Tre Jones (3) celebrates the SEC title with R.J. Barrett (left) and Zion Williamson

NBA virtual draft combine: Tre Jones references Pelicans’ deep Duke connection

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Last fall, JJ Redick described the New Orleans Pelicans as “Duke South,” due to the Southwest Division team’s roster featuring five former Duke Blue Devils players. The Pelicans also have a front-office member, GM Trajan Langdon, who played college basketball at the Durham, N.C. school.

As a result, when the Pelicans were brought up to Tre Jones during Tuesday’s virtual NBA draft combine, the two-year Duke guard immediately began smiling. A teammate of Zion Williamson during the 2018-19 college season, Jones indicated that he’s familiar with each of the five Blue Devils-turned-Pelicans, a group that also includes Brandon Ingram, Frank Jackson and Jahlil Okafor.

“I actually know all of them,” Jones said, grinning. “Most of them I know really well. JJ’s the oldest one, but after that, they’re all around my age. One of them obviously I played with.”

Asked what it would be like to join so many fellow Dukies in the Crescent City, Jones replied, “It would be extremely fun to be able to connect with those guys, to be able to play on the same team as them, and hopefully win games with those guys. Having Trajan Langdon in the front office would be amazing. It would be a ‘(Duke) Brotherhood connect’ down there. Being able to play with those type of guys would be amazing. It would be a good connection, for sure.”

Jones is projected by NBADraft.net’s mock draft as the No. 43 overall pick to Sacramento (New Orleans owns a pair of picks right before then at 39 and 42), but Jones noted Tuesday that his agent believes he’ll be taken “mid- to late-first round.”

The younger brother of Memphis Grizzlies reserve point guard Tyus Jones – also a Duke product – Tre teamed up with Williamson in ’18-19 to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and register a 32-6 overall record.

Memphis double-double machine projected as possible lottery pick

Memphis freshman Precious Achiuwa was supposed to play alongside James Wiseman (No. 3 to Charlotte on NBA.com’s consensus mock draft) last season, but Wiseman’s stint with the Tigers lasted just three games. Achiuwa became a double-double machine sans Wiseman, including 22 points and 22 rebounds at Tulane on Feb. 29, resulting in a rapid move for the 21-year-old up draft boards. The 6-foot-9 forward is projected in the range of New Orleans’ lottery pick, with Achiuwa currently 14th to Boston on NBA.com’s consensus mock draft.

“My goal was to be able to put myself in a position to where I could become a pro,” Achiuwa said Tuesday, after being asked about his play following Wiseman’s departure. “That was one of the reasons I chose the University of Memphis, to play for a coaching staff (led by head coach Penny Hardaway) that had a lot of experience in the NBA. To learn from them and also play against a lot of good players. A lot of things happened last year. For me, every situation that happened just really showed me that I could thrive under adversity, find ways to be successful, no matter what the outcome is.”

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