Pelicans pick guard Tony Carr with sole draft pick
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans addressed have a couple of major, uncertain free-agent concerns and they used their only pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft to address one of them.
The Pelicans bolstered their backcourt, drafting Penn State point guard Tony Carr in the second round. New Orleans used the 51st overall pick to take Carr, 6-foot-5, who averaged 19.6 points (second-most in the Big Ten), 5.0 assists and 4.9 rebounds as a sophomore last season.
While the biggest question facing New Orleans this offseason is the future of free-agent All-Star forward of DeMarcus Cousins, the organization faces questions about a key agent in point guard Rajon Rondo.
“He can play” both guard positions, Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said of Carr. “We like his size. We like his ability to score. We like his ability to make plays. He’s pretty crafty and he played in a tough conference and was able to score at an elite level.”
As New Orleans looks to resolve those situations, the Pelicans wanted to upgrade their perimeter game this offseason, particularly with scorers who can create their own shot off the dribble.
Carr shot just 40.8 percent from the floor last season, but that was an improvement from the 37.7 percent he shot while averaging 13.2 points as a freshman. He improved his three-point percentage from 32.0 as a freshman to 43.3 as a sophomore.
The Pelicans hope that upward trend continues with Rondo’s situation unclear.
Starting shooting guard Jrue Holiday can also play the point, but backup point guard Ian Clark is also a free agent. Last year’s No. 2 pick, Frank Jackson, is a combo guard who missed all of his rookie season because of a foot injury.
Carr said he has studied Holiday, who was named to the NBA All-Defensive team and averaged 19 points per game last season.
He said like Holiday, “I can play on both ends of the floor. I can score and I can also facilitate for others.”
Rondo, 32, was signed to a one-year deal last summer and proved to be a valuable veteran presence on a team with little playoff experience.
Demps said the uncertainty of Rondo’s and Clark’s future with the team wasn’t a factor in the Pelicans selecting Carr.
“We really looked at the best player available,” Demps said. “But I don’t want to get too excited. We’re going to get him in here next week. We’ll see when we get a live look at him. There’s no guarantee he’ll be on the team this year.”
Cousins’ status is complicated by a couple of factors. He’s coming off a torn Achilles that ended his season in January, and the Pelicans played well after acquiring Niko Mirotic in a February trade with Chicago to replace Cousins. That trade cost them their first-round pick.
New Orleans wound up winning 48 games and sweeping Portland in a first-round playoff series before losing to Golden State in five games.
Demps said July 1, the first day of free agency, “is going to be a busy day for us.”
He said the Pelicans have been communicating with the agents for Cousins and Rondo.
“They’re both big parts of what we did,” Demps said.
Demps added that Cousins’ rehabilitation is “right on schedule,” adding that Cousins is “committed to getting back and being ready to play.”
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