Pelicans’ Draft: Mock projects team to add rim protection

Dereck Lively II, Duke Blue Devils. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Dereck Lively II, Duke Blue Devils. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

In continuing with our ongoing coverage of the 2023 NBA Draft (which will take place on Thursday, June 22), we take a look at a prediction made by Tyler Watts of The Smoking Cuban on what the New Orleans Pelicans might do with the 14th overall pick.

We’re going to sound like a broken record by the end of this cycle, but as we examine Watts’ pick, keep in mind that the Pelicans have three main areas of need: 1) shooting, 2) rim protection, and 3) rim pressure outside of Zion Williamson.

In theory, Watts’ prediction would address one of these three areas of need: rim protection. With the 14th overall pick, Watts thinks that Pelicans will select Dereck Lively II. Here is part of what he has to say about the pick (to read his full explanation, check out the post here):

"“Do the Pelicans want a rim protector and rebounder next to Zion in the frontcourt? Lively has a massive 7’6 wingspan and boundless defensive potential. He averaged north of seven rebounds and three blocks per game over Duke’s final 15 games where his impact shined.”"

This past season, the Pelicans were dead-last in opponent rim field goal percentage (per Cleaning the Glass). They did have the ninth-lowest opponent rim frequency, so they weren’t allowing too many of those high-value opportunities. But that’s mainly because they had so many great perimeter defenders who could prohibit penetrators from entering the interior.

Overall, the team finished sixth in Defensive Rating (per Cleaning the Glass), so the formula of leaning on their perimeter guys seems to have worked. However, you can’t always bank on that being the case, especially when Williamson (someone who isn’t a great perimeter defender) will (hopefully) be playing more games, and you need someone on the backline who can clean up any potential messes.

On his big board, The Ringer’s Draft Analyst Kevin O’Connor has Lively ranked 20th but says that he “has defensive versatility and offensive upside” and compares him to former lottery pick Willie Cauley Stein.

Meanwhile, Swish Theory has Lively ranked 25th on their big board, saying that he is “[t]ailor made for modern rim protection with signs of value on offense.”

Will Lively be the player New Orleans ultimately selects at 14th? I guess we will soon find out.

Next. Who the scouts think the Pelicans should take at 14. dark