Pair of second-round picks at No. 39, 57 give Pelicans flexibility

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

CHICAGO – Second-round picks can be an afterthought on draft night, but to see the value of holding multiple selections entering Round 2, one needs to look no further than the New Orleans Pelicans’ veteran roster. Guard Frank Jackson and center/forward Cheick Diallo – who each played significant minutes during the second half of the 2018-19 regular season – became Pelicans when New Orleans moved up the draft board into the early portion of the latter round. Jackson was the 31st pick in 2017, a year after Diallo went No. 33 in ’16.

This time, in addition to the No. 1 overall pick the Pelicans captured at Tuesday’s NBA lottery, they hold picks No. 39 and 57 overall, providing a range of options. New Orleans could use both choices to select a player, adding to its crop of rising talent, parlay them into a move up, or use them as trade chips.

Attempting to project what an NBA team will do with mid- to late-second-rounders is guesswork, but some of the names currently appearing on mock drafts at 39 or 57 have included Virginia guard Kyle Guy (Most Outstanding Player of NCAA Tournament); North Carolina State-committed guard Jalen Lecque (listed 57th by NBADraft.net to NOLA); St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds (The Athletic, No. 39); and Missouri center Jontay Porter (The Athletic, No. 57).

Guy had not met with New Orleans at the NBA draft combine, but was interviewed by Phoenix, Houston and Memphis. The NCAA champion and clutch shooter was not lacking for confidence while speaking to the media, at one point noting: “In every meeting, I’ve tried to reiterate that I know I’m the best shooter in the draft class.”

The three-year college player’s value likely will be most evident in his 42.5 percent career rate from the three-point arc, in a league where perimeter shooting is increasingly important. New Orleans finished just 24th in three-point percentage (34.4) in ’18-19, as well as 22nd in average makes (10.3).

“I think my ability to stretch the floor will make it really hard for defenses if Giannis (Antetokounmpo) is driving in the lane, because they won’t be able to help as much,” Guy said, going through various NBA teammate scenarios. “Or Devin Booker, LeBron (James), if Zion (Williamson) goes (to New Orleans) – or whoever’s there – I will be able to stretch the floor for them.”

Incidentally, Guy faced Williamson in the ACC twice during the latter’s lone college season; Williamson tallied 27 and 18 points as Duke swept the series. Guy scored 14 and 16 points for the Cavaliers.

Asked about the prospect of being Williamson’s teammate in the NBA, Guy responded, “It would be fun. He’s one of the most unguardable people I’ve ever gone against, and coming from Indiana, I’ve gone against a lot of great players, like Gary Harris, Trey Lyles. Or in AAU, playing against Thon Maker, Jaylen Brown. He’s definitely up there already, which is very respectable.”

Meanwhile, Lecque – who told media that he had interviewed Wednesday with New Orleans at the combine – became close with Williamson on the AAU circuit. The New York City native said of the projected top pick on June 20, “Zion is my guy. We created a group chat (of top high school players) and stayed in contact. It would be cool to play with him, but I can play with anybody.”

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