New Orleans Pelicans draft prospects: Keldon Johnson

Keldon Williams (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Keldon Williams (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The All-Star Break is a perfect time to take stock of your team and look ahead. For the New Orleans Pelicans, the focus should be shifting to the NBA Draft, and possibly Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson.

It’s the world’s worst-kept secret that the New Orleans Pelicans have some things to figure out as the dramatic 2018-2019 season winds down after the All-Star Break. With Anthony Davis on his way out of town this summer, the Pelicans are likely already eyeing some collegiate talent to roll the dice on in the 2019 NBA Draft as the team keeps sliding down into likely Top 10 pick position. One guy that could be around for New Orleans to select is Keldon Johnson from the University of Kentucky.

Look, let’s get this out of the way right now: I know Pelicans fans might feel weird right this moment drafting another Kentucky guy in the lottery after getting burned by Anthony Davis. But Kentucky’s recent track record in the NBA is very impressive. Aside from AD, the Wildcats also have current notable pros in Karl-Anthony Towns, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, De’Aaron Fox, and 24 others. The fact that there are 31 players from Kentucky in the league clearly points to their ability to groom guys for the NBA.

That brings us to Keldon Johnson, the 6’6 rookie wing for the Wildcats that is slotted to fall to around 8th in most mock drafts, about where the Pelicans should be selecting. Johnson is a little raw, but most 19 year olds are. What Johnson has shown to this point is the ability to be a dangerous scorer with the skills to create for others as well. He’s very good from behind the three-point arc and has a propensity for driving to the hoop and making those difficult running floaters you always see stars like Kyrie Irving somehow getting to go in.

Coming out of high school, Johnson was a 5-star recruit and was ranked as the 15th best player nationwide. He had offers from an impressive 27 different schools before deciding to take his talents to the Bluegrass state.

The Kentucky Wildcats are currently ranked 5th in the NCAA, and Keldon has already claimed his role as one of the team’s most important scorers. He’s second on the team in points per game at 14, which puts him just 0.4 points away from the team-lead. He also shoots over 40% from long range. Anytime a player is capable of putting up these numbers on the historically crowded Kentucky rosters, the NBA takes notice. To add some context, Keldon Johnson is essentially averaging the same points per game as Anthony Davis did at Kentucky.

While Johnson might not have a ceiling quite as high as some of the other players near the top of draft projections, he’s showing he has the right skillset to find quick success in the NBA, at least on the offensive end of the court. His ability to hit spot up threes and pull up jumpers would be useful playing in the backcourt next to Jrue Holiday. Their games would compliment each other well.

As we delve deeper into hypothetical thinking, if the New Orleans Pelicans were to land a player like, say, Jayson Tatum in an Anthony-Davis focused trade to Boston this summer, a lineup of Holiday, Johnson, Tatum, and Okafor actually has the potential to be pretty exciting. All four of these players can make big impacts on offense, and the upside of Johnson and Tatum’s defense combined with Jrue’s A+ level he’s already reached and Okafor’s growing ability to block shots could make the Pelicans dangerous on both ends.

Next. Kenrich Williams proving he belongs. dark

The New Orleans Pelicans’ draft position will likely fluctuate as the year winds down, as will the projections of where each draft prospect will be selected. In the meantime, Keldon Johnson looks to be a nice option for the Pellies if the NBA and NCAA seasons continue on the tracks they’re currently on.