The Pelicans second game of the 2018 exhibition season followed a script similar to the opener but included a much more emphatic finish: New Orleans won the contest easily, the offense looked far superior to that of their opponent’s and Trevon Bluiett is secretly the best shooter in Las Vegas.
Following up his 24-point, 6-three-pointer game against the Raptors, Bluiett once again flashed incredible efficiency from behind the arc, scoring 26 points on 14 shots that included six made threes. His jump shot is a thing of beauty as it’s a very repeatable action and offers a high and quick release.
Pouring in a total of 50 points and 12 three-pointers in forty minutes of action, Preston made a comment on social media during the game that I like: Bluiett is putting together a Summer League showing that we had all hoped to see out of Buddy Hield a few years ago. Whether this turns out to be true or not, one thing is for certain: the entire team is raving about his two performances, from SL Head Coach Kevin Hanson pointing out that Bluiett had a very strong training camp showing coming in to Walter Lemon Jr. commenting that he’s trying to find his teammate now as much as possible.
As for the rest of the cast, they all contributed. Cheick Diallo got off to a bit of a slow start in his second straight game — fumbling the ball away on some passes and drives, but he rebounded well from his mistakes. Although he only tallied 14 points on 5 of 9 shooting, his defensive presence was much improved, he didn’t force the action nearly as much and his work on the glass was integral in New Orleans blowing out Miami.
Tony Carr was a bit of a mixed bag. He made some high degree of difficultly shots and made a few nice passes — that included a well-timed alley-oop to Diallo, but his overall lack of aggressiveness and not displaying a single well-above average skill thus far doesn’t bode well. I feel like he’s possibly got more to offer from his bag of tricks, but whether it’s a confidence issue or something else, he may be on the outside looking in to land a contract — including a two-way deal.
As for the Lemon Jr. experiment at point guard, it did take a step forward. The statistics say he improved greatly (19 points, eight rebounds, nine assists), but he’ll forever be a combo guard who is being asked to play out of position. That’s not entirely fair to him, but in this day and age, you’ve got to either do some things very well or offer enough versatility to deserve minutes in the league. Don’t get me wrong, there are positives: he plays hard and aggressively, can execute the basic passes and finds paths to the rim, but he his vision isn’t floor general-like, that jumper might be too awkward to be successful over an 82-game season and consistently finishing around the hoop remains a question mark.
Shavon Shields was much quieter than in Game 1, but I feel he has some decent potential to be a glue guy. His instincts put him in the right place at the right time and he’s got enough length, strength and athleticism to hold his own.
While Cliff Alexander isn’t likely to latch onto any NBA roster, his effort was much improved from 24 hours ago. Although Miami’s Bam Adebayo was a handful in the paint for the Pelicans early on, Alexander also made a statement of his own down low by finishing a perfect 7 of 7 from the field, which included a couple of thunderous dunks and assertive rebounds.
D.J. Hogg received his first minutes of playing time and he did some nice things in limited action. In 14 minutes, he scored six points and added two rebounds, two assists and two steals. It would be nice to see him get more run to observe a better gauge of his abilities, but that may be on the horizon as Hanson commented that Frank Jackson’s injury is going to open up opportunities for the rest of the roster.
The next game will tip-off at 2 p.m. on Monday against the Detroit Pistons. If the Pelicans can manage to notch another win, they will enter the playoff portion of Summer League with a perfect 3-0 record — a far cry from the combined 2-9 record they’ve posted during the exhibition season over the last two years.