The New Orleans Pelicans dropped a tough one against the Miami Heat early this afternoon 81-77. During a three minute span in the fourth quarter it felt like Buddy Hield was going to author his signature summer league moment. Hield got started with a trip to the foul line and kept cooking driving to the basket. (More on that later.) Then he buried a deep 3-pointer out of the pick and roll, the exact kind of highlight Pelican fans are craving from the sixth pick. A floater in the lane gave him nine straight points, a total of 16 on the game.
As things tend to do in Las Vegas, the wheels came off his hot streak. A step back three missed after the offense completely broke down. Any semblance of an offense immediately ground to a halt. The next possession Hield first touches the ball with six seconds remaining and 40 feet from the basket. The Heat triple-teamed a Hield-Diallo pick and roll, forcing a turnover. A pull up 30 footer over Victor Rudd rimmed out on the next possession and Cheick Diallo was called for an over the back foul. After Miami regained the lead New Orleans turned the ball over on an inbounds play after a timeout.
It was a perfect synopsis of Las Vegas Summer League basketball. Not only the turnover, but that the Pelicans passed the ball in before calling the timeout, putting them in a less advantageous position to inbound in the first place.
Before that, all the highlights of the game happened in the same one minute span. Alvin Gentry began the second quarter with the commentating team of Rick Kamla and Isiah Thomas. At the seven minute mark Kamla asked Gentry about Tyreke Evans.
Rick Kamla: I’m really curious to get your take on Tyreke Evans. As you can see here I do a depth chart of every team. If you want to blow this out of the water you can, it might be comic TV. I’ve got Tyreke Evans at starting small forward. Do you see him in a bench role? Playing multiple positions? Or do you see him starting at small forward or perhaps shooting guard?
Alvin Gentry: I think, with him, we have to see how he progresses as far as the rehab and what goes on with him. But, a healthy Tyreke is a very good basketball player. We played and we were pretty good when he was healthy last year. Unfortunately for him he just went through a tough situation. We’ll just have to see what happens.
I like what we’ve added. I like the things that we’ve done. We’ve added some toughness. We’ve added some good defensive players and if you want to get better defensively you got to have better defensive players.
Does that sound at all committal on Evans position within the organization? No. Expectations that Evans will be healthy? Doesn't sound like the Pelicans are very hopeful on that end either. In fact, in a question on where Evans is within the rotation Gentry ends his answer talking about the recent additions. All those players (Solomon Hill, E'Twaun Moore, and Langston Galloway) play the positions Evans would play if he's healthy.
While that conversation was going on things were wild on the court. Buddy Hield stopped a 4-on-1 fast break and Cheick Diallo finished with a dunk. The next possession Ryan Boatright and Diallo trapped Heat point guard Briante Weber at the half court line, forcing a second turnover and run out layup by Boatright, tying up the contest.
Overall Cheick Diallo had his best game scoring 14 points on 6-10 shooting from the field to go along with 12 rebounds in almost 34 minutes. Diallo finished a couple soft hooks and jumpers around 10 feet, a difficult range for most players. It's one thing to read that a player is an effort player with a massive 7'4" wingspan, quite another to see a big man racing down the floor with those impossibly long arms. He has a lot to learn and expecting him to be in the rotation this season, even with the Pelicans short on big men, seems a stretch. The tools and drive are there however, with time Diallo has a real chance.
Buddy Hield has impressed me this summer. He's a much better creator than I expected and is a willing and able passer in most cases. There are times, a transition possession where he settled for a step back jumper instead of passing back to a wide open Larry Drew II sticks out in the first half, where Buddy gets into a "need to take a shot every X minutes" mode that results in less than desirable possessions.
On the whole Hield isn't just a volume shooter that many made him out to be before the draft. He's operated well in the pick and roll and set up Alex Olah (!) a couple times around the basket as well as kicking out to the opposite corner for a Larry Drew II 3-pointer. The defensive attention Buddy drew on a possession-by-possession basis was absurd, nothing like what he will face with Anthony Davis diving to the rim. I have reservations on Hield's handle and insistence on going left at all times, the Pelicans coaching staff will surely focus on tightening things up.
The summer Pelicans will have tomorrow off before their final game on Friday.