Kira Lewis shoots a layup at Tennessee

Fast-paced Pelicans pick Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr. at No. 13

by Jim Eichenhofer

For much of the 2019-20 regular season, New Orleans played at one of the fastest paces in the NBA, before ultimately finishing fourth among the 30 teams in that statistic, averaging 103.89 possessions per 48 minutes. Perhaps it should not have been a surprise Wednesday then, when the Pelicans used the No. 13 overall draft pick to select one of college basketball’s fastest players.

With the penultimate pick in the lottery portion of Round 1, New Orleans drafted University of Alabama point guard Kira Lewis Jr. In the weeks leading up to the draft, described the 19-year-old as a blur in transition (who) can finish at the rim, things that would serve a fast-paced team like the Pelicans well.” noted that defensively Lewis has “the quickness and instincts to be a factor in the passing lanes and guarding the ball.”

The latter ability could be beneficial for a Pelicans team that ranked No. 21 in defensive efficiency last season, allowing 111.8 points per 100 possessions. Only one of the nine teams that placed below the Pelicans in the defensive rankings qualified for the NBA playoffs (Portland).

Lewis is familiar to many Gulf South college basketball fans, having played two seasons at Alabama in the SEC. He played in a pair of Crimson Tide road games in Baton Rouge against LSU, scoring double-digit points both times, including 13 points and eight assists Jan. 29. He poured in 27 points vs. the Tigers two weeks later in Tuscaloosa, highlighted by 4/6 three-point shooting.

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