Takeaways from Pelicans Summer League

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Published: July 14, 2017

The New Orleans Pelicans wrap up Las Vegas Summer League tonight with a game against the Denver Nuggets at 7 pm central. Record-wise it hasn’t been great for the Pelicans in the Vegas heat, notching just one win so far (maybe two!). But Summer League isn’t about wins and losses; it’s about the players. And from that aspect the Pelicans have some bright spots.

Before I get into who played well, look, I know this is Summer League. We should only take some much away from it. But that doesn’t mean anyone should completely discount it. Guys like Cheick Diallo and Quinn Cook we’re supposed to be better than most others out there, so it is a good thing they played like that. Had they not been able to score, defend, and dominate lesser players then, yeah, that actually is cause for concern.

Take a break from looking at your salary cap spreadsheet, from staring at Twitter for the latest trade rumors, from overreacting to said trade rumor, and lets look at some actual on court play.

Observations

–Summer League was going to be all about two players for the Pelicans. The first one being Cheick Diallo. He delivered. The 2nd year player averaged 18.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game on 56.3% shooting. He also hit over 80% of his free throws and got to the line a good bit. Diallo showed off his bounciness and highly energetic game last season, but in Summer League showed off a refined scoring touch. He’ll still be great in the pick and roll, but showed off a nice hook shot and mid-range game. Diallo is looking like the 3rd or 4th big for the Pelicans this season, and I can’t say I hate that idea. Diallo is also a highly emotional player, and while the fiery attitude is good, he seems like he has the ability to get stuck in his head at times.

–Quinn Cook was the second player that Summer League was about, and while he didn’t shine quite like Diallo you have to come away pretty happy with his performance. Cook averaged 20.6 points and 4.8 assists per game on 55.1% shooting. Cook is less of a point guard like Tim Frazier and more of one in the mold of Reggie Jackson. Cook likes to attack off the pick and roll and slash the defense. He lacks elite athleticism to consistently turn the corner on his defender, but is able to create separation for a pull-up jumper. He has just enough outside shooting to keep defenses honest as he went 8-17 for 47.1% from behind the arc. He won’t be getting these kind of looks playing against solid NBA players, but it shows some potential and multi-dimension to his game. Cook’s passing leaves some to be desired, and he led the Summer League team in turnovers, but he should be fine with the second unit and as a spot starter.

–For a guy who played in the NBA with the Pelicans and put up big performances in the G-League last season, Axel Toupane disappointed. This is a player who shows off 3 and D potential and could provide valuable wing depth for New Orleans next season. But he averaged 7.8 points per game on under 40% shooting. Like I said, it is just Summer League, but if you can’t take over a game for stretches I might not be incredibly high on your chances in the NBA. He did shoot 50% from deep so at least that is a bright spot. He has a contract with the team right now so he should be around for training camp.

–A bit of a surprise in Summer League was Jalen Jones. Jones is a bit of a stretch 4 that showed off a nice inside game and ability to get to the line. He was also third on the team in rebounding with 5 boards per game. Not only that but he showed a decent touch from the perimeter and went 7 for 20. Expect Jones, and his 11.8 points per game average to get a training camp invite.

–Diallo and Cook both struggled defensively at times. Diallo’s court awareness isn’t very high, and Cook strugles to stay in front of his man. This isn’t exactly surprising to see from two young players, but is worth mentioning.

–No one may have come off better that Summer League head coach Jamelle McMillan. The Pelicans losses (except to the Nets) were all very close, and McMillan had the team playing hard right up until the end of every game. He showed the ability to manage the flow of the game and use the players properly. It’s also worth noting how well spoken McMillan is and his post game interview answers come across as very thoughtful. It’s hard not to be impressed with this part of the Pelicans’ coaching staff.

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