New Orleans Pelicans: Revisiting the 2013 NBA Draft

Nerlens Noel New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nerlens Noel New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Alright, so how did the New Orleans Pelicans (then Hornets) follow up the Anthony Davis draft? They had another high lottery selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, but what would they do with it?

Year one of the Anthony Davis era had its fair share of turmoil. Once again the New Orleans Pelicans leading scorer, Eric Gordon, struggled to stay off the injured reserve and missed 40 games in the 2012-13 season. Davis was still a teenager— his game was very raw at this point—but he did display the immense potential that made him the consensus number one pick the draft prior. The team went 27-55 and as a result, were awarded the 6th overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.

There’s one thing first and foremost you must know about the 2013 NBA Draft, it sucked. The NBA world was introduced to Anthony Bennett, the first ever Canadian-born player selected with the first pick of a draft. Which at the time we all thought was going to be an honor bestowed upon next year’s pick, Andrew Wiggins.

Bennett going first overall was one of the bigger surprises in recent draft history.  Noone really had him going anywhere near first, except apparently the ones that mattered, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Would the ballsy pick work out for the organization? The first 12 games of his career answer that question better than I could.

Here’s a fun fact about Anthony Bennett: He didn’t make his first field goal or even get his first assist in the NBA until his 5th game. Things wouldn’t turn around, his name will forever be immortalized as one of the biggest busts in NBA history.

It’s fun to point fingers and criticize the ineptitude of the Cavaliers but as mentioned before, this draft was tough on the eyes. There really wasn’t a consensus number one pick in this draft and multiple mock big boards varied with who the Cavaliers would go with. Some had Alex Len going first, others like in the case of Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, had Nerlens Noel going with the initial pick.

One thing was relatively certain entering this draft, Nerlens Noel was going to go early. So when he slipped to 6th, it felt as if New Orleans got a steal. Noel and Davis manning the frontcourt did have some promise (this was before the three-point revolution really took off, aka Steph Curry hadn’t dropped 54 at MSG yet).

But instead of seeing what the two Univerity of Kentucky products could accomplish together, Noel was shipped to Philly. It probably wouldn’t have worked out offensively, but Noel did have 4.4 blocks per game in his freshman season…that paint was going to be protected with him and Davis.

This trade defined what the upcoming years were going to bring about for both organizations. For Sam Hinkie and the Philadephia 76ers, a certain process was born. For Dell Demps and the New Orleans Pelicans, they were locked into this era’s iteration of West and Paul with Holiday and Davis.

The Pelicans also sent a 2014 protected first-round pick alongside Noel for Holiday’s services. Being Top 5 protected, it would convey the following season as the Pelicans wound up with10th pick. With that selection, Philly went with Elfrid Payton.

So essentially the Pelicans would’ve just had Payton four seasons earlier, and Jrue Holiday didn’t turn out to be that bad, did he? In hindsight, the Pels actually won this trade. Noel would never materialize, and Holiday has been instrumental to what limited success the team has had over the past five seasons.

The Sixers/Pelicans swapped second-round picks in the deal and the Pels wound up with Pierre Jackson with the 42nd overall pick. Jackson wouldn’t play a game in the Big Easy, and would actually be shipped back to Philly for Russ Smith a year later. Smith would play 6 games for the Pelicans, averaging 0.8 points in 4.8 minutes and would be assigned/recalled to and from the G-League five times in the span of a month back in 2014 before being acquired by the Grizzlies. Demps’ second-round magic strikes again!