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Izaiah Brockington signing makes sense for New Orleans Pelicans

The remaining two-way contract slot gets filled

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Iowa v Iowa State Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to terms with Izaiah Brockington on a two-way contract, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Pelicans formally announced the signing of Dereon Seabron to a two-way contract late last week.

(Teams have only two available two-way slots. For more on these type of contracts, please hit this link for a thorough explanation.)

While the Seabron inking was fully expected — news of a deal with New Orleans came shortly after the conclusion of the 2022 NBA draft via Shams Charania, Brockington is a mild surprise at a minimum.

E.J. Liddell, who was selected in the second round by the Pelicans in this year’s draft, remains without a contract and there exists no discernible path to one at the present time.

In addition to both two-way contracts now being filled, New Orleans has 15 guaranteed regular NBA contracts on the books, the maximum allowed during the regular season.

There’s no doubt that Liddell’s immediate stock took a hit when he tore the ACL in his right knee during summer league action; however, it’s interesting to note that Brockington suffered the same injury approximately one month earlier.

According to Andrew Lopez, Brockington suffered his ACL injury during a pre-draft workout with the Pelicans. Prior to this, a number of other teams had shown plenty of interest in him, leading to speculation that he could be selected in the second round.

Obviously, that didn’t come to fruition due to the publicly undisclosed injury, but Brockington is probably used to being counted out. For whatever reasons, he wasn’t invited to participate in either the G League Elite Camp or the NBA Combine after an impressive season at Iowa State.

Brockington averaged 16.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals, with respectable shooting results from two-point range (46.7%), three-point land (36.2%) and the free throw line (77.5%). He walked away with First Team All-Big 12 honors. Perhaps more importantly, he was the leader of a team that made it to the NCAA Regional Semifinals after posting the best one-year turnaround in program and Big 12 history.

The year before Brockington arrived on campus, Iowa State went 2-22. That’s not a misprint. They won two games out of 24. With him, they went 22-13. A 20-game improvement in the win column screams sit up and take note.

Although he spent five years in college, spending time at St. Bonaventure and Penn State before arriving at Iowa State, Brockington just turned 23 this summer. He’ll be the same age as Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado were in their inaugural professional seasons last year.

The comparison to the two Pelicans rookie sensations is intentional beyond age.

Despite a healthy scoring average at Iowa State, Brockington is most highly regarded for owning solid defensive chops and a hungry work ethic. Case in point, he held Keegan Murray to a season-low nine points in a matchup against Iowa after meticulous preparation, per Spencer Davies.

Through rigorous film study, Brockington observed Murray’s favorite spots on the court, where he liked to catch the ball and how he got his buckets. And from the tip, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard followed through. He denied post-entry to Murray time and time again, helped the helper and put pressure on the Hawkeyes on the perimeter.

By the end of the night, Brockington outscored and outrebounded Murray while holding him to the worst game of his season by far (9 points on 4-of-17 from the field), while simultaneously delivering the game’s most efficient performance with 29 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

“I feel like that was definitely one of my best games of the season. I really came into that game wanting to shut him down,” Brockington told BasketballNews.com in a phone interview. “I went out there and really tried to take away his strengths and mainly speed him up. I feel like he was really good when he was allowed to play at his pace and when guys were giving him space to work and see what was going on on the floor. So, I really came into that game wanting to lock him down on defense. And then, the 29 points, that was a bonus really.”

And then, the 29 points, that was a bonus really.

This mindset should remind you of Herb and Jose: taking that much pride in stopping your opponent. And Brockington has been cognizant of that end of the floor since high school.

As evidenced by the 29-point outburst against Iowa though, Brockington offered plenty of glimpses of offensive potential, and when watching video footage, he seems to excel at making a lot of difficult attempts.

To be honest, Brockington reminds me some of Jordan Crawford, another Darrell Comer client. They’re both of about the same height and weight, and are not considered primary playmaking guards but tough shotmakers. There’s a lot of shake and bake in their attempts to create an open shot.

These players carry value, especially those who can consistently get a bucket off the dribble. Although Brockington shines most from the midrange area, he knows the importance of being more of a three-level scorer in the NBA.

“I’ve been working on really being a combo guard — a guy that can use pick-and-rolls and make reads and just really making the right decision every time, a lot of basketball IQ things,” Brockington said. “And then, just knocking down threes... I’ve been working a ton and I’m looking to show everybody that I can knock down threes off the kick-out and off the pick-and-roll and off the dribble. I’ve been working extremely hard on that, and it’s been going great.”

While Crawford was a more prolific scorer and shooter in his final collegiate season, Brockington was miles better defensively and on the glass.

So, he’s perhaps a mix of Crawford and Josh Hart?

Regardless, it’s a positive because versatility is the name of the game.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Pelicans have placed a premium on incoming players with great defensive ability to go along with important intangibles, like possessing an ultra competitive and intelligent spirit. That’s logical when a roster possesses surefire offensive weapons like Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas.

“I’ve played every role that you can think of,” Brockington says. “I’ve been the guy who doesn’t play at all. I’ve been the guy who comes in for a couple of minutes. I’ve been the guy that plays a role. I’ve been the guy who comes in and shoots 3s. I’ve been the guy that is passing out water, and then I’ve been the main option. I feel like I can hold my own with anybody.”

The athleticism and basketball knowledge is there. So too is a decent skill set. But the dogged mentality and experience stand out the most. Izaiah Brockington plays with a chip on his shoulder but always places the team and winning first and foremost.

That’s precisely why David Griffin signed the currently rehabbing guard to a two-way contract.

It’s anyone’s guess as to when Brockington will completely recover from the ACL injury, but going down the road of selecting a hungry mature player who understands his role definitely paid big dividends last year for the Pelicans.

It may do so again.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.