Transcript: Trajan Langdon: 2020 NBA Draft Interview

On if he was surprised that Kira Lewis was available at 13 and what attributes the Pelicans liked the most about him:“We did think he might go ahead of us, but he was definitely a target of ours. For him to get to us, we’re extremely ecstatic. He was a guy we followed throughout the year and watched a ton of tape on. The whole scouting group did a lot of work and really liked him. Griff talked a little bit about his personality and his character…very hard-working, small town kid. For him to excel at Alabama like he did in his two years – he reclassified from high school – was kind of tremendous, and that just shows his work rate and ability to adapt to two different coaches in a small amount of time as well. We love the elite speed that he's going to bring, the ability to shoot it and score it, and the ability to get into the paint and make other players better. That’s one thing that he really talked about when we spoke with him. He loves getting paint touches and getting other guys shots and opportunities to score."

On if Kira Lewis’s personality played a big role when scouting and selecting him:“I think for us – and we’ve always talked about with our culture here – is that we want to bring in high-character, hard-working, competitive young men. I think Kira really fits that here. He really works hard, he wants to get better. When we talked to him, he’s soft-spoken and obviously a small town kid, but you can tell he has a desire to be great and be the best that he can be. Those are the kind of people we want here.”

On Kira Lewis and Lonzo Ball fitting together on the court:“I think this is a guard league. It’s really fast-paced, a lot of possessions. I think when you look on our roster now, we have a lot of guards and a lot of guys that can play together and make plays that are skilled, can handle the ball, and make shots. I think when you see the way that this league is trending, the more players that you can have on the floor with speed and skill gives you a better chance to score and get up and down the floor and make plays for not only themselves, but for other players on the team. We’re excited about how our players are going to complement each other coming into next season.”

On how he envisions Kira Lewis and Zion Williamson working together on the court offensively:“I think the one thing that we talked to Kira about and one question we asked him was, ‘What’s the most joy that you get out of playing?’ And he said, like I discussed earlier, ‘Getting paint touches and making other people better.’ So, we have a lot of shooting on the team, with that we think he can getsome paint touches, spray out to shooters, throw lobs or make other people better, dump-offs…that’s what he wants to do. And listen, with his elite speed in transition or even in the half-court, that’s one thing that we’re very intrigued that he can do for us.”

On the unusual lack of trades in the lottery and if the Pelicans tried to make any trades:“I think you always try to move to a targeted guy, but we found out pretty early in this process that it was going to be pretty impossible to move up because everything was on the clock, and then people didn’t really pick up their phones on the clock. You always look to be aggressive, but we got a guy that we targeted at 13. If you would’ve told us we could’ve got him a few weeks ago we would’ve been incredibly happy, so that’s exactly where we’re at tonight.”

On Kira Lewis’s style of play and what NBA players he would compare him to:“I think a guy that our scouting group has compared him to was De’Aaron (Fox), in terms of his speed, ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and really pick up. When you watch a lot of film of him, he is light, but he really does avoid screens on defense and really gives effort, so I think he’s going to be a guy that can play both sides of the ball and can really put a lot of pressure on the defense pushing in transition, attacking switches, and really getting downhill off pick-and-roll play, especially in the middle of the court. I’m sure Stan (Van Gundy) and his staff are going to put him in positions where he can do those things and really be useful for our team on the court, in terms of creating and making other guys better.”

On if selecting Kira Lewis shows that the Pelicans are going to continue to prioritize playing with pace:“I think when you talk pace, you don’t just talk about after misses or after turnovers, you also talk about pace in half-court play, and I think his ability to get by in the half-court on pick-and-roll-play or even switches, it’s something that intrigued us. I think when the game slows down, you still need to have guys that can get into the paint…he gives us an option to do that. He also can make shots from the perimeter, which is intriguing. Guys are going to have to respect that [and] run at him, which gives him an even greater ability to get paint touches and score for himself and create for others.”

On if the Pelicans are in position for a ‘sustainable run’:“We’re always going to keep bettering our team, bettering the roster, and for us to keep getting better and keep growing – we have a young team – our guys have to get better. They have to keep developing, and that’s what we’re going to push them to do. That’s what Stan and their staff will continue to push these guys to do, and we’re going to keep working. I don’t think we’re ever satisfied with the roster that we’ve built. We’re going to continue to try to put people in places that make us a more competitive team, but we think we’ve done that tonight.”

On how important it was to select a player that can contribute this year:“For us, it’s the best possible player that’s on the board at the time who has the most upside. He is a young player, having re-classed, didn’t play his senior year in high school. His senior year in high school was basically a freshman [year] at Alabama. So he’s really like a freshman coming out after his first year in terms of his age. For us it’s the upside from Kira. Does he get on the floor this year? I’m sure he’ll compete for it and he’ll get some time, but for us it’s the upside and you kind of looking towards the future and what he can be. We do think he can get on the court this year if he competes for it, but it’s definitely – like was talked about before – being sustainable. We think he can be a great player in this league for a long time.”

On if Kira Lewis was the fastest player in the draft and if he would be the fastest player on the Pelicans and what kind of value that holds:“I think we thought he was the fastest guy in the draft, but that wasn’t really the reason why [we drafted him]. It obviously was a huge characteristic and plays a big part in the game of basketball, being able to push pace, being able to get by at will and get into the paint…it obviously puts a lot of pressure on the defense. The character, the competitive nature, how much he’s gotten better – not only last year to this year, but within this year. I saw him down at the Battle for Atlantis early on, and the strides that he made with a new coach from the first month of the season to the last month of the season was tremendous. His ability to pick up stuff, learn, implement it, and really make an impact on winning was intriguing to us…the character of the kid. So it wasn’t just the elite speed. The ability to make other people better, the ability to shoot the ball…all that together, we think is going to have a big impact for the success of this club.”

On Kira Lewis’s knowledge of the Pelicans and if the team had a feeling that he was optimistic about the possibility of playing in New Orleans:“I do think he was very excited. He did talk about some of the guys on our roster. Obviously he’s a kid who is not far from here, so I could understand the intrigue in watching us play – and we’re on TV a whole lot, so he is knowledgeable about our team, but I think he and his agent were very optimistic and excited that he would have the opportunity to come here and be part of our organization. It’s a really, really good match for both sides. I’m glad it happened, but we did talk about it. He and his agent and Bryson Graham, our assistant GM, stayed in touch a lot during the last month or two months leading up to this night.”

On if the Pelicans plan on using the G League this season to further Kira Lewis’s development:“If it becomes easy to do, we would. There’s a lot of questions that surround the G League and how that is actually going to be put together. There’s a call next week, kind of detailing what that’s going to look like, but it’s going to be different this year so I assume that Kira will spend a lot of time with us in New Orleans. He might not spend a lot of time in the G League unless it becomes somewhat simple. The G League could be mapped out a little bit differently than in years past, but we’ll hopefully see that here next week or the week after.”