WE are still unsure if the New Orleans Pelicans will be drafting a player at pick No. 4 in the upcoming NBA Draft. As draft selections continue to change hands, one thing we are (fairly) certain of is the three players who will be drafted beforehand. Baring any shocking developments Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett should find themselves taken inside the top-3, more than likely in that order. Essentially that means the draft begins when a team makes the 4th selection, but there is still plenty of doubt and uncertainty over who should come off the board at that spot.
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THREE standout candidates are in the frame to be taken at four, with Darius Garland, Jarrett Culver and De’Andre Hunter all offering unique skillsets and different NBA futures. Everyone has varying opinions over the talented trio, who should all be drafted in the top-10 come Thursday night. Who is drafted in this slot will depend, as I’ve already said, on if NOLA keeps the pick or not, but let’s look at the prospects individually.
WHILE point guard isn’t a pressing need for the Pelicans, if pick four is on the move we could very well see Darius Garland drafted in that position. The score first guard was restricted to just five games this year after tearing his left meniscus against Kent State just minutes into the game. That wasn’t before some impressive performances though, with Garland scoring 33 on 18 shots a few days prior to going down hurt. Getting buckets will be his greatest skill in the pros, with the ability to score in a variety of ways and manipulate defenses out of pick and roll sets.
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SCORING seems to come naturally to Garland, however, there are some concerns over whether he can run an NBA offense as a lead guard. Averaging more turnovers than assists, albeit in a small sample size, isn’t the greatest stat to have on your resume heading into the pro’s and Garland will need to tighten up the area if he wants to be successful. Combine that with his slight build/frame and I can see why people have some doubts over the Commodores product. However, these aren’t concerns that would deter me from taking him 4th overall.
WHILE Garland will address a team’s need for a floor general on draft night, both Jarrett Culver and De’Andre Hunter can help teams boost their wing stocks. We saw the talented duo go head-to-head in the championship game with Hunter taking bragging rights by outscoring Culver 27-15 and walking away as a national champion. The defensive upside Hunter possesses has him forming into a stereotypical 3-and-D prospect, with a high floor that should see him earn minutes right away at the next level. He might not own the same star potential usually associated with top-5 selections, but every team that wants to contend needs a player capable of defending multiple positions and knocking down open treys.
HUNTER doesn’t possess the ability to create his own shot like some other perimeter players in this draft crop which hampers his potential offensive ceiling. However, his calling card is defense, which again, was on full display when he held Jarrett Culver to 5-22 shooting in early April. That was just one of the bad shooting displays that Culver had during the tournament, however, he grew leaps and bounds during his sophomore season at Texas Tech.
BUMPING up his PPG production from 11.2 to 18.5 helped vault Culver up draft boards, with the Red Raider showing flashes of becoming a primary shot creator if he lands in the right place. Situational fit can go a long way to determining how a player pans out, especially early in their career and Culver’s array of moves/skills will give him a solid foundation to build upon. However, there are some concerns over his jump shot and if he can continue to develop on that side of the ball. Most of the negatives in Culver’s game appear to be fixable with the right coach able to steer him towards greatness. There are no guarantees that will happen though as we’ve seen copious high-upside guards enter the NBA only to never live up to the hype.
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ONE thing we have learnt about the NBA Draft is to expect the unexpected when the night arrives. Just because one of the three aforementioned talents looks like the logical choice a team could surprise us and take a flier on someone with the hope that they develop into a genuine star. Bol Bol has all the physical traits to succeed in the NBA, with his weight and injury issues scaring some teams off.
THE polarizing Cam Reddish has shown enough flashes to justify being taken that early even though he’s coming off an average collegiate season. Players like Coby White and Jaxson Hayes are appearing in most mock drafts around the country and either of them could hear their name called early on as well. Regardless of who is taken at No. 4, we won’t know the answer to the questions for years. We could see one of these players overtake their draft peers as the best in class, with the popular targets all possessing the skills necessary to become a household name in the modern NBA.
IF I was on the clock, Darius Garland would get my vote as a dominant scoring guard that a team (like the Cavs 🤞) can build around as they rebuild. I’m always a fan of players who have had their parents play pro sports and Garland’s dad Winston featured in over 500 NBA games in the 90’s, only further enhancing my belief in his future. There are some understandable question marks regarding his injury as well, but we see players respond from setbacks so often now that I’m discounting it, probably a bit too much. We’ll soon have the answer, but whoever is taken fourth overall will aim to live up to the hype associated with an early draft pick from day one.