Pelicans take Alabama’s Lewis with 13th pick in NBA draft
The 19-year-old Lewis joins a team headlined by 2019 first overall draft choice Zion Williamson and first-time All-Star forward Brandon Ingram, who also was named the NBA’s most improved player last season.
Lewis also becomes the first draft pick of newly hired coach Stan Van Gundy’s tenure as Pelicans coach.
Lewis averaged 18.5 points, 5.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game as a sophomore last season, highlighted by his career-high 37 point outburst against Georgia. He shot 44.7% and was an All-SEC first team selection. He also made 56 3-pointers last season, shooting 36.6% from that range.
“I look forward to playing with Zion, him getting out in transition, looking for lobs, the athlete he is, how explosive he is,” Lewis said. “We’re going to feed off the excitement it’s going to bring to the team.”
Lewis is a combo guard, much like Jrue Holiday, who is expected to be traded to Milwaukee in an agreed-upon multi-team deal that has yet to become official.
While Lonzo Ball is New Orleans’ incumbent starting point guard, Lewis could potentially join Ball in the back court or back him up off the bench.
“I feel like we can push to the next level,” Lewis said. “When I got called, I was very excited because that was one of the teams that I felt like I could come in and help with.”
Lewis also said that while he enjoyed watching the Pelicans’ up-tempo style under former coach Alvin Gentry, he is confident if Van Gundy makes changes, he won’t do so in a way that undermines the strengths on the roster.
Lewis spent his freshman season at Alabama under coach Avery Johnson, a New Orleans native and former NBA point guard.
“Learned a lot from him — leadership, passes, different pick-and-roll reads,” Lewis said. “It was great learning from him. He taught me a lot while he was there in his one year with me.”
Lewis counts speed among his chief assets, as well as being able to score and create for teammates.
“What makes me unique is I feel like I can do pretty much a little bit of everything, whether it’s shoot, pass, dribble, defend a little bit,” he said. “I feel like I’m kind of, overall, better than any guard in the draft.”
As part of the Holiday trade to Milwaukee, the Pelicans were slated to receiver the No. 24 pick from the Bucks, but then shipped that choice — RJ Hampton — to Denver for a future protected first round pick.
New Orleans then sent its top second-round pick — Syracuse junior shooting guard Elijah Hughes at 39th overall — to Utah, and followed that by shipping their 42nd overall choice, 7-foot, 247-pound Kentucky center Nick Richards, to Charlotte.