Dyson Daniels #11 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball up court while defended by Ty Jerome #10 of the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on March 3.

Consecutive lottery picks among prominent summer Pelicans in Vegas

Daniels, Hawkins were eighth, 14th overall draftees

New Orleans qualified for the Western Conference playoffs in 2021-2022 and posted a winning record in 2022-23, normally a combination that would yield a relatively nondescript NBA Summer League roster, devoid of highly-drafted players. However, the Pelicans selected in the lottery after both seasons, with one of those picks the result of a still-paying-off 2019 trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. As a result, when New Orleans tips off game participation Friday in Las Vegas, guards Dyson Daniels (No. 8 overall pick in ’22) and Jordan Hawkins (No. 14 overall pick last month) will be in uniform vs. Minnesota.

Round 1 draftees Daniels and Hawkins are the headliners for the Casey Hill-coached summer Pelicans, backcourt players likely to receive the most attention from fans, scouts and media. Daniels, 20, and Hawkins, 21, are among a contingent of Pels youngsters seeking additional experience at the NBA level, a group that also includes 2022 second-round pick and forward E.J. Liddell, 22, as well as guard Dereon Seabron, 23. Liddell’s rookie NBA campaign was cut short by an ACL injury he sustained in New Orleans’ second summer league game last July; the Ohio State product spent the entirety of ’22-23 recovering from the injury. The undrafted Seabron spent chunks of his rookie season in the G League with Birmingham (17.8 ppg, 5.1 apg in 28 regular season games), but also made cameos in five New Orleans regular season games.

Pelicans fans who paid close attention to ’22 summer league will also recognize 6-foot-11 center Karlo Matkovic, a second-round pick last year from Croatia who remained in Europe this winter. Matkovic played one game for the summer Pelicans before being sidelined with a hand injury. Among 2023’s non-drafted players who are on New Orleans’ roster, guard/forward Landers Nolly (Cincinnati) and 7-foot center Liam Robbins (Vanderbilt) probably generated the most attention in media reports. Nolly was first-team All-AAC and projected by some draft analysts to be picked in Round 2. Robbins – the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year last season – reportedly will not play in Vegas due to a leg injury that ended his senior season March 1.

NBA Summer League expands ‘tournament’ to four teams
A small tweak to the format in Las Vegas will make it a bit easier for teams to have a chance to compete for the event’s championship. In 2021 and 2022, only the top two teams in pool play “advanced” to face each other in the title game, but this time four clubs will qualify for the semifinal round (the teams that reach the championship round will end up playing a total of six games). In the decade since NBA Summer League began crowning a winner in 2013, New Orleans has never reached the championship round, but twice advanced to the semifinals (2015, 2019). The revised four-team format would’ve also come in handy for the Pelicans in 2021 – the Naji Marshall-led squad went undefeated, but was denied the opportunity to play in that year’s title game based on losing a point-differential tiebreaker.

New Orleans pool-play opponent overview
Friday, July 7, vs. Minnesota (3:30 p.m., all times Central)

Second-round picks Leonard Miller (G League Ignite) and Jaylen Clark (UCLA) are on the Timberwolves’ roster. Wendell Moore Jr. (Duke) and Josh Minott (Memphis) played a combined 44 official games for Minnesota as NBA rookies last season, with Moore starting twice.

Sunday, July 9, vs. Golden State (9 p.m.)
The Warriors are already competing in summer league this week, participating in the California Classic beginning Monday vs. host Sacramento. Golden State drafted guard Brandin Podziemski (Santa Clara) at No. 19 overall and have second-round selection Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana) on their summer squad.

Tuesday, July 11, vs. Phoenix (7 p.m.)
The Suns’ main roster is in flux as they add pieces around their three prolific stars. Phoenix had one pick in the June draft and selected forward Toumani Camara (Dayton) at No. 52 overall. Trade pickup Jordan Goodwin (62 games, seven starts for Washington last season) also appears on the summer roster.

Thursday, July 13, vs. Charlotte (6:30 p.m.)
Teams sometimes shut down high draftees near the end of summer league, but the Pelicans will face No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller (Alabama) in pool play if Miller is still participating by Game 4 of pool play. Charlotte’s roster also features Round 1 guard Nick Smith Jr., as well as past draftees James Bouknight, Kai Jones and Bryce McGowens. The summer Hornets debut Monday in the California Classic vs. San Antonio.