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Jordan Hawkins will get a chance to run early for New Orleans

After a lovely night in Brooklyn, Hawkins finds himself in an interesting situation with the Pelicans.

NBA: NBA Draft Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Hawkins became UConn men’s basketball’s 15th NBA Draft lottery pick on Thursday night, selected by the New Orleans Pelicans at No. 14 overall.

The Maryland native was invited to the green room to hear his name called in person. After an emotional embrace with his family, he donned the hat, walked across the stage, and met Commissioner Adam Silver to commemorate the first seconds of his NBA career.

Hawkins is a solid fit for New Orleans, as he will help boost an offense that didn’t take very many 3-pointers and should slot into a key rotational role. The guard will have a solid development environment with a talented team around him.

CJ McCollum’s presence on the Pelicans roster means that Hawkins most likely won’t be in the starting lineup. There are plenty of minutes to go around, though, in a guard rotation that has just one other shooting guard on contract for 2023-24 in Garrett Temple, though he’s non-guaranteed. Josh Richardson is also a pending free agent with Bird rights, so he may be back.

It’s unlikely the Pelicans will make any offseason moves, as McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram combine to make more than $100 million against a $136 million salary cap, combined with eight-figure deals each for Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance Jr.

Two of New Orleans’ “Big Three” have been oft-injured. McCollum played 75 games last year, but Ingram missed nearly half the season and Williamson appeared in just 29 games after missing all of 2021-22.

This will help secure a role for Hawkins, as the Pelicans’ front office will have a difficult time making significant additions without going deep into the luxury tax and up against the hard cap.

They’re in need of better shooting, as well. New Orleans was a middle-of-the-road behind the 3-point line and 29th in attempts. Hawkins should be able to get off screens for lots of catch-and-shoot opportunities, as he did countless times in a UConn uniform.

In a smaller role, Hawkins may improve defensively. His effort was never questioned, but based on his high levels of offensive activity and minutes, he wasn’t asked to be a defensive stopper in college. With a lighter workload, some of that energy may transfer to the defensive end, which can only help as the Pelicans were No. 6 in defensive rating last season.

He’ll also have a UConn connection in New Orleans. Former women’s basketball star Swin Cash is an executive with the Pelicans.