Sunday marked another loss in this year’s edition of the Las Vegas Summer League, but your focus should primarily be on Cheick Diallo and Quinn Cook anyways because after just two games, it’s evident the New Orleans Pelicans have something special brewing here.
Following up an opening 27-point, 10-rebound game, Diallo posted a line of 23 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocks today. He may only be 20 years old, but he’s playing like a man among boys. Check out this throw down on Taurean Prince, a legitimate NBA player.
Cheick Diallo putting Taurean Prince on a poster!!! pic.twitter.com/danoYgXHWc— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) July 9, 2017
What’s perhaps more impressive about this performance is the fact that Diallo got off to a horrendous start, registering three personal fouls within the first three minutes, but he didn’t allow it to dictate the rest of the game — 21 of his 23 points came after the first quarter.
Good players have a tendency to bounce back, so it might be time for us to elevate our expectations of Cheick Diallo. Moreover, in a free agency period that has only added the returns of Jrue Holiday and Darius Miller, Diallo’s breakout and Cook’s high level of play merit a lot more discussion. Namely, could we be watching two guys that may find themselves in the regular rotation this coming season?
Well, Jared Greenberg of NBA TV asked about the backup role at point guard and Cook replied at halftime that he does view the apparent opening as a big opportunity. If the first two games are any indication, he will definitely be in the running. Following up 16 points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals against the Raptors, Cook dropped 25 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals against the Hawks. After making 7 of 13 shots on Friday, he made a blistering 12 of 18 today. His specialty is putting the ball through the hoop, but it’s great to see that he’s not only being aggressive but that he’s been so efficient.
After nitpicking Diallo and Cook on Friday, we don’t need to go to that well again but alternately mention that once the summer league games conclude on July 17, these two guys have over another two months to smooth out some additional wrinkles in their games before training camp. Do I expect Dell Demps to sit on his hands because of the emergence of their play? No, I think we should all still expect the Pelicans to add at least several new faces before the month is out, but I’m sure New Orleans is happy that they may be able to rely on some internal improvement for next season.
For as well as Diallo and Cook played, most of their supporting cast did not. Axel Toupane can probably be considered the biggest disappointment to date. Peter Jok, after a rough five-minute showing two days ago, hasn’t seen the floor since. Both Cousins do not look like they belong in the NBA. Keith Benson and Ryan O’Neale didn’t move the needle much in their minutes.
In happier news, Jalen Jones started fast today against the Hawks, scoring all 10 of his points in the first quarter, but did fizzle thereafter. Still, it was interesting to see him out there in the fourth quarter and garner 21 minutes in the game, while James Young, who totaled 9 points on 3 of 7 from the floor, receive only 12 minutes. We can assume Jamelle McMillan is either rewarding players based on practice and/or alternating playing time for certain players so as the staff can get a good look at everyone.
Btw, check out these couple of onlookers from the stands and according to Scott Kushner they hung out together for a lot of the proceedings.
Cousins: Hey, how come none of my FA leads have panned out yet?— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) July 9, 2017
Demps: Patience, Boogie. Besides, your shoulders are broad enough. pic.twitter.com/nqRdfO9mnq
Up next, the Pelicans play the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow with a tip-off scheduled at 5 pm. However, the game will only be available on ESPNU or online at WatchESPN.