Before the start of the 2018 Summer League extravaganza, all eyes were focused on Cheick Diallo and Frank Jackson, yet after the first three days of action, Trevon Bluiett has captivated the attention of audiences and posted the best headlines.
Through two games, Bluiett is leading the competition in Las Vegas with 25.0 points per game while averaging a ridiculous six made three-pointers. Obviously, he is bound to regress from a 71% field goal percentage and a 66.7% three-point percentage, but at the same time, you don’t want to entirely discredit his performance.
Bluiett arrived at Xavier University as a highly regarded recruit — once drawing comparisons to a poor man’s Paul Pierce, and all he did was leave as the school’s second-leading scorer and finished with the most three-point makes in program history. Exactly half of his career attempts came from behind the arc, and he’s a sure-fire bet to someday gain entry into Xavier’s Hall of Fame.
Despite his list of proud accomplishments, however, many feel his weaknesses will prevent him from continuing his career on the highest plateau. After all, he was not invited to the 2018 NBA Combine. Nor was he selected in the 2018 NBA Draft. Consequently, queue the wide range of hot takes, but unfortunately most of these opinions lack real substance and have spit out some really lousy comparisons. Let’s fix that.
According to Synergy Sports, Bluiett ranked in the top 15% as a catch-and-shoot shooter and was in the top 10% of all spot-up shooters in his final season. This doesn’t come as a surprise, but he was also incredibly effective during his junior campaign, where he registered very good percentiles in isolation, off pick and rolls as the ball handler, off the dribble and off screens. Hmm, notions of offensive versatility?
If you’re more into raw statistical comparisons, Bluiett shines here too. Take a look at the list of NCAA players ranked by three-point percentage who scored 19+ points, grabbed 5+ rebounds and attempted 7+ three-pointers per game over a season in the last ten years.
Everyone should remember Buddy Hield, the Pelicans 2015 first round pick and the player selected one spot ahead of Jamal Murray. The expectations were large, but during Summer League play, Hield failed to distinguish himself. So did Denzel Valentine. However, there’s one important characteristic shared within the group by those players who left school: they are all currently playing in the NBA.
Regardless of athleticism or size, elite scorers who show a preference for the three-point ball can find their way into the league — despite going undrafted. One year ago, Quinn Cook built on his rather small but successful regular season trial with the Pelicans by proving to be one of the most potent scorers in the Summer League. Three years ago, Seth Curry parlayed a fantastic Las Vegas run into a contract with the Sacramento Kings.
The thought of losing out on both of these players still stings the soul a little, but I hope General Manager Dell Demps remembers his particular failed set of negotiations with Curry. New Orleans was preparing to sign Stephen Curry’s little brother after he led the 2015-16 Summer League campaign with 24.3 points per game, but the Kings swooped in with a better offer.
Thus, for all of those advocating only the use of a two-way contract for Trevon Bluiett, I advise some caution. If the sharpshooter continues to post eye-popping numbers and consistently prove one of the most impactful player on the floor, New Orleans could watch another cheap role player slip through their fingers. At the same time, cross your fingers and hope that the minimum contract for a rookie ($838,464) is enough to secure the services of a potentially nice developmental player for the future.
(The Pelicans have no cap space and have reportedly utilized all of the Mid-Level exception on Julius Randle and most of the Bi-Annual exception on Elfrid Payton.)
Two years down the road, Trevon Bluiett is on the path of showing us what we thought the New Orleans Pelicans were getting in Buddy Hield. With 12 guaranteed contracts on the roster and needing to take chances on cheap young talent for the future, Bluiett should strongly next be considered for a meaningful contract, provided he doesn’t wind up a mirage in the surrounding desert.