No one should read that much into the NBA Summer League. But screw it, it's summer, we're bored, and making large sweeping opinions about players that we have only seen play for two or three times is one of the great NBA pastimes. Hence, after three summer league games, let's put our summer league goggles on and take a look at who is hot, and who is not.
Darren Erman: The Pelicans summer league head coach (aka lead assistant/ aka baby Thibodeau/ aka defensive warlock) has an undefeated record in summer league play, going a perfect 10-0 through almost two seasons of summer league games.
Erman, and the rest of the coaching staff, have got the Pelicans summer league squad straight ballin'. The best way I can describe it is if you could play NBA 2K and have unlimited turbo boost. The Pelicans are playing quick-quick. If you hated the slow pace Monty Williams played with, you are going to be in for a nice surprise. To quote the venerable Tyreke Evans, "We ain't stoppin' at no stores. Straight gas."
Seth Curry: Despite struggling from behind the arc, Curry is leading Las Vegas Summer League in scoring, averaging 25 PPG on an efficient 45% shooting from the field. He has shown that he is the best combo guard playing in Las Vegas right now. His pick and pop game is at an NBA caliber level, and he should have a legitimate shot to make the roster. He still struggles with on ball defense, but he has been opportunistic on defense, averaging 3.3 steals per a game. I am still not sure what you do with a volume scorer on the end of your roster, but Seth Curry has done enough to get a shot in the league.
Larry Drew II: Like the Pelicans coaching staff, I have nothing but the highest praise for Drew. When he is running the offense, it looks like pure poetry in motion. Against the lower level of competition, he looks like the second coming of Jason Kidd. During the Pelicans third summer league game, Drew had 16 assists, and fell one assist short of tying the all time record for assists in a Las Vegas Summer League game. The assists that he had were mostly all beautiful setups, and very few, if any, came off of fluky plays. LDII also leads the Las Vegas Summer League in assists.
But we all knew he could pass the ball and defend fairly well, what has kept him out of the league is his shot. No doubt LDII has worked on that, he is shooting 55% from behind the arc. He deserves a roster spot. Only reason to deny him one, he might break a teammates ankles during practice.
(Hard to tell because of the poor quality but above vine is Larry Drew II breaking Eric Gordon last year at the Blender.)
Bryce Dejean-Jones: Through three games, Dejean-Jones has flown under the radar, but has put up sneaky good stats. He is second in points, with 13.3 points per a game on 63% shooting from the field and 45% shooting from behind the arc. On top of his efficient scoring numbers, he has played extremely well on the defensive end for a rookie.
BDJ is another player who is thriving in the Pelicans open system. His age, (22) and the fact that he is a rookie, gives him an advantage over some of the other players on the Pelicans Summer League roster. Don't be surprised if BDJ flies under the radar and right onto the Pelicans actual roster.
Victor Rudd: When the Pelicans Summer League roster was announced, Rudd didn't garner much attention; he looked like just another warm body. No one told him that though. During the Pelicans first summer league game, Rudd went supernova, scoring 18 points on 70% shooting from the floor. Since then, he has cooled off quite a bit, but has shown flashes of a talent that makes basketball geeks like me drool.
The best comparison for him, again against summer league talent, would be Josh Smith. Rudd can get super hot, but don't count on it. Otherwise, like Smith, Rudd thrives in the run & gun system that Gentry is installing. He is an athlete so watching him work in the open floor is just fun. I love his ability to push the ball up the floor. He has also shown some nifty interior passing skills. Rudd has earned a camp invite in my opinion.
NOT HOT - AKA COLD
Khem Birch: Others are way higher on Birch than myself. After watching him for three games, here are the totality of my notes on him: Great build, looks super athletic. That's it. He just hasn't stood out in anyway to me. Despite his athletic build, he hasn't used that athleticism in a discernible way that makes you say, "Oh damn, that was a good move". Pelicans need another big man, and Birch hasn't played badly per se, averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds per a game. Still, I thought the Pelicans would have seen more from Birch.
Fuquan Edwin: I was super high on Edwin going into summer league. He had some nice games and has a great skill set. Pretty athletic shooter with some decent handles. What Fuquan lacks, in my opinion, is a certain tenacity or desire. Through three games, Fu reminds me a lot of Darius Miller: All the talent, but no confidence. Fuquan should be dominating summer league, and he just isn't. He has only averaged 10 points and 2 rebounds per a game. The rebound number is what concerns me the most. For that reason, and because I value hustle and tenacity of bench players, I'd rather see Rudd get a shot on the roster than Fuquan.
He Tianju: I wasn't expecting much from the Chinese forward, and He pretty much met my expectations. He Tianju is an NBA caliber scorer but lacks the defensive skills and basic dribbling ability to play in the NBA. Against some higher level competition, He might be able to improve upon those aspects of his game. Until his defense and handles improve, however, He has no place in the NBA.
For more NBA Hype Checks you can follow me on twitter @jdbillio. Also you might want to check out my boy David Fisher's column after reading this (Click here). It will help you take those summer league goggles off.