There was no Zion Williamson necessary for the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, as they handled the Chicago Bulls with ease in a 109-72 victory at the summer league in Las Vegas.
With Williamson sidelined by injury, first-round picks Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes spearheaded the effort for the Pelicans. Alexander-Walker, who was the No. 17 pick out of Virginia Tech, stuffed the stat sheet with 23 points, eight assists, three steals, two rebounds and two blocks, while Hayes, who was the No. 8 pick out of Texas, notched 28 points, four boards and three blocks.
New Orleans' season will largely be defined by the development of Williamson, who was the No. 1 pick and enters his rookie campaign with LeBron James-level hype. He figured to be the primary attraction in Las Vegas, but his absence underscored the fact that the Pelicans have plenty of young talent.
Alexander-Walker averaged 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his final collegiate season with the Hokies and demonstrated the range he will need to make an immediate impact with three three-pointers.
His ability to hit open shots from the perimeter when Williamson draws additional defensive attention will go a long way toward impacting his playing time, and Monday's showing suggests he is up for the challenge.
As for Hayes, the reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year wasted little time turning heads in his summer-league debut with a massive dunk and some of the rim protection he displayed with the Longhorns when he averaged 2.2 blocks a night:
The playmakers weren't the only first-round picks on display, as Chicago's Coby White remained under the spotlight as the No. 7 selection.
The North Carolina product is the point guard of the future for the Bulls and will likely find significant playing time right away for a team with a promising young core that was in need of a playmaker at the position to build around.
A point guard to develop with Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. in the frontcourt and Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr. on the wing would seem to be the missing ingredient, and White provided what has been missing in the summer league with back-to-back triples after failing to hit a three-pointer despite a combined 32 points and eight assists in his first two games.
There is little questioning White's speed in transition and ability to break opponents' ankles with his silky-smooth dribbling, but he will need an outside shot to prevent defenses from sagging off him and clogging penetration.
He hit 35.3 percent of his triples in his one season with the Tar Heels and now has something to build on after connecting from the outside in Monday's contest on his way to 25 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Still, it was the Pelicans' rookies who stole the show in this contest, adding to the bright future for a team with a number of young pieces. Alexander-Walker and Hayes are part of a group that includes Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart next to veterans in Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick, and the playoffs are a realistic possibility if Williamson lives up to the hype.
Both teams will continue looking toward their future Wednesday when the Pelicans face the Charlotte Hornets and the Bulls square off with the Cleveland Cavaliers.