NEW ORLEANS (WAFB) - The New Orleans Pelicans started its 2020 NBA Draft by adding lots of speed to the backcourt with the departure of guard Jrue Holiday.
With their first pick at No. 13 overall, the Pelicans selected Alabama point guard Kira Lewis Jr. The 6-foot-3, 165-pounder played two seasons with the Crimson Tide. He averaged 18.5 points and 5.2 assists over 36.7 minutes per game last season. He earned All-SEC first Team honors. Analysts say he has good size for a point guard to go along with impressive open court speed. He is actually the fastest player in the draft.
With the No. 24 overall pick, the Pelicans drafted point guard RJ Hampton, who decided to forego college and played professionally in the Australia-based National Basketball League (NBL). The Milwaukee Bucks traded the draft rights to the pick to the Pelicans but the Pelicans are reportedly trading Hampton to the Denver Nuggets for a projected future first round pick. Hampton averaged 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals in 20.6 minutes in 15 NBL games.
At pick No. 39, the Pelicans selected Syracuse guard Elijah Hughes but he is reportedly headed to Utah for a future pick. The 6-foot-6, 215-pounder averaged 19 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists over 36.7 minutes per game last season. He earned All-ACC First Team honors and a spot on several ACC Player of the Year ballots. Hughes is described as having decent size for a wing and is a good all-around athlete. Analysts said he is more strong than shifty but a better leaper than one might expect with a head of steam and an aggressive scorer.
At selection No. 42, the Pelicans chose Kentucky center Nick Richards but he is reportedly being sent to the Charlotte Hornets for a future pick. The 7-foot, 247-pounder has a 7-foot-5 wingspan. He averaged 14 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game as a junior. He earned All-SEC First Team honors as he emerged as a difference-maker on both ends. He shot 62.7% from the floor overall for his collegiate career. Analysts said he made an impact as a rim protector and showed impressive mobility sliding his feet on the perimeter for his size.
With the No. 60 and final pick of the draft, the Pelicans selected Utah State point guard Sam Merrill. The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder averaged 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists for his senior season. He shot 46.1% from the field, 41.0% from three-point range (23rd in the nation), and 89.3% from the free throw line (11th in the nation). Analysts described him as a prolific shooter with deep range who has the ability to shoot on the move and is creative with the ball in his hands.
The Pels reportedly recently made a deal with the Bucks that sent veteran guard Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee in exchange for a mix of players and draft picks, headlined by veterans Eric Bledsoe and George Hill.
In addition to acquiring Bledsoe and Hill, the Pelicans are reportedly set to obtain three future first-round picks and the teams will engage in pick swaps.
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