During Summer League, the New Orleans Pelicans proved they’re much more than just Zion Williamson

NBA Draft Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
NBA Draft Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

During the NBA Summer League, the New Orleans Pelicans’ rookie class proved that they’re much more than just Zion Williamson

Coming into the this year’s Summer League, no player had as much hype as New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson.

The Pelicans’ new savior was slated as the week’s focal point, but an ankle injury and an earthquake cut his tournament short and forced him to make way for the rest of the Pelicans’ rookie class.

It was disappointing for Pelicans fans to miss out on Williamson, but the other three Pelicans draft picks – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes, and Didi Louzada Silva – each performed admirably without Williamson and showed how promising the team’s young core is outside of their new franchise superstar.

Alexander-Walker was the most prolific of the trio, earning Summer League First Team honors with averages of 28.6 points, seven assists and 3.2 steals per 36 minutes.

On defense, NAW showed his ability as a good on-ball defender, picking pockets with his quick hands.


NAW also is a good 3-point shooter, shooting 40 percent from deep in Vegas and 38 percent from deep in his sophomore year at Virginia Tech. If he can continue to make shots from outside, he will carve out playing time as a needed floor-spacer in the backcourt next to Jrue Holiday or Lonzo Ball.

He was drafted with the expectation of being a 3-and-D type of role player, but in Vegas, he showed promise as a ball-handler and can develop into an expanded role on offense.

At Virginia Tech, NAW played off-ball with Justin Robinson before Robinson missed a large chunk of this season with an injury. With Robinson injured, Walked switched to point guard and showed an improvement running the pick-and-roll.

NAW showed that ability to run the pick-and-roll at the Summer League, setting up this poster by Jaxson Hayes.

Hayes’ was another standout throughout the week with good hand-eye coordination and body control. He averaged 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game to earn Summer League Second Team honors.

The former high school wide receiver showed great hands when securing lobs and tip-ins, including one that helped force overtime in the Semifinals against the Grizzles.

Hayes showed his ability as a lob threat throughout the week and developed nice chemistry with Alexander-Walker in the pick-and-roll. Hayes also ran well in the transition to generate a lot of easy looks. That speed in the open court fits well with the fast-pace the Pelicans plan to play with over the next couple of years.

On defense, Hayes displayed nice rim-protection, averaging 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes over his four games in Vegas. Even though this play was a goaltend, Hayes showed his tremendous reach and hand-eye coordination that projects him to be a solid rim protector going forward.

Hayes prowess as a rim protector and a roll man give him a nice floor as a two-way big, but there is potential for him to be much more. Flashes of improvement in other parts of his game, most notably his shooting and ball-handling, give him the long-term upside of a superstar.

Hayes shot almost exclusively at the rim in his freshman year at Texas, but in summer league he showed a mid-range jumper and looked oddly comfortable hitting an off-dribble jumper that was his only attempt from deep.

Hayes offensive game would improve dramatically with a jumper and would make him an even better fit with a Pelicans core that looks to have everything but consistent shooting.

The 7-footer from Texas also flashed some comfort handling the ball, at times looking like a guard when he had space to operate in the open court.

Hayes’ shooting and ball-handling consisted of nothing more than some flash plays, meaning those skills are a long way from being NBA-ready. However, the sky is the limit for a player with his combination of size and guard-like body control.

Hayes might not get a lot of minutes in his rookie season due to his struggles with positioning and strength. He could be a good G-League candidate this year before he carves out a significant role with the team over the next couple of seasons.

Didi Louzada-Silva didn’t receive the accolades of Hayes or NAW, but he still put together a good performance.

He was a dynamite shooter in Brazil last year (42.7% on 3.6 attempts per game) and carried that over to the Summer League. Silva shot 44 percent from deep in Vegas and made a variety of shots from 3-point range.

Silva was also showed good defensive ability, averaging two steals per 36 minutes. He is good at sliding his feet and turning his hips to stay glued to his man on defense and he has the potential to be an elite on-ball defender with his high level of athleticism.

Silva has the potential to be a good 3-and-D rotation player, but he also had a couple of nice finishes inside and if he improves his handle he could become a more well-rounded scorer.


Didi will play in the NBL for the Sydney Kings next season and could flourish as a complementary player to R.J Hampton and others in Australia next season before coming back to the states and joining the Pelicans.

The performances of these players show how well David Griffin has done in his short time as GM, and that the franchise won’t make the same mistakes with their new star as they did with Anthony Davis.

Griffin didn’t inherit a great situation with Davis, who had already made his intentions known he didn’t want to play anymore for an organization that wasted his early years stuck in mediocrity. Griffin still got an exceptional return for Davis from the Lakers with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Ball, Ingram are promising young players and Hart is a nice rotational piece for the future. All three should be solid contributors over the next couple seasons.

But Griffin didn’t stop there. He flipped the No. 4 pick for the No. 8, 17, and 35 selections that he used to draft the trio of Hayes, NAW, and Silva.

Instead of making short-sighted moves to stay competitive as past GMs did with Davis, Griffin has shifted towards the future. The Pelicans now have a core full of cheap and young players, which gives them cash to get veterans. This summer the extra cash was used to sign J.J Reddick and put the Pelicans in a position to trade for Derrick Favors.

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The Pelicans now have an outside chance at making the playoffs this season, but more importantly, this offseason the Pelicans got a bunch of young pieces to complete the roster around their new star.

With all these young assets, the Pelicans are in a great position to make the most of Williamson’s prime years by becoming title contenders.