Any of three Duke basketball underclassmen who recently decided to turn pro could fall into the welcoming arms of the Bayou Blue Devils come draft night.
Retired baller Trajan Langdon, one of the silkiest shooters across Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 40-year reign, is not quite even a year into his role as general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. Already, the franchise boasts five other Coach K products: Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, JJ Redick, Frank Jackson, and Jahlil Okafor.
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Based on Langdon’s obvious attempt to exorcise the Pelicans’ demons by transfusing Blue Devil blood into the Bayou’s veins — not to mention the number of picks New Orleans holds, as outlined below — it stands to reason that yet another Dukie could join the bunch as soon as June 25 (or a month or so later should the 2020 NBA Draft see a postponement).
During Monday’s New Orleans Pelicans Podcast, Langdon noted that he has been studying tape of draft prospects while trying to come up with a top 60 list and planning for potential interviewees. The three-time All-ACC First Team selection (1997-99) also described the type of guys he and executive vice president David Griffin are looking for, seemingly aligning with what NBA-bound Blue Devils Vernon Carey Jr., Tre Jones, and Cassius Stanley all offer:
“We have a group of guys that are very competitive. The guys that are going to come in here, mentally, are going to have to be ready. They’re going to have to be tough. They’re going to have to be strong-minded. Because I think we have a group, if you fast forward a year, that is going to be ready to take a big step.”
Per Pro Sports Transactions, New Orleans looks to have one pick in the first round and three in the second. The Pelicans’ position in the first round will depend on where they finish in the standings; currently, they sit 10th in the Western Conference but will be only 3.5 games out of a playoff spot should the season resume.
A safe bet, therefore, is the first selection will end up somewhere between No. 10 and 20 overall. Any of the three Duke basketball prospects could land in that range. On the other hand, Carey Jr., Jones, Stanley, or any combination of the trio could slip to the second round, in which case Langdon & Co. would have up to three chances, potentially scattered throughout, to snag one or more of them.
Looking at what NBA.com writer Jim Eichenhofer pointed out in a “Did you know” article on Tuesday, New Orleans shouldn’t feel much pressure to acquire immediate starters:
“Of the league’s 34 lineups that have logged 200-plus minutes this season, New Orleans’ group had the No. 1 net rating, outscoring opponents by 26.3 points per 100 possessions. Not bad for a combination that entered Williamson’s Jan. 22 debut vs. San Antonio having only played together briefly in training camp and preseason games.”
Also on Tuesday, Pelican Debrief site expert Aaron Kellerstrass gave his take on New Orleans’ needs:
“The Pelicans may not have any huge holes, but they definitely have some needs. They will likely need a backup point guard, a veteran center, shooters to stretch the floor…they’d like to get bigger and stronger on the wing.”
Need a reliable backup point guard who is sure to excel in the assist-to-turnover department? Call a Jones brother. Want an NABC Freshman of the Year center who shot 38.1 percent from deep for the 2019-20 Duke basketball team? Feel the Vern. How about a human F-16 for oohs and aahs when Zion is on the bench or, even better, to fly in tandem with the winged freight train? Stanley at your service.
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In conclusion, as Langdon may be in the process of realizing, there’s no reason for him to stop at five Bayou Blue Devils when his college coach has now output three new candidates who fit the job description.
Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more updates, analyses, and opinions regarding all things Duke basketball.