Apparently within the span of 24 hours, the Pelicans have filled both of their two roster vacancies. First came Dante Cunningham around midday yesterday, and now last night, while many were having nightmares of Klay Thompson raining three's, Gal Mekel.
It's probably best to wait for an official member of the Pelicans organization to give positive confirmation, but in all likelihood, it sounds like a foregone conclusion. Many fans were not probably too aware of Cunningham, but I'm willing to bet even less know anything about Mekel.
Who is Gal Mekel?
We, at the Bird Writes, posed this question to Mavs Moneyball yesterday.
**Warning, click their link at your own risk. No, I'm not alluding to the beautiful woman, nor the amazing scenery, but rather the chiseled abs that will soon be doing battle with New Orleans cuisine.
Asides the fact Mekel appears to be in great shape and is 26 years old, he was an accomplished basketball player...in Israel. He won their MVP award twice within a span of 3 years (2011, 2013), and had a number of NBA teams knocking at his door but decided to commit to the Mavericks.
The 25-year-old Mekel tried out for the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, and Dallas Mavericks, and was also interviewed by the Memphis Grizzlies. He was presented with several options to play in the NBA summer league to try and earn a spot on a roster, but was ready to fully commit to the Mavericks.
However, after his rookie season, there remains little in terms of concrete NBA data as attested by his 292 minutes played.
Thanks in part to a torn meniscus in his right knee, the last time he played any meaningful minutes was back on January 13, 2014. He surpassed the 20 minute barrier just 3 times in his rookie season and posted a super small sample size average of 8.7 points (with a 44.4 FG%), 6.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds, .7 three's and 2 turnovers.
Why didn't I list his Per 36 minute statistics? Well frankly, after last night's debacle on national television, we didn't need to be hit with any further depressing news. (For those interested -- all his shooting %'s were abysmal and his turnover rate was nearly 4 a game.)
But wait, before you contemplate another facepalm, there is some better news.
First, Mekel looked to have improved in the 2014 Summer League. In 4 games, he posted averages of 11.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 turnovers in 28.3 minutes of action. His questionable shooting ability posted a 53.1 FG% / 40.0 3FG% / 71.4 FT%.
Second, scouting reports show promise, especially in the passing department. Dan Clayton posted a nice breakdown of him back when he believed the Jazz had a legitimate chance of signing Mekel.
Third, it is somewhat heartening to know other teams in the league still considered him valuable after his rookie season. From Marc Stein:
Mekel made the Mavericks' opening night roster out of training camp -- beating out three others with NBA experience for Dallas' final spot -- but was subsequently let go when the Mavs had an unexpected opportunity to re-sign J.J. Barea at a minimum salary. Barea played a key role as a reserve on the Mavs' 2011 championship team.
Gal Mekel isn't going to make waves and there is a very good chance he won't even crack the regular rotation. However, with the fact Monty Williams attempted to use Russ Smith recently in our loss in Atlanta and now he's slated to go to the D-League, there appears to be a need for a backup PG.
Expect more #Pelicans roster moves. 1st: Russ Smith to D League in Ft. Wayne soon. Won't stay long, but need to get him reps on the court.— Jennifer Hale (@JenHale504) December 5, 2014
As we've witnessed, both Austin Rivers and Jimmer Fredette are better suited to playing off the ball. Thus, after Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, the team feels it needs a third passing PG. Welcome, Gal. May your stay surprise us all.
UPDATE: It's official.
.@GalMekel33 will wear #24 and be available tomorrow night vs. the Clippers.— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) December 5, 2014