Brazilian guard Didi Louzada off to fast start in two summer league games for Pelicans

When NBA front offices interview potential draftees and ask them which pro players they compare themselves to, the responses often include perennial All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, such as Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson. After all, if you want to make yourself look like a promising draft pick, why not shoot for the stars?

Marcos Louzada Silva – better known as “Didi” Louzada for short, as well as on his Twitter page – took a different approach.

When Louzada met with New Orleans Pelicans executives this spring, the 6-foot-5 wing replied with a name that perhaps has never been mentioned during the pre-draft interview process: Wesley Matthews, an ultra-steady, 10-year NBA shooting guard who has carved out a valuable role for playoff teams in Utah, Portland, Dallas and Indiana. The self-awareness from a 20-year-old instantly impressed the Pelicans.

“That tells me three things,” noted a Pelicans international scout. “One, Didi knows the NBA well enough to be able to say Wesley Matthews. Two, he’s not saying ‘I want to be Kevin Durant’ or some (superstar), which is the easy answer. Three, he knows who he is, which is huge.”

Louzada, the No. 35 overall draft pick by New Orleans, has already demonstrated that trait in two summer league games. Always under control on the hardwood, the native of Brazil – who will be “stashed” overseas in 2019-20, playing in Australia’s pro league – has been a catalyst this week for the Pelicans in two wins, averaging 12.5 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and going 5/9 from three-point range. He’s also averaged 1.5 steals and a block. Just as impressively, like fellow 2019 New Orleans draft acquisitions Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes, Louzada has played with composure, looking like he belonged while facing NBA-type competition, including many older opponents.

“That’s who he is,” Pelicans summer head coach Fred Vinson said after Wednesday’s 21-point win over Cleveland. “Really cool, calm and collected. He’s got kind of a smooth pace to his game that I like, and he can really shoot the ball. But on the other end, he’s really tenacious defensively. He is aggressive – he gets to the ball, fights over screens and is super competitive.”

Louzada, who is learning English but already is quickly developing a grasp of the language, according to Pelicans GM Trajan Langdon, has relied on a translator throughout summer league practices and games. That proved to be extremely helpful, because all Louzada was allowed to do was sit and watch until he, Hayes and Alexander-Walker officially became Pelicans late Saturday (they had to wait for the Lakers trade to be finalized). As he prepares for a potential future in the NBA, it’s one area Louzada will focus on, something he’ll also need to adapt to playing in Australia this upcoming season. “He’s a little quiet, obviously I think because of the language barrier,” Vinson said. “But he’s aware of what’s going on on the floor and he brings (intensity) when he’s out there.”

“Aware” seems to be a good way to describe one of Louzada’s best traits at such an early stage of his career. For the Pelicans, hearing Louzada provide such a realistic assessment by making the Matthews comparison was more evidence that the former Brazilian League player has the right makeup to give himself the best chance to be successful long-term.

“One of things I like about Didi is he doesn’t have the attitude of, ‘Oh, I’m the next big thing,’ ” a Pelicans scout explained. “No. He is super humble, a hard worker and knows who he is, which is great in my mind. Usually kids when they come out they don’t have the most accurate perception of themselves. Didi at a very young age knows who he is. Part of him coming to summer league and being with us is adjusting to a different place, language, culture, coaching, level of competition.

“Players have to think of, ‘How am I going to find the best path to be successful?’ For him to be able to compare himself to Wes Matthews – Matthews has had a great career, been important on playoff teams. Wes Matthews is the type of guy that every NBA teams wants to have on their roster.”