Will the New Orleans Pelicans be able to make a hopeful push for the playoffs during the 2023-24 season?

The Pelicans finished with a record of 42-40 last year, putting them in second place in the Southwest Division and ninth place in the Western Conference. Their season ended with a 123-118 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Play-In tournament, a game that saw New Orleans forward Brandon Ingram score 30 points and make 10 of his 19 shot attempts in the Smoothie King Center. 

New Orleans holds the No. 14 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. It can try to draft a high-potential prospect that will grow into a future option along with some of the team's younger players, or it can trade the pick for players who can contribute right away in their future runs for a spot in the postseason.

If the Pelicans keep their draft pick, who are some sneaky picks they could look out for with the No. 14 selection in the NBA Draft? And how will they fit with a roster looking to make a playoff run next season?

Keyonte George

The Pelicans will need a reliable option for the future at the shooting guard.

New Orleans has two shooting guards, C.J. McCollum and Garrett Temple, listed on Spotrac's 2023-24 Salary Cap grid for the Pelicans. Guard Josh Richardson is listed as an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Temple is listed with a non-guaranteed contract with a cap hit of $5.4 million next season. The deal will become fully guaranteed on June 30. Temple played in 25 games for the Pelicans last season, earning averages of two points and 0.7 rebounds per the 6.5 minutes he played per game.

George, a former 5-star recruit out of Lewisville, Texas, took second place on Baylor's roster with 15.3 points per game in the 33 games played for the Bears last season. The 6-foot-4-inch guard scored 20 points or more for Baylor 12 times last season, including a 32-point outing in an 83-78 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers in January.

“Being that main key guy definitely prepared me,” George said, via ESPN NBA Draft analyst Jonathan Givony. “It goes back to the preparation and the work that I put in individually, the things no one sees you do in the dark. It's not about my age. I took responsibility and knew I had to step up to the plate. There wasn't any pressure at all, because the same shots I hit in games are shots I hit 100 times in practice.”

George will need to improve upon his scoring efficiency after he shot 37.6% from the field during his lone season with Baylor. But if he can carry over his successful run with the Bears to the NBA, he can provide an immediate scoring punch to a bench that scored 31.8 points per outing last season, good enough to put them in 23rd in the league.

Jalen Hood-Schifino

The Pelicans can benefit from selecting a player who can play at both the one and the two spots with their No. 14 pick.

Three point guards, Dyson Daniels, Kira Lewis Jr. and Jose Alvarado, will have the opportunity to return to the roster next season. Alvarado has a non-guaranteed deal for the 2023-24 season that will become fully guaranteed on January 10, 2024. He also has a club option for the 2024-25 season.

Daniels, the No. 8 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, played in 59 games and started in 11 for the Pelicans last season. Lewis averaged 4.6 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game in the 25 games he suited up for New Orleans in 2022-23. 

Hood-Schifino, a 6-foot-6-inch guard for the Indiana Hoosiers, played a key role on an Indiana roster that went 23-12 overall and 12-8 against conference opponents. The former 5-star recruit took second place on the Hoosiers' roster with 13.5 points per game and third place with 3.7 assists per game, according to ESPN.

“Being a point guard, (Indiana head coach Mike Woodson) just instilled the qualities you need to have as far as being vocal and doing certain things,” Hood-Schifino said in May, via Indy Star Pacers beat writer Dustin Dopirak. “I feel like for me, I was the kind of guy who already had those qualities. It wasn't too much he had to tell me I needed to do. He just wanted me to be myself and he allowed me to be myself which allowed me to be successful.”

Hood-Schifino has the size and overall talent to be a helpful contributor at both guard spots for a team that already took 11th place in the NBA with 25.9 assists per game during the regular season.

Brice Sensabaugh

From one Big Ten prospect to another. 

Sensabaugh, a 6-foot-6-inch forward from Ohio State, led the Buckeyes in scoring with 16.3 points per game on an efficient 48.2% from the field and 40.5% from the 3-point line. The Ringer Senior Staff Writer Kevin O'Connor highlighted his ballhandling and ability to be a pull-up and catch-and-shoot threat in the Ringer's mock draft.

“Methodical ball handler who doesn't create a ton of separation but manages to hit contested shots anyway,” O'Connor wrote. “He loves stopping on a dime and pulling up from close midrange, though he can also extend out behind the line for tough side-step 3s.

“Knockdown shooter off the catch with smooth mechanics. He has the upside to become a player that hits 3s off movement because of his ability to fluidly get into his shot when relocating.”

The Buckeye forward could provide a boost off the bench for a team that hit 36.9% of its shots from 20-24 feet and 36.4% from 25-29 feet, putting it in 21st and 11th in the NBA, respectively, according to NBA.com.