While the New Orleans Pelicans weren’t able to land a top five pick in this year’s NBA Draft, but having the sixth pick gives the Pelicans a lot of options. Although New Orleans has needs in a few positions, drafting small forward Shabazz Muhammad would be their best option.
Many mock drafts have the Pelicans going with a big man with their pick, but resident starter Robin Lopez was solid in the role in his first season with the Pelicans this year, averaging 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Even further, Lopez just signed a three-year, $15.3 million contact last summer. Giving up on Lopez and drafting his replacement so soon would be pointless.
Where the team formerly known as the Hornets need help is at small forward. Al-Farouq Aminu is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he wasn’t impressive in the role as it was, so it’s doubtful that New Orleans would bring him back.
Muhammad has the type of potential and game that should translate to the NBA level with ease. Muhammad measured a legit 6’6″ and weighed in at 221 lbs with a 6’10″ wingspan and a 37″ vertical jump at the combine, and his ability to make plays off the ball, run the floor well and hit the offensive glass well would be an asset to the developing Pelicans roster as they continue their rebuilding process. His averages of 17.9 points and 5.6 rebounds as a freshman at UCLA help Muhammad’s case as a high draft selection as well.
There was suspensions that Muhammad’s draft stock would take a hit once it was revealed that he was 20 instead of his listed age of 19, but those questions should go out the window at this point. What matters is that Muhammad can play the game at a high level, and if he’s available at sixth — which he most likely will be — the Pelicans should jump at the opportunity to draft him.