The New Orleans Pelicans take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night at 9:30 PM. Both teams (!) feature lottery picks; second overall Brandon Ingram for the Lakers and sixth overall Buddy Hield for the Pelicans. Additionally early second round picks Ivica Zubac (32nd) and Cheick Diallo (33rd) are expected to play.
The Lakers will trot out a very good roster around Ingram. D'Angelo Russell (2015 - 2nd overall), Larry Nance Jr. (2015 - 27th overall), and Anthony Brown (2015 - 34th overall) all logged significant minutes for Los Angeles last season. It is common for players entering their second year in the NBA to dominate at the summer league. New Orleans, coached by assistant coach Robert Pack, will have their work cut out for them.
There are a number of experienced hands available for New Orleans as well. Larry Drew II didn't receive the hype (or NBA contract) Seth Curry did last summer, but he was an adept point guard running the Alvin Gentry system. Drew led all players at the summer league in Las Vegas (yes, even ahead of Tim Frazier who played for the Portland Trail Blazers) with 7.5 assists per game.
Considering the recent signings of E'Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway it would not be a surprise if the Pelicans turn to Larry Drew ahead of Tim Frazier as a inexpensive reserve option this season. This is not a slight of Frazier; he is deserving of more minutes and a larger role than the Pelicans may be able to provide with their sudden explosion of guard depth. New Orleans may want to retain Frazier, and they continue to hold his restricted rights. If they are unable to come to terms, look for Drew to be the fall back option.
Nick Minnerath has a wealth of experience at age 26. Last season he played with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the preseason but was released before the season began. Then he spent the year tearing it up with the Canton Charge, Cleveland's D-League affiliate. Coming off the bench Minnerath poured in 18.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in just under 30 minutes per game. His shooting percentages were elite; 50.8% from the field, 40.2% behind the arc, and 88.8% from the free throw line. This shot chart is a work of art.
Minnerath is a combo forward; listed at 6'9", 215 pounds with a 6'10.5" wingspan at the Portsmouth Invitational in 2013. In the years between his graduation from Detroit in 2013 and his arrival in the D-League in 2015 he toiled in Europe playing in both the Spanish ACB and the French Pro A leagues for teams firmly entrenched at the bottom of the table in each league. In two years he shot 38% behind the arc (65/171) and 87% (93/107) from the foul line. Needless to say, he can shoot.
Unlike most shooters, he's also an athletic marvel.
New Orleans can use more depth at the forward position. Solomon Hill appears to be the starter and Quincy Pondexter, given good health, is a more than capable back up. Dante Cunningham and Luke Babbitt are capable of playing either the small or power forward positions. Minnerath may be the best combination of both; an explosive athlete with an automatic stroke.
After three years battling to get on an NBA roster Nick Minnerath may find a contract offer, possibly a portion of the room level exception, waiting for him with a solid performance in Las Vegas.