Pelicans Summer League: Sizing Up New Orleans' Fresh Faces
Jul 19, 2014 at 5:29p ET
The Pelicans wrapped up Summer League play with a 2-3 record after Friday's loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the larger victory in this trip to Las Vegas is the emergence of some promising new talent.
Head Summer League coach Bryan Gates is encouraged by what he's seen unfold at UNLV's Cox Pavillion.
"Sometimes to develop, you have to let guys make mistakes," Gates said. "You always want to win, no question, but the development side was good. We found out what we had."
No doubt what the Pelicans have in rookie point guard Russ Smith. The Louisville product has shown great promise in being an effective floor general, ending his Sumer League performance ranked #1 in assists with 6.4 per game in the 24-team pool.
Friday versus the Timberwolves, Smith proved he could score as well, posting a team high 21 points when shots failed to fall for his teammates after a strong first quarter.
"I looked more like myself, getting to gaps and spots on the floor," Smith said. "In the beginning, I wouldn't say I was hunting for assists, but it was different. I was kicking the ball out more and shots were going in, so I opened up the sides. I try and take what the defense gives me."
Smith ends his run in Vegas ranked 19th in scoring, averaging 16 points per game and a field goal percentage of .434.
Meanwhile, Courtney Fells is proving to be a perimeter shooting force, draining a multitude of 3-pointers in several games this week. Fells was also New Orleans' leading scorer in the matchup with the LA Lakers, recording 25 points.
"You just got to be ready, no matter where you are playing, because you never know who's watching," Fells said. "You have to do what you can to get the exposure."
Fells wraps up this experience ranked 28th in scoring, with a weak, six-point performance versus the Timberwolves ending what's been a promising week for him on a bit of a sour note.
Big man Patrick Young seemed intent on using Summer League to make teams second guess the decision not to draft him. Young's dominating play in the post will likely earn him a spot on New Orleans' roster, especially now that veteran Jason Smith is a member of the New York Knicks.
At 6'9" and 240 pounds, the 22-year-old former Florida Gator knows how to win and is willing to sacrifice his body to do it, especially when it comes to rebounding.
"You always love the guy who wants to get in there, set screens, rebound and play around the rim,"Gates said. "He should have big goals for himself."
Young capped off his Vegas roll by recording 8 points and 12 rebounds versus the Timberwolves.