The New Orleans Pelicans went through injury hell in 2016. Over 40 different lineups used, several different 10-day contracts offered, and the Pelicans had to go above and beyond to piece together a solid rotation at different points throughout the season. One of the biggest losses was guard Eric Gordon. In a contract season, Gordon played 45 games, most notably, coming back from an injury, only to succumb to injury once again.
One of the players to benefit from this was 10-day contract Bryce Dejean-Jones. After appearing with New Orleans in the Las Vegas Summer League, the Pelicans signed Dejean-Jones out of the D-League after averages of 19.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 50 percent from the field. As a 23-year-old, 6-foot-6 guard, Dejean-Jones came in and injected the Pelicans with some much-needed youth and athleticism.
Dejean-Jones finished the 2016 season with averages of 10.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals per 36 minutes, with a TS% of 50.5% in 14 games. The first thing that jumps out about his game is his rebounding prowess. His big frame allows him to both play shooting guard and small forward, as well as the ability to contest on the glass. His 9.5 total rebound rate doesn't do justice to how much of a factor he can be on the glass, thanks to his burly figure.
Offensively, Dejean-Jones shot 40 percent from the floor, but knocked down 37% of his 32 three-point attempts last season -- good enough to express hope for the future, yet not a large enough of a sample size to be convinced it's sustainable. There's another interesting statistic, though, his pick-and-roll numbers. In 14 games, Dejean-Jones shot 80% as a pick-and-roll ball handler on ten shot attempts, according to NBA.com's play type data. That ability to create off the dribble is uncharted territory for Dejean-Jones, but if he can be a decent guy in that area, that's a nice find.
While the idea of Dejean-Jones becoming a better player off the dribble is enticing, he has to work on a few things that will allow him to get on the floor in the interim. He will have to work on his catch-and-shoot ability to be a viable offensive player for the Pelicans. Last season, Dejean-Jones shot 29 percent on the catch and shoot and 30 percent from three. Becoming better off the catch would assist Bryce if he were to play alongside one of Tyreke Evans or Tim Frazier.
On the defensive end, you have to consider the sample, but Dejean-Jones didn't appear to be anything special. Dejean-Jones finished with a defensive rating of 110 in 14 games last year. The Pelicans were better on defense with Dejean-Jones, but that 108.5 number went down to just 106.4. He has the size and wingspan (6-foot-9.5) to contend and contest shots, but he might lack the foot speed on defense to guard some of the quicker opponents. We need to see a larger sample with guys like Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis (210 minutes together and a yikes-worthy 107.6 DRTG together) alongside him for stretches.
For the 2016-17 season, the Pelicans don't have much in terms of wing depth. Eric Gordon is a free agent, Quincy Pondexter will be returning an entire season on the shelf and after that, nothing. There's a desire to bring back James Ennis after his short stint at the end of the season, and depending on where the Pelicans fall in the lottery next month, New Orleans could be in place to add another young wing. Dejean-Jones should fall somewhere in there. As the Pelicans look for starters on the wings, he is most likely a depth piece.
For Dejean-Jones, though, it's going to be a season where he continues to build upon some of the positives from his rookie season. Of all the disappointments for New Orleans this season, Dejean-Jones' season-ending injury is among the top five. A fractured right wrist ended his season prematurely, effectively taking away 30 games that could've been used to further develop his game on both ends of the floor.
Now, Dejean-Jones will enter the Summer League program as one of the players to watch along with whomever New Orleans selects in the first round. In a league where that 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-8 wing player is just tough to find and trade for, the Pelicans found one who hinted of success and re-signed him for cheap. It's now up to New Orleans to find him some playing time and Dejean-Jones to impress. If that happens, it wouldn't shock me if he cracked the rotation as a ninth man.