First-round prospects explain why they'd be pleased to be picked sixth by New Orleans

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

NEW YORK – A three-time All-Star who’s only 23 years old. A personable head coach. One of America’s most unique cities. World-class restaurants. Warm weather, virtually year-round.

While the focus leading up to Thursday’s NBA draft has often been on who teams want to pick, on Wednesday several lottery locks gave reasons why they’ll be pleased if they’re chosen sixth in Round 1 by the New Orleans Pelicans. From rising star Anthony Davis, to the amiable Alvin Gentry, to a few traits that make the Crescent City a premier tourist destination, a handful of NCAA stars detailed why New Orleans may be an ideal place for them to launch an NBA career.

“New Orleans was nice. I love those guys,” Oklahoma shooting guard Buddy Hield said at NYC’s Grand Hyatt hotel on Park Avenue. “Their personality and coaching staff was nice. With everybody, it felt like family. Great coaches and they have a great staff. That’s one of the locations me and my agent are looking at. New Orleans is a good fit. Anthony Davis and the point guards they have, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson. I’ve been doing my research, and that’s probably a good fit for us.”

“Dell (Demps) is a really good guy, and Coach Gentry, love him to death,” California swingman Jaylen Brown said. “It’s a really good situation they have in New Orleans and it’s a great city. Two things that give me peace of mind are music and good food. They’re the best (city) at those two, I think.”

Hield has been listed as a potential No. 6 pick by various mock drafts, including currently by CBSSports.com’s Sam Vecenie. Meanwhile, Brown was the Pelicans’ pick on an ESPN.com mock this week conducted by Chad Ford and Jay Bilas.

A third player frequently mentioned by draft analysts as a potential New Orleans first-round selection is Kentucky guard Jamal Murray, who met with the Pelicans earlier this month. In another sign of social media’s increasing impact, a fan who happened to be in the same restaurant tweeted a photo of Murray dining with Demps and Gentry. Murray smiled when he was told of the tweet.

“It was a good experience and I had fun there,” Murray said of visiting the city and Pelicans. “They have a great group of guys there.”

In terms of his evening of fine dining in New Orleans, the 19-year-old couldn’t recall the exact name of the spot where he ate, but noted that “it was a nice restaurant. It was something with fish in (its name). It was good.”

Far from the popular eateries of Louisiana’s largest city, lottery 7-footer Dragan Bender said he’s had contact with the Pelicans overseas.

“I spent some time with their scout in Tel Aviv,” the native of Croatia said, referring to where he played professionally in Israel. “(Also) they’ve been to practice in Washington when I was working out a week ago. I’ve spoken with the GM a little bit and his assistant.”

Although he’s now more commonly projected to go in the top five of the draft, dynamic Providence guard Kris Dunn is currently tabbed as the sixth pick to New Orleans by USAToday.com. Dunn, who spoke glowingly of the Pelicans and Davis at the mid-May draft combine in Chicago, reiterated Wednesday what could be beneficial to him about putting on a NOLA uniform.

“It was good. It was a good atmosphere, good energy,” Dunn said of meeting with the Pelicans last month. “They felt like they liked me as a person. I have no problem if they select me.

“There is no secret – Anthony Davis is a phenomenal player. He’s definitely a superstar, up there with LeBron and the (Kevin Durants) and the (Russell) Westbrooks. The pick-and-roll will be a lot easier, because all the attention will be on him. It would make it a lot easier for me.”

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