Three players to watch during Pelicans’ Summer League

Frank Jackson
Frank Jackson /

The New Orleans Pelicans start preparation for the Las Vegas Summer League with a four-day minicamp that began yesterday and will run through Thursday. The Vegas opener is against the Toronto Raptors on Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center. The group is guaranteed five games. Pool play games also include the Miami Heat on July 7 and the Detroit Pistons on July 9th, followed by a single-elimination tournament.

The next couple of weeks will provide a good evaluation for the organization to see how some recent draft picks may fit. It also gives chances to see if the Pels may have found a possible diamond in the rough (see former Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett).

Today, we look at three players for whom the next couple of weeks have an additional level of importance:

Tony Carr

The Pelicans’ second-round draft pick will have plenty of opportunities during the summer league to show whether or not he can be a capable playmaker at the NBA level. At Penn State, Carr showed good decision-making ability in the pick-and-roll, using his 6-foot-4 frame to work around smaller defenders and quickness against bigs.

Unfortunately, he lacks the elite athleticism to score at the rim consistently. Often in college, we saw Carr settling for contested jumpers. That led to a poor shooting percentage inside the arc, although he showed great improvement from beyond it (43 percent as a sophomore, up from 32 percent as a freshman). Considering he won’t be asked to do as much for NOLA, it could better his chances of making the final roster.

Chieck Diallo

It’s time to figure something out about Diallo, who is playing in his third summer league. He nearly averaged a double-double in the five games last year and started to play more during the season after the DeMarcus Cousins injury. At times, he was a solid defender alongside Anthony Davis.

He also showed versatility as well, playing both the four and five. With a long, lanky build (6-9, 220 pounds) and still two months shy of his 22nd birthday, there is a spot in the Pelicans’ rotation for Diallo. If he continues to grow heading into his third season, he could potentially provide some roster versatility.

Frank Jackson

Injuries last season stripped Jackson of making his debut. As of right now, however, he has been fully cleared to practice and will get 25 minutes per game during summer league play. That would give him the chance to knock some of the rust off, as he hasn’t played since scoring 15 points in an 88-81 loss to South Carolina in the second round of the 2017 NCAA tournament as a Duke freshman.

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At his best, he’s a dynamic ball handler and playmaker. He has the ability to create for himself and others. He also is a proven marksmen from deep (40 percent as a freshman at Duke). Summer league will be a step, but evaluations should probably be withheld for at least a couple of games.