Winners and Losers from New Orleans Pelicans Summer League
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
As Summer League has officially ended, the New Orleans Pelicans coaching staff has time to reflect on which players will be extended an invite to training camp.
The team went 2-3 in Las Vegas, receiving stellar performances from the biggest names on the roster. Still, the summer league is not about wins and losses; it is about player development and camaraderie.
With a young team, some of the Pelicans biggest stars—Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson—were on hand to show support and help coach potential teammates.
The players on New Orleans’ roster a year ago made the highlights, but others had much more to prove.
The summer league provides an opportunity for fringe players to showcase their talents to NBA coaches and scouts. A good outing could lead to a roster spot come October—whether it’s with the Pelicans or not.
The team was very competitive and all three losses were by single digits.
Who performed well? Who wishes they had another crack at it? Here are the winners and losers from Las Vegas.
Winner: Darius Miller
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Darius Miller was told to be more aggressive when controlling the ball. In his rookie season, Miller was up and down from the D-League to the Hornets' bench.
That’s in large part because he was passive and too tentative with the ball in his hands. This summer, it was clear he focused on his offensive game.
It wasn’t all good for Miller, though. He shot 32.3 percent in his first three games. His confidence increased in the first round of the summer league tournament, where he scored 20 second-half points.
In the final game, Miller was an efficient 7-of-12 from the floor and finished with 15 points. In his final six quarters, Miller totaled 35 points.
Behind Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts, Miller was the third-leading scorer on the team with 13.8 points per game.
If he continues to play more aggressive and possess the same confidence he had for the last one-and-a-half games, Miller could be a worthy wing player off the Pelicans bench.
Loser: Josh Owens
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The 6’8” Josh Owens started the first game of the summer and appeared in all five games, but wasn’t able to make any type of impact.
He scored just nine points and recorded eight rebounds in the entire summer league. While Lance Thomas took most of the minutes Owens would have received, he still had his opportunity to contribute.
After playing over 23 minutes against the New York Knicks with three points and three rebounds, his ensuing lack of playing time in the next four games gave him an average of 10.1 minutes on the floor in Summer League.
He averaged a mere 1.6 rebounds per game.
The odds weren’t in Owens’ favor during his time in Las Vegas.
Winner: Lance Thomas
After being waived to relieve cap space, Lance Thomas, the former Duke Blue Devil returned for a chance on the summer league squad. Because of his experience in the system, summer league coach Bryan Gates gave Thomas extended minutes.
He played 28.1 minutes per game in the four games he appeared in. He was on the bench in the Pelicans first game before officially returning to the team.
With the shooters New Orleans had on its team, Thomas didn’t receive many shots per game, but he was very effective when he did shoot the ball (except in the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks where he was just 1-of-7 in his first action of the summer).
Even with the poor shooting performance against Milwaukee, Thomas shot 50 percent from the floor (12-of-24) in the league with 7.8 points per game.
Additionally, Thomas led the team in rebounding with an average of 6.8 boards.
He had no less than five rebounds in any game and recorded the only double-double in New Orleans’ summer league with a 14-point, 10-rebound effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While it remains to be seen whether Thomas will land with the Pelicans, he has done more than solidify his chances of a role on an NBA roster. Head coach Monty Williams might just have to find room for Thomas on the bench.
Loser: Pierre Jackson
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Pierre Jackson had a tough start to his professional career. The reigning NIT MVP out of Baylor was unable to participate in team practices or the first game of summer because of the draft day trade from the Philadelphia 76ers. The deal wasn’t official until July 10.
It’s no surprise the 5’10” Jackson was nervous to start.
He had two points and five turnovers in his first game and followed that up with three points and three turnovers.
For the summer, Jackson was 4-of-14 from the field, or 28.6 percent.
Jackson did possess great court vision, finding the open man after creating some space with his quickness. However, he was forced into bad passes, which resulted in bad turnovers.
He missed the Denver Nuggets game with pink eye and returned in the Pelicans final game with five points and two turnovers.
Jackson has a lot of potential and shouldn’t get discouraged by a rough couple of weeks, but he’s got his work cut out for him if he wishes to make an NBA roster.
Winner: Jeff Withey
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Jeff Withey was never a big-time scorer. His value comes from the defensive end.
Despite missing the first game because he was part of the trade that sent Robin Lopez to Portland and Tyreke Evans to New Orleans, Withey instantly made himself a defensive presence.
In a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Withey—known for his shot blocking—swatted away three shots.
Withey was knocked around in the paint during his first professional game, but that could be due to jitters and lack of practice with his new team.
He showed he could handle the middle as the summer league progressed, grabbing rebounds and making his shots when he was a factor on offense.
Those shots didn’t come often, as Withey averaged four points per game on 6-of-13 shooting over the four games.
Withey, the 23-year-old big man out of Kansas averaged five rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
In what might be Withey’s greatest attribute, he committed just six total fouls in 18 minutes per game. Though second round picks aren't guaranteed a contract, Withey proved he deserves a spot in Williams' rotation.
Loser: Cameron Moore
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Cameron Moore, the 6’10” power forward out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, started the summer on a high note.
In just under 18 minutes coming off the bench in the Knicks game, Moore scored 13 points on 6-of-12 from the floor, adding six rebounds and a blocked shot. He scored 12 of those points in the first half and added a free throw in the second half.
Coming from the Euro League, Moore was hoping to make an impact and have a shot at a career in the NBA.
He’s got great length and is a rebounding machine down low, but the Pelicans simply have no room for him.
When Thomas came back, he took the minutes that Moore was hoping to have. In the games against Milwaukee and Cleveland, Moore didn’t see the floor at all.
He played under 10 minutes in the final two games, only getting off three total shots. He made one shot per game and recorded just four points in the two-game span.
He did, however, manage two blocks in just over nine minutes against the Nuggets.
It started off promising, but Moore’s summer league didn’t quite go the way he had hoped.
Winner: Brian Roberts
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Brian Roberts was a formidable backup point guard for New Orleans last season. Acquiring Jrue Holiday left Roberts with much to prove.
He showed his value throughout the summer league with 14.2 points per game. Roberts was able to weave in and out of the defense, dish it out to the wing or pull up for a mid-range jumper.
His most impressive performance came in the tournament-style game against the Denver Nuggets. He shot an effective 8-of-12 from the field with 17 points and four rebounds in over 33 minutes.
The 6’1” point guard did all he could to secure his $788,872 non-guaranteed contract and he's hoping to be on the roster come October, per John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Roberts was tied for the team lead with 2.6 assists per contest.
His mid-range jump shot was on display in each and every game, making him a winner in this year’s summer league.
Loser: Elston Turner
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Playing in three summer games, shooting guard Elston Turner was overshadowed by the successes of Austin Rivers.
Turner saw increased minutes in the first game against New York, but scored just four points on 2-of-7 from the field while committing two turnovers. When you’re in a situation like Turner, you have to make the most of your opportunities.
After that performance, Gates didn’t play Turner against Milwaukee or Cleveland, but he resurfaced against Denver.
Playing just over nine minutes, Turner scored two points and dished out one assist, giving him a chance to play in the final game.
In what would be his last attempt at making an impression, Turner missed the only shot he took.
Rivers played most of every game, so it’s not a surprise Turner had to fight to get on the court.
The undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M never had a shot at making the Pelicans roster loaded with talented guards, but he didn’t help his chances at getting picked up by a different team, either.
Winner: Jon Brockman
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Jon Brockman, the first-time Pelican who spent last season in France, started all five summer games for New Orleans.
He made his presence known on defense and used his big body to clog the lane.
The former Portland Trail Blazers second-round pick was second on the team with 6.6 rebounds per game, logging just under 24 minutes per contest.
Brockman wasn’t much of an offensive presence, leaving the buckets on the inside for Thomas, but his aggressive defense led to a 10-rebound night against the Knicks and a three-steal effort against Milwaukee.
If there’s a negative about Brockman, it’s his fouls. He had at least three fouls in every game and he had five fouls in three games.
He plays the game as hard as anyone out there and is a dark horse to get an invitation to training camp. He was playing solid each game, but if Williams and general manager Dell Demps feel comfortable with Jason Smith, Greg Stiemsma and Jeff Withey, then Brockman will be the odd man out.
If that’s the case, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a different NBA team take a chance on Brockman.
Winner: Austin Rivers
A healthy Austin Rivers took over Las Vegas by storm. His first game action since breaking his right hand in March, Rivers shot 8-of-15 from the field and scored 24 points.
The oft-criticized Rivers gave an all-around effort in the five point win over the Knicks. With the 24 points, he added six assists, one steal and grabbed seven rebounds.
He led the team throughout the summer league with 18.2 points per game and was tied for the team lead with an average of 2.6 assists.
While Rivers made just 17 of his 40 shot attempts in games two through four, he ended the summer just as he started.
In the final game against the Washington Wizards, Rivers was 9-of-13 from the field with 23 points.
Rivers showed his aggressiveness by driving the lane, throwing down dunks and getting to the foul line. He shot 72.4 percent from the line in five games after being a 54 percent free-throw shooter in his rookie season.
For a player trying to prove last season was a fluke, Rivers got off to a great start this offseason.