Summer League Recap: Rivers, Roberts lead Pelicans over Cavs

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Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts made shots on three straight possessions to close the game, ending any chance for a Cavaliers comeback as the Pelicans prevailed, 66-62. The best stat line of the night has to go to Lance Thomas - 5 for 5 from the field for 14 points, along with 10 rebounds, 4 of them offensive. In the first half, it just seemed like Thomas couldn't miss - he was getting to the basket, getting out in transition, and even hitting jumpers. He played reasonably good defense and was able to put the clamps on players that were much bigger than him down low.

Offensively, however, he only showed up in the first half - after an explosion in the first 20 minutes, he didn't even take a shot in the second half. This might be instructive for Lance Thomas's skill set, however. The first half was very free-flowing, with lots of transition opportunities and both teams taking shots fairly early in the shot clock. The second half, however, devolved into a half-court slugfest with both teams stymied offensively. Perhaps Thomas would work best in a small lineup where he plays the power forward that gets out in transition a lot. Perhaps, as well, it would be absolutely insane to design an offense around putting Lance Thomas at the power forward position. Anyways, everybody else gets bullets:

  • Another nice outing from Austin Rivers. He had a rough time getting his floater to fall, and I think he might be relying a bit too much on it when it definitely seems like he's kind of bad at floaters. Nonetheless, he put together a decent stat line while not being able to get too much to fall - 5 for 12, 13 points. He even made 3 of 4 from the free throw line! He had a couple of assists and a couple of turnovers, but he had 5 fouls - he's definitely had an issue limiting his fouls throughout this Summer League. He's playing a lot more aggressively on defense, and perhaps that's the cause. His ability to get into the lane in this game, however, absolutely flummoxed the Cavs defense at times and at the end of the game he was completely unstoppable.
  • Brian Roberts had a rough game from the field. His midrange game wasn't falling like it was yesterday, and he wound up with an ugly 5-15 line for 11 points. He was a good distributor of the ball this game, however, making several incisive passes and netting 6 assists on only 2 turnovers. His dagger at the end of the game with the shot clock winding down was masterful - he's making a strong push to be included in the Pelicans' crowded backcourt next year.
  • Darius Miller is becoming less and less of an enigma. As a three-point shooter, he's excellent. Once again, he made 2 of 3 from downtown, and his shot form looks smooth. However, once he's inside the arc, he's not very good at all. I looked up his shooting stats from last year - he make 39.3% from beyond the arc and only 40.7% of his shots overall, so this isn't an isolated issue. I'm not sure he's good enough on defense to be a 3-and-D player, but if he can hold his own on the other end, you could definitely make a case for him being valuable for the Pelicans just based on his three-point shooting alone.
  • Jeff Withey was outstanding on the defensive end, which isn't a shocker. I'm still amazed at how well this guy moves around the court and his ability to leap in quick succession. Here's Withey blocking two shots in a row volleyball-style. What the video doesn't show is that the blocks come after a recovery from hedging on a screen six or so feet beyond the three-point line. Withey has been lethal to pick and rolls - his ability to hedge hard and quickly recover has stymied many an opponent's possession. On offense, however, Withey is a definite downgrade from the smaller Jon Brockman. Possessions just don't run as well with Withey on the floor - he doesn't pass as well, doesn't screen as well, and he's not fighting for the loose balls to extend possessions like Brockman does. He definitely needs to work on rebounding form, as well. Nonetheless, I'm absolutely pumped to have him soaking up ~10 minutes per game next season.
  • While Withey was able to pick it up in his second game, Pierre Jackson had another rough one. He was active and alert on defense and made some great plays, particularly in transition, but he has just thrown the ball away too much so far. He tends to just run out of control and make ill-advised passes, which led to 5 turnovers this game. He didn't shoot particularly well either, going only 1 of 4 for 2 points. He's got another game or two in Summer League left and he'll certainly have an opportunity in training camp, but Jackson looks like the first guard cut in this stacked backcourt.

With this year's weird tournament format, we're not sure when the Pelicans will play next, but I think we can be relatively certain that their 2-1 record will put them in the top group of teams that will receive first-round byes. We might not see the SummerPelicans play again until late this week.

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