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New Orleans Pelicans hope to discover an NBA-caliber small forward in training camp

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Don’t completely write off the partially guaranteed contracts handed to Garlon Green, Kenrich Williams and Troy Williams over the last few days.

2018 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas - Toronto Raptors v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Two days ago, the New Orleans Pelicans signed Garlon Green and Kenrich Williams each to a partially guaranteed contract. Yesterday, Troy Williams inked a similar deal. While the odds are stacked against these players of making the 15-man roster out of the gates next season, don’t completely dismiss the idea of at least one of these prospects sticking around in some capacity and eventually landing that golden ticket down the road.

Think Bryce DeJean Jones from several years ago.

Prior to his tragic loss of life, Jones latched on with the Pelicans in the 2015 Summer League after he failed to hear his name announced in the NBA Draft not a month earlier. He played well enough in Las Vegas to earn a partially guaranteed contract but failed to emerge with the team out of preseason. After a month-long stint with the Idaho Stampede in the now defunct D-League — where he averaged 19.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals, the Pelicans brought him back to New Orleans on the first of two 10-day contracts — which later morphed into a valuable three-year deal.

Could Green or either Williams follow a similar path?

Perhaps, because opportunity knocks.

It’s no secret that the Pelicans are short on long limbed wings. Last season, E’Twaun Moore started 80 games and the vast majority of starts came at the small forward position. Darius Miller had his displays of torrid shooting but failed to inspire elsewhere to deserve long, consistent minutes. And as for the starter from two years ago, Solomon Hill must not only prove himself 100% ready to go after completely tearing a hamstring muscle but improve upon a much one-sided 2016-17 campaign. Hill’s defense was on the plus side, yet he provided very little on offense and in the rebounding department.

All three recipients of partially guaranteed contracts signed earlier this week stand 6’7 and can legitimately be confused with small forwards.

  • Garlon Green is the oldest of the bunch (27 years of age) but is the most experienced, having spent three years abroad. Last year with Belfius-Mons-Hainaut, he averaged 15.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 threes on excellent shooting percentages. The stroke was particularly evident in Las Vegas as Green torched the nets for over a 60% clip from the field and the three-point line. In addition, he also displayed some solid athleticism — hops and spin moves shouldn’t come as a surprise because it runs in the family as his brother is former dunk champion Gerald Green!
  • Kenrich Williams, who followed in the footsteps of Green at Texas Christian, didn’t have a particular good 2018 Summer League with the Denver Nuggets (5.4 points, 41.9 FG%, 14.3 3PT%) after going undrafted, but his body of work as a senior in college was much more impressive (13.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 39.5 3PT%). He was selected to a Sports Illustrated’s NBA sleeper list for being ready to enter the league with discernible characteristics, and a number of experts believed he was a shoe-in to be selected in the most recent draft.

Though clearly not a scorer by trade, Williams was solid all year for TCU and his commitment to rebounding and defense and overall feel as a passer are clear selling points. He’s a good athlete and a fairly steady jump shooter and ball-handler, so it’s easy enough to pencil him into a perimeter-centric system where he can operate in a simplified floor-spacing role on the weak side. His passiveness as a scorer and advanced age limits his upside, but Williams should be able to help a team as a glue guy early in his career.

  • Although he averaged 11.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 20 minutes of action in Las Vegas, Troy Williams might be the most interesting guy on the board because he’s flashed his potential in regular season games before this summer. The former Indiana Hoosier left a particularly good impression with the Knicks last spring as in his second game in uniform he posted 14 points in 12 quick minutes that included two mean dunks.

The New Orleans Pelicans are in need of some additional size on the wing, more players who run the floor well in transition, and those who seek to battle in the paint for points as well as rebounds. Oh, and it never hurts to add more perimeter shooting from guys who are eager to play defense.

Garlon Green, Kenrich Williams and Troy Williams may all be long shots to make the roster in October, but I’d be willing to bet that at least one of these players appears in a regular season game for New Orleans somewhere down the line. Bryce DeJean-Jones, bless his heart, proved the arduous path can be rewarding. And after all, New Orleans still has an available two-way contract to hand out after just giving one to Trevon Bluiett. Maybe the second will go to the player of the trio who impresses the most during the upcoming fall exhibition schedule?