The New Orleans Pelicans had a disappointing end to the 2022-2023 campaign after such a promising start. At one point towards the middle of the season, the Pelicans were first in the Western Conference and looking like serious title contenders. It all went downhill when a pulled hamstring sidelined Zion Williamson, a serious enough injury to keep him out for the remainder of the year. This caused the Pelicans to dramatically slide down the standings, finishing as the No. 9 seed and in the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament. Hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Pelicans lost and their season came to an end. Looking ahead, the Pelicans need to figure out what to do in the 2023 NBA Draft in order to help lift them over the hump. If the Pelicans want to find the perfect fit for the No. 14 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, they should look no further than Cason Wallace out of Kentucky.
The Pelicans need to bring in a player who can help alleviate the pressure that results from constant injury to Zion and added focus from other teams on neutralizing Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum. It was evident that without Zion, McCollum and Ingram struggled to pick up the slack. Zion requires so much attention on the court because of his physical dominance, as multiple players are needed to stop him in virtually every aspect of the game on every play. Adding a point guard like Wallace would do wonders, primarily because their primary point guard at the moment is Jose Alvarado. Alvarado is a solid player, but he does not project to be the player that Wallace could develop into.
Overall, there are plenty of reasons to point to why the Pelicans should go after the Kentucky point guard. However, there are three reasons in particular why Cason Wallace is a perfect fit for the Pelicans with the No. 14 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
*Stats via UK Athletics
3. Playmaking ability
As a freshman in the 2022-2023 season, Cason Wallace was named to the All SEC Freshman team. He did this by averaging 11.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He was the heart beat for the Wildcats last year as just a 19-year-old. These overall numbers display the main reason he would fit for the Pelicans: he is a playmaker. He was second in the SEC in assists while still getting his fair share of buckets, while also being dominant defensively. He was fourth in steals per game in the SEC and showed an uncanny knack to get his hands on loose balls and contest open jump shots. With the unreliability of the Pelicans stars, he presents the exact type of reliability they need.
The Pelicans became a stagnant team without Zion Williamson on the floor, and Wallace would be able to provide a playmaking ability on both ends that they desperately needed. Not only will he be able to get stars like Ingram and McCollum into their spots on the offensive end, but he will instigate easy buckets with suffocating defense, energy, and a high IQ. Alvarado might provide solid energy and defense from the point guard position currently, but he is not the overall player that Wallace will be. With the No. 14 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Pelicans need to go get playmaker Cason Wallace.
Cason Wallace will come into the NBA already as one of the bigger point guards. He is 6’4 and 193 pounds, and at 19, he figures to put on plenty of weight in muscle and could even get an inch or two in height. The Pelicans play as a lengthy, athletic unit, and the build of Wallace fits them much better than Alvarado. Alvarado is a great change of pace guard to come off the bench, but the Pelicans ideal unit could be scary dangerous with Wallace. Williamson, McCollum, Ingram, and Herb Jones alongside Cason Wallace would be one of the more formidable athletic groups in the NBA. Sub in Trey Murphy III for McCollum and that becomes arguably the most athletic unit in the entire NBA.
The Pelicans make their living by playing fast and outworking opponents, following the style of play of Zion. Wallace is a prototypical guard for this type of system, especially given his affinity for the defensive end. Although Alvarado is a good player and the Pelicans should continue making him a part of their system, he would be much better in a supporting role off the bench to Wallace. This makes Cason Wallace a clear fit at No.14 in the NBA Draft for the Pelicans.
1. Zion’s health
As mentioned, Zion Williamson has already made a career of being injured. With his injuries has come a drastic worsening in play for the Pelicans, as too much pressure is placed atop of Ingram and McCollum. It is pretty much guaranteed that Zion will miss more games in his career given precedent, and the Pelicans need to start building more of a safety valve for such situations. Cason Wallace will never be the athlete that Zion is, but he would be a great place to start in helping replace the production that comes from Zion being on the floor.
What makes Zion so valuable is his mere presence on the floor. Because he is such a more dominant athlete than anybody on the court, other teams just have to prioritize where he is during every second of the game. When Zion is not on the floor, opponents can dial in on their matchups and specifically focus on game strategy in contrast with just working hard enough to neutralize Zion’s athleticism. Having a point guard like Cason Wallace will give the Pelicans a similar type of presence to Zion, as he will be more athletic than most of his matchups and will be able to create opportunities for everyone else. Not to mention, with Zion, Wallace figures to be the perfect point guard. All of this being said, the Pelicans would be wise to go after Cason Wallace in the 2023 NBA Draft.