With their lottery pick Thursday, the New Orleans Pelicans were able to select a player they hoped would still be available at No. 8 overall. With their second-round pick, the Pelicans acquired a player they never expected to still be on the board with the 41st selection.
New Orleans added Australian guard Dyson Daniels after Portland went in a different direction in the seventh pick, taking Kentucky guard Shaedon Sharpe. A couple hours later, the Pelicans were stunned to see Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell’s name still among the undrafted ranks, leading to an easy decision to pick the three-year Buckeyes player.
Just before midnight Thursday, Pelicans GM Trajan Langdon explained to local reporters that the team’s war room had been concerned that the Trail Blazers would pick the defensive-minded Daniels at No. 7, but the Northwest Division team’s selection of Sharpe resulted in a resounding reaction.
“Dyson was the guy,” Langdon said of the team’s target with the eighth pick. “There was a little nervousness in the (Pelicans’ draft) room, because we knew Portland liked him as well. So there was a chance they could take him. When they took Shaedon, the room exploded. (Daniels) was our guy from the outset.”
Liddell was projected by numerous draft websites to be selected in the first round, with his name appearing in the early 20s on big boards compiled by ESPN, Bleacher Report, The Sporting News and others. Instead of going in Round 1, the productive college scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker was there for the taking at No. 41, a development that surprised Langdon and the New Orleans front office.
“We didn’t think E.J. was going to be there at 41 at all,” Langdon emphasized. “For us, that was a huge get.”
Langdon noted that the 41st pick was so far out of Liddell’s projected draft range that the 21-year-old’s agent opted not to have Liddell come to New Orleans for a workout.
Daniels and Liddell will play in summer league in July with the Pelicans, as will the team’s third pick Thursday, No. 52 overall selection Karlo Matkovic. Langdon said the 6-foot-10 Croatian frontcourt player is expected to play overseas in 2022-23 and may remain there for a couple seasons before potentially debuting in the NBA.