The 2022 NBA Draft is less than a month away, and teams are developing their draft boards for the June 23 spectacle. Most prognosticators have the Pelicans prioritizing picking a shooter with their No. 8 selection. The consensus of the mocks makes sense, especially with how today’s NBA game is played.
Spacing and shooting are paramount if teams are to have any success in today’s league. Look no further than the two participants in this year’s NBA Finals.
The Golden State Warriors (14.4) and Boston Celtics (13.2) were in the Top 8 of the league with three-pointers made in games. The New Orleans Pelicans (10.7) were 28th in threes made per game. The Pelicans were the only team who finished in the Bottom 10 for 3-point percentage to make the playoffs.
Other teams occupying similar stats not only missed the playoffs but had the worst records in the league. The thought is the Pelicans will change that quickly.
Here are a few Pelicans’ Mock Draft predictions:
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CBS Sports.com: AJ Griffin; SF Duke
“It’s best not to overthink this. The Pelicans need to surround Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum with as much shooting as possible, and Griffin knocked down nearly half of his 3-pointers in his freshman year at Duke. Adding to his intrigue, he doesn’t turn 19 until August and already has an NBA-ready body. Griffin has also shown the ability to create his own offense and, while the defense wasn’t quite there at Duke, he has the frame and wingspan to eventually excel on that end.”
NBA.com: Bennedict Mathurin; SG Arizona
“A willing shooter who established himself as one of the nation’s best shooters off the catch; His skillset should translate well to the NBA, where spacing should help him get his shot.”
Bleacher Report: Bennedict Mathurin; SG Arizona
“The Pelicans would feel Mathurin’s explosiveness and shot-making from day one. Regardless of how much his off-the-dribble game develops, he is built to fit in quickly and contribute as a catch-and-shoot weapon and finisher off transition and cuts.”
The Ringer: Johnny Davis; SG Wisconsin
“Tough shot-maker who lives in the midrange. He has every move in the book and he uses them to get open despite not having a quick first step or even the tightest handle. With a smaller offensive role, and less of a need to force shots, his shooting percentages could increase. Daring playmaker. He may not have the handle or passing vision of a lead guard, but he’s absolutely capable of being one of the main figures within an offense thanks to his scoring potential and his passing ability.
Good shooter off the catch. When attacking closeouts, he displays solid at-rim finishing as he handles contact inside or finds teammates with simple passes.”
SB Nation: Keegan Murray; SF Iowa
“Murray was probably the best player in college basketball this year as a sophomore at Iowa. A 6’8, 225-pound forward with a 6’11 wingspan, Murray should provide valuable movement shooting skills for a player his size with above-average defensive ability. He hit 39.8 percent of his threes this year on 166 attempts by utilizing a quick release and the size to shoot over most contests. He’s able to quickly square himself for a shot when running off a screen and he shouldn’t have any problems hitting from the NBA line. Murray can also score in transition and hit the offensive glass some, and did a remarkable job avoiding turnovers this year despite a loose handle. While Murray certainly has a high floor in the league, his ceiling is questionable. He’s not an electric shot creator off the dribble, and he’s not blowing anyone away athletically. He should have a long career as a 3-and-D forward, but taking him in this range would be trying to hit a double rather than a home run. While Murray likely won’t last this long, his shooting would be a natural fit next to Zion Williamson.”
The Pelicans are also facing the unknown with the return of Zion Williamson next season. Williamson, who recently has been cleared of any restrictions stemming from his previous foot injury, has yet to play with CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, or Jonas Valanciunas in the starting lineup. As much of a wrecking ball Zion is in the paint, teams will be forced to send the double-team. When that happens, guys will need to step up and hit open shots. One of those guys just may be the 8th pick in this year’s draft.