In their fifth and final game in the Samsung Las Vegas Summer League the New Orleans Pelicans jumped out to an early lead and played the Minnesota Timberwolves tight over the first three quarters before getting bulldozed in the fourth and falling 97-78. The team was led by Russ Smith who finished with 21 points on 9-18 shooting to go with three assists and two rebounds. Patric Young finished with eight points and 12 rebounds to complete a strong showing in Vegas and Cameron Ayers put in 11 points for the Pelicans off the bench on 4-6 shooting.
- Russ Smith had a weird game. He poured in a bunch of points early when poor Brady Heslip was asked to defend him but he went quiet when Minnesota first round pick Zach LaVine was shifted onto him. As a backup point guard Smith won’t see a ton of guys with the length and athleticism of LaVine defending him but it continued his week-long struggle against length. Smith made up for it though by scoring some in transition and by using an array of floaters. That shot is going to be big for Smith so to see him knock them down consistently was nice.
- Smith also got hung up a bit in screens on the defensive end of this one in particular a few times late when defending Heslip. It very well could have been a fatigue thing but as an undersized player Smith is going to have to work extra hard to not get caught.
- Jeff Withey‘s offense in the second half was painful to watch. He won’t ever be asked to be a post scorer for the Pelicans main club but he was messing up rolls, catch and shoot plays and offensive rebounding chances. His defense makes him playable for the few minutes a night the Pelicans will need from their fourth big but he didn’t exactly make it clear that guy should be him instead of Alexis Ajinca or Patric Young.
- Speaking of Young this was the type of game that makes it tough to see him as anything more than a third big. As he always does he rebounded the ball well, especially on the offensive end where he grabbed five offensive rebounds, but he struggled to catch in traffic, struggled to finish in traffic and somehow picked up a technical foul in a summer league game. His rebounding and athleticism will let him keep a spot in the league but the offensive struggles are going to limit his upside.
- It doesn’t look like the Pelicans are going to find a small forward to keep on the roster like they had hoped too entering Vegas. DeQuan Jones reportedly has signed a deal to play with Acqua Vitasnella Cantu in Italy. Josh Howard didn’t play in the team’s final two games in Vegas. James Southerland was utterly forgettable and while Cameron Ayers had a nice five games he did nothing but knock down shots and doesn’t seem to be an NBA level athlete. Expect the team to continue to try to plug the hole with cheap stop-gap options and probably more Tyreke Evans minutes.
- After a few nice games in a row Coutney Fells struggled in this one though it may be related to a hard fall he took early in the game. After staying down for a few seconds after the landing Fells seemed a bit out of rhythm and his shot didn’t fall. It is impossible to know for sure if it made a difference but it wouldn’t be surprising if it did. In the end Fells had a nice stint with the Pelicans and likely earned himself an NBA training camp invite with someone. If the Pelicans think he can handle some minutes at small forward despite being just 6’5” and a middle of the road athlete it may be with them.
Tags: New Orleans Pelicans