The New Orleans Pelicans are building their franchise around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, so are looking to draft players that complement them.
The best fits are guys that put defense first, who can defend multiple positions, rebound and if they can shoot the 3-ball a little, even better.
Last year, the Pelicans drafted two standout defenders in Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado, with the former being the best defensive player taken in the 2021 NBA Draft even though he wasn’t selected until the second round.
Alvarado wasn’t drafted at all and joined the Pels as a free agent, so they’ve shown an eye for guys who can get it done on the defensive end.
It looks like the New Orleans Pelicans did it again in the 2022 NBA Draft, as Dyson Daniels is arguably the best defender in his rookie class and is only going to get better as his role increases.
New Orleans Pelicans: Dyson Daniels defensive statistics
Dyson Daniels played sparingly in the beginning of the season, but every time he did get into the game, he made an impact.
But after some impressive performances, his move to the rotation should be permanent, as he is leaving his imprint on games even when he doesn’t score.
Currently, Daniels’ defensive rating of 107.5 is the lowest among all rookies who have played at least five games.
He is 7th among rookies in steals per game, 5th in blocks per game and 5th in rebounds, and this is while playing just 15 minutes per game on average on a loaded team where he is the 9th or 10th guy off the bench.
Most of the players ahead of Daniels in these categories are playing bigger roles on bad teams, and I think it’s fair to assume that Daniels could be putting up more stats if he were in a similar situation.
Instead, he is a defensive weapon that Willie Green can deploy along with Herbert Jones when he wants to lock down the perimeter and inject some defensive energy into the game.
Daniels’ role will increase as the season goes on, and I still think his defense, and the fact that he is making an impact on a playoff-caliber team, should make him a dark horse for the All-Rookie team this season.
The New Orleans Pelicans have an eye for defense and have collected some of the best young defenders in the game to flank their stars.