The 2014 NBA Draft is fast approaching, and with it all sorts of reports and speculation. Presumed number one pick Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his foot, potentially throwing the first 6 picks into disarray. Several teams are going hard after Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love. Most relevant to us are the reports that the Pelicans are trying to acquire a first round pick.
The Pelicans dealt their 2014 first round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Jrue Holiday, leaving them with no picks this year. Assets general manager Dell Demps might move to facilitate a trade which could be a combination of one of Brian Roberts, Austin Rivers or Pierre Jackson plus their first round pick in 2016. They could not trade their 2015 pick because NBA rules prohibit trading first round picks in consecutive years.
Teams with known interest of trading their first round picks are the Sacramento Kings at 8, the Denver Nuggets at 11, the Chicago Bulls at 19 and each team drafting between 25 and 30 (The Phoenix Suns at 27 seem the most logical as they have two additional first rounders). The Kings and Nuggets can probably be eliminated because they probably have their sights on bigger fish (Love) than what the Pelicans can offer. New Orleans is unlikely to pick up any game changers in the later stage of the first round, but they won’t be looking for one. They’ll be more interested in finding someone who can step in and contribute right away, and they should be able to find a player like that considering the depth of this draft class. Their biggest needs are a small forward who can shoot and center and who can rebound and defend. A small forward seems the most likely given the dearth of centers in this class and the Pelicans rumored interest in free agent-to-be Greg Monroe.
Here’s a look at possible targets in the late first rounds.
Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State:
Early was a key component for Wichita State’s Final Four run in 2013 and their undefeated regular season in 2014. He’s a good shooter with great range on his jumper, hitting over 37 percent of his 3-pointers in 2014. He can also crash the boards, especially on the offensive end.
DeAndre Daniels, SF, UCONN:
Daniels has the length and athleticism needed to man down the small forward position. He finally broke out in his junior season with the Huskies, scoring 13.1 points per game and hitting over 41 percent from 3. His height and leaping ability make him an effective shot blocker. His biggest flaw is that he weighs just 196 pounds. He’ll have to bulk up a bit in order to survive in the NBA.
K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson:
McDaniels’ 6’6” height almost puts him in no-man’s land between small forward and shooting guard. But he does have the defensive skills to lock down opposing small forwards. He averaged 2.8 blocked shots per game his junior season, the most of any non-center in the 2014 class. There is concern about his shooting, he hit just 30.4 percent of his 3-pointers his last season at Clemson. On the plus side, he did connect on over 84 percent of his free throws, usually a good indicator of long-term shooting projection.
Kyle Anderson, PF, UCLA:
Anderson’s size will earn him the power forward label, but he has the skill set to also play small forward and both guard positions. He can do a little bit of everything. He was 2nd on UCLA in scoring and steals and led the Bruins in rebounds and assists. He can also dial it up from long range, hitting 28 of 58 3-pointers in 2014. A good NBA comparison would be Boris Diaw, and anyone who watched the NBA Finals knows how valuable a player like that can be. The one problem with Anderson is that he is not a great athlete by NBA standards, and that could make him a defensive liability if he is asked to guard against more athletic and quicker small forwards.
Patric Young, C, Florida:
If the Pelicans decide to take a center, Young will likely be the best one on the board. Young’s offensive game and stat sheet won’t blow anyone away, but he is a strong defensive presence and, just as important, he has the body to take the pounding defending against NBA centers.