Oct 25, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Orlando Magic 101-82. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Pelicans Summer League Game Two Preview: What to Watch For

This afternoon the New Orleans Pelicans will take the floor for their second game in the Samsung Las Vegas Summer League against Jordan Clarkson led Los Angeles Lakers. The Pelicans opener brought good feelings after Russ Smith led an incredible 21-2 run in the fourth quarter to push the Pelicans over the D-League Select squad 83-81. There were some good signs in that game for New Orleans, most notably Smith’s second half performance so what should Pelicans fans be looking for from today’s game?

Can Smith Adjust Against Length? A lot of the struggles from Russ Smith in Friday night’s opener came because of the length of the D-League Select squad. A few times Smith seemed to think that he was in the clear after getting by a defender before having the ball poked away for a turnover. Other times Smith attacked the paint and either struggled to finish against the length of the D-League team or found himself in a position where he had to throw a tough pass that turned into a turnover. Today Smith will likely see time against Clarkson who is giant for a point guard at 6’5” with a 6’8” wingspan. Will he play like he did in the second half of Friday’s game or take some time to get used to things again? Either way it should be a great experience for him.

Can Josh Howard Defend Without Fouling? Josh Howard was the most impressive of the group of small forwards on Friday night thanks to a very good showing on offense. Howard knocked down open shots, scored a bit in the post against smaller defenders and got to the foul line to finish with 14 points on 4-6 shooting from the field. Unfortunately he also picked up four first half fouls as he just seemed a step slow on that end of the floor. If Howard wants a chance to make the roster he has to fix things up to at least passable on that end as his offense could absolutely help the Pelicans off the bench for a cheap price.

Can Pat Young Continue to Shine? Patric Young was incredible on Friday night in ways that Pat Young is normally great. He owned the glass, set solid screens and was very vocal defensively. With Omer Asik, Anthony Davis, and Ryan Anderson set in the rotation, and Jeff Withey seeming to be Young making the Pelicans roster seems like a long shot. If he continues to play as well as he did Friday though the Pelicans are going to have a tough decision to make.

Jeff Withey‘s Defense: I though Withey had a really good game on the defensive end of the floor on Friday. He contested a ton of shots without fouling (he finished with as many blocked shots, three, as fouls) and always seemed to be in the right position. Withey isn’t ever going to be a focal point of the offense so at this point I am kind of ignoring the post-ups he gets on that end during the summer but the defensive impact is important. If he can continue that he will be a great fit on the Pelicans bench unit and as substitute for when Asik needs to sit.

Today should be a much cleaner game for the Pelicans now that they have gotten comfortable with each other in a game situation and gotten used to the way things work in Vegas. Expect the offense to run a bit smoother and players to potentially knock down a few more jumpers which for some players like James Southerland will be an important part of if they can stick on the Pelicans roster. But for the future of the Pelicans actual roster, the four questions above are the things I will be keying in on.

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