With the NBA Draft quickly approaching (June 22nd), we are officially in the heart of mock draft season. And to commemorate this unofficial holiday that we created just now, Bleacher Report released their latest mock draft.
In this addition, they predict the New Orleans Pelicans (the owners of the 14th overall pick) to keep their pick and select Arkansas Razorback freshman Nick Smith. Here’s what their explanation for the pick was:
"“The Pelicans need all the shot-makers they can get around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Smith can be a bit streaky, but when he has it rolling, he’s a scoring threat from everywhere with enough handles and quickness to create his own scoring chances.”"
If Bleacher Report’s projection comes to fruition, Pelicans’ fans should be very pleased, as they may be selecting the steal of the draft.
In late November, Bleacher Report released a mock draft that had Smith going at fourth, and they weren’t the only ones to value him so highly. For instance, SB Nation posted a mock draft right after the 2022 NBA Draft that ranked him as the seventh-best prospect in the class.
However, after a shaky lone season at Arkansas filled with injuries and poor spacing (they were 317th out of 358 teams in 3-point percentage this past season), Smith’s stock started to fall on many evaluator’s boards.
Context is so key when analyzing player performance, and there is a chance that people are forgetting to account for the outside variables that affected Smith’s freshman year performance. At the NBA level, he will (hopefully) be healthier than he was this past year and will surely be surrounded by better spacing (in general, college spacing sucks).
If those factors were really what was holding Smith back this year, that means the Pelicans could be getting a top-5 caliber pick at the tail end of the lottery, which could mean that they ultimately end up getting the steal of the 2023 NBA Draft.