling is questionable. He’s not an electric shot creator off the dribble, and he’s not blowing anyone away athletically. He should have a long career as a 3-and-D forward, but taking him in this range would be trying to hit a double rather than a home run. While Murray likely won’t last this long, his shooting would be a natural fit next to Zion Williamson.”

SI.com: Dyson Daniels, G League Ignite, guard/forward

“Daniels has no glaring holes in his game, and while he’s not going to be a No. 1 scoring option in the NBA, very few players ever are. He is among the most versatile players in the draft and could help form some fascinating super-sized lineups in New Orleans.”

USA Today/FTW: Jeremy Sochan, Baylor forward

“The Pelicans had three rookies (Herbert Jones, Jose Alvarado, Trey Murphy) in their rotation who were relatively unheralded this season. As someone who exceeded expectations, Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan fits a similar profile as those guys. Sochan wasn’t a projected one-and-done player, but he will make a living as perhaps the best wing defender in the class.”

Yahoo! Sports: Johnny Davis, Wisconsin guard

“Davis remains one of the safest picks in the lottery with his intensity, hard-working mindset and consistent play. There's a lot of long-term value and upside in Davis, and even though he might not be the superstar to change the franchise, he is a nice complementary piece to Zion Williamson – if and when he returns to the court for the Pelicans.”

Other mock drafts (no comments provided)

CBSSports.com (Gary Parrish): Johnny Davis, Wisconsin guard

CBSSports.com (Kyle Boone): AJ Griffin, Duke forward

NetScouts Basketball: Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona guard