Offense or defense for the Pelicans in the 2022 NBA Draft?

The New Orleans Pelicans have the 8th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and a roster that already made the playoffs last season even though Zion Williamson was injured.

It’s a luxury not many teams get, so the Pelicans have a lot of options of how to use this pick, including just taking the best player available, using it to move up, or even moving back and picking up additional future assets.

The Pelicans have a lot of leverage and a roster that doesn’t have any glaring holes.

The offense should be difficult to stop at full strength, as Zion, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum are all guys who command attention and can drop 30 points on any given night.

The defense still needs improvement, but they are headed in the right direction with Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado making an impact as defensive stoppers.

Ideally, the Pelicans would love to find a player who will make an impact on both ends, and there will likely be one available when they draft. Prospects like Bennedict Mathurin, Shaedon Sharpe and Johnny Davis have high upside as two-way players, so the Pelicans shouldn’t have to settle for one or another.

But if one of those guys isn’t available, or the Pels want to go in a different direction, the next group of prospects are guys who project as either offensive or defensive players, at least initially.

Pelicans draft: The offensive players

There are several guys in the Pelicans’ range who profile as shooters or scorers and not as great defenders:

  • AJ Griffin: One of the best shooting prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft
  • Malaki Branham: Smooth and efficient shooting guard
  • Ochai Agbaji: A high-volume 3-point shooter

Any of these three would be a welcome addition to the offense, as they can all shoot the 3-ball, which is something that the Pelicans definitely need.

Griffin probably has the most upside as a defender, but none of them are expected to be elite on that end.

Pelicans draft: The defenders

To me, building an elite defense is far more important when you have a “Big 3” like the Pelicans, and you can see the proof in the NBA Finals, as the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics were the two top defensive teams in the NBA.

Shooting is one of the skills we know guys can improve, especially with shooting guru Fred Vinson on the staff. I’d much rather the Pelicans took a chance on a guy who profiles as a quality defender, and there are some intriguing names that should be available with the 8th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft:

  • Dyson Daniels: High upside defender and playmaker with a flawed shot
  • Jeremy Sochan: Versatile defender who can play all over
  • Jalen Duren: Possibly the best rim protector in the draft
  • Tari Eason: Long defender with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and my personal sleeper in the draft.

All of these players have offensive upside as well, but profile as much better defenders, so if the Pelicans miss out on Mathurin, one of these four players are going to get a hard look.