OK, so there was no draft lottery magic for the Pelicans this year like in 2012 when New Orleans earned the top spot in the NBA draft, but there's also no player close the caliber of Anthony Davis in this crop of young talent who is the consensus #1 overall pick.
The Pelicans won the rights to the 6th overall pick in this year's draft and can most definitely still add a kid to their roster who can come in and make an immediate impact. This year's rookie of year, Damian Lillard, was taken by the Trailblazers with...the 6th overall pick in 2012.
"I'm a little surprised, but I'm not disappointed by the sixth pick," Coach Monty Williams said. "It's still a high pick. There are a lot of quality guys that will be available, a lot of rotation guys. We feel good about the pick. It's only going to add to the young core that we have. I feel like we'll be able to find a rotation guy that will be on our team for a long time."
With the order now set, it's time for mock drafts to start on where analysts believe players will begin their pro career. What position does Coach Williams feel the Pelicans will target?
"I don't know that. Certainly, free agency will have a lot to do with that as we start to forecast what's going to happen," Williams said. "We'll have to look at the needs with our team, but I don't want to do that right now. Sometimes when you start talking about what you need, it seems disrespectful to what you have. We're looking forward to the process of looking at players and getting the sixth pick. That's a big time pick. We had one and ten last year, so we kind of split the difference. We feel good about that."
As for GM Dell Demps, he isn't revealing a thing either about the franchise's strategy and hints that maybe, just maybe, a deal with another team could be made.
"You never know. There are trades, there's other opportunities that may present themselves," says Demps. "We're going to look at every angle to give ourselves the best possible chance to make our team better."
The next step for Williams, Demps and the rest of the Pelicans staff is to host a number of pre draft workouts ahead of the NBA draft which is Thursday June 27th in Brooklyn NY.
Free agent acquisition Victor Butler has yet to play a game for the Saints but feels last year's league worst defensive unit will drastically change under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
"You get a guy like Rob, you get a guy like Keenan Lewis, and you add him to the secondary... you get a guy like me who can come in and help guys pick up this defense, and you're going to see a hell of a defense. That's what I'm expecting. A hell of a defense," Butler said. "We've already got the players to be the number one defense. You get a defensive coordinator in there, a guy who's going to be passionate and convey that passion to the players, I wouldn't be surprised if we were the number one defense in all categories next year."
Wait...did he say first in ALL defensive categories? Was Butler aware that Saints defense gave up an NFL record 7,042 yards last season?!?
"Yeah, they were the worst defense, but you look at the players, we don't have the worst defensive players," the linebacker insisted. "These are guys who are Super Bowl champions, Pro Bowls at one point. These are great teammates. These are great football players."
You have to love the energy and optimism from the 25-year-old linebacker, but is what he saying realistic?
The Saints as a whole suffered a down year in 2012. It all started with suspensions of players, coaches and their general manager stemming from bounty allegations. Steve Spagnulo came in as the new defensive coordinator after the departure of Gregg Williams, and Spag's scheme just didn't seem to fit this group of players. In the first 10 games of the year, the Saints D gave up more then 400 yards in every game - including more then 500 yards on 3 occasions.
Shortly after Sean Payton returned from his one year suspension, Spagnuolo got the boot, and former Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan got the job.
"Rob wants to have the best defense in the league," said Butler, who spent two of his four years in Dallas in Ryan's system. "He's one of those guys who's really passionate and it's rubbing off on the guys. You're seeing a change in the demeanor around the facility, and guys are buying it. You've got guys like Martez Wilson who are grasping the defense and staying afterwards, going over plays, going over formations. You got a lot of guys who are going to have a lot of fun in this defense."
Butler thrived in his backup role with the Cowboys racking up 89 tackles with 11 sacks in 4 season of limited action in Big D and is now hoping to earn more time on the field with the Saints.
"I've done four years in Dallas of fitting in. It's time for me to stand out," Butler said. "I was behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Great guys to learn from, but I'd love to take those things that they've taught me and put them to good use. I've got some great teammates; some great, athletic guys and probably some of the best guys I've been around. But here for me, it's just a chance to step out of the shadows and become a productive member of the team. That's all I really want."
We will hopefully get our first glimpse of Victor Butler and the revamped Saints defense next week. The media is scheduled to view part of the organized team activities (OTAs) on Thursday.
Johnny Manziel was in New Orleans today to accept the 2012-13 Manning Award, an honor given to a college QB judged to be the best in the nation by the Allstate Sugar Bowl Committee. (The award is named in honor of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.) In its first unanimous vote, the Committee agreed that Texas A&M’s “Johnny Football” deserves to bring the hardware home to College Station.
"On behalf of my family, I would like to congratulate Johnny Manziel on his outstanding season," Archie Manning said at the award presentation. "It is very difficult for a young player to make the transition to college football, and Johnny not only made the transition seamlessly, he turned in the best year of any quarterback in the country.”
In addition to becoming the first freshman to win the Manning Award, Manziel was also the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and the Davey O'Brien Award. His electrifying athleticism helped produce some crazy numbers in his freshman year - 3,706 passing yards, 1,410 rushing yards and 47 touchdowns (26 passing, 21 rushing.)
"This is big time," said Manziel. "You look at what the Mannings have done for football and what they're continuing to do year after year. To win this award is really big."
Johnny Football’s greatness was stifled by defensive coordinator John Chavis and the LSU defense this year, though. He threw 3 interceptions and rushed for just 27 yards as the Tigers were victorious 24-19 at Kyle Field.
“LSU was the best defense we played last year,” Manziel said. “We just struggled a little bit there and they did a good job getting a lot of pressure with ends. They’re really fast, getting up the field with those ends. And you have speed all over the field. That’s a big key to why they were so good.’’
This year the Aggies and Johnny Football come to Death Valley on Nov. 23rd looking for a little revenge.