The NBA Summer League: a time when rookies can show case their game, veterans can prove they deserve a roster spot, and second and third year players can show how they have improved.
Now that the Summer League is over, lets take a look at some of the the major takeaways for the Pelicans.
1. Austin Rivers has improved. A LOT.
The player every New Orleans fan wanted to watch play this summer was Austin Rivers. After being picked 10th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, Rivers followed it up with a horrendous rookie season. The Pelicans needed more from Rivers. They needed him to improve. Summer League was his chance to prove that he had gotten better, and he showed up. In his first game against the Knicks, Rivers posted 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists while also strutting an improved jump shot form and a look of confidence. Although the Knicks game was the best of the week for Rivers, he went on to average 18.2 ppg on 48% shooting from the field, 3.6 rpg, 2.6 apg, and 1.4 spg. You’d think Monty Williams would figure out how to give him some legitimate minutes, whether it’s at point guard or shooting guard, after the week he had.
2. The Rookies are, after all, rookies.
For some reason, every time a big name college player makes the transition to the NBA, everyone expects them to be better than they really are. Pelicans rookies Jeff Withey and Pierre Jackson showed flashes, but in the end, didn’t play consistently. Withey posted averages of 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game for the week while Jackson recorded 3.7 points on 28% shooting and 2 assists. Withey’s stats aren’t all that bad. He showed off his refined jump shot and showed that he still has the shot-blocking abilities that made him the 2-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. But Vegas also brought out Withey’s weaknesses. He struggled to rebound for the most part, considering he is 7-feet tall, and was often pushed around by stronger post players. As for Jackson, after a summer full of Nate Robinson comparisons, showed that he can make some serious plays when he puts his mind to it. However, he struggled for the majority of the week and forced plays when given the ball. Despite the obvious flaws, we have to remember that they are just rookies, and a year or two with NBA coaches could prove to be helpful.
3. Lance Thomas deserves to be re-signed
Earlier this offseason, the Pelicans were forced to waive Lance Thomas is order to sign free-agent center Greg Steimsma. The Pelicans planned on bringing him back on a smaller deal. During the Summer League, he posted averages of 7.8 ppg on 50% shooting while also grabbing 6.8 rpg. Thomas’s steady play and hard working style showed why the Pelicans have him in their plans for the future.