Large group of lesser-known Pelicans have impressed in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS – Winning is nice, but from Day 1 of summer league practice, Pelicans coach Darren Erman has stressed that giving his players opportunities to shine and show what they can do is a primary objective. With zero full-time NBA players on the New Orleans summer roster, every member is hoping to improve their stock in the eyes of scouts and general managers.

Through three games, Erman and the Pelicans are off to a resounding start in that category, going 3-0 and averaging 93.3 points per contest. Virtually every player who’s been on the floor has made a contribution of some kind, including numerous Pelicans with one or more double-digit scoring performances.

“There are probably six NBA guys on the team now,” Erman said after beating Brooklyn on Monday.

Entering Tuesday’s final day of pool play at NBA Summer League, the Pelicans had league leaders in three major statistical categories. New Orleans only has three players on its summer roster who’ve ever appeared in a regular season NBA game – with Jarvis Varnado’s 37 career appearances topping the list – but that number could rise in 2015-16 if the Pelicans continue to excel in the desert. A closer look at some of the players who’ve excelled so far in Nevada:

  • Seth Curry is leading the 24-team Las Vegas league in scoring at 25.0 points per game, including pouring in 30 vs. Milwaukee in the circuit opener. His three-point shooting touch has actually been a bit off (18.2 percent, after shooting 46.7 percent in the D-League last season), but he’s been prolific in other ways. Curry is also tied for third in steals (3.3 spg). In an excellent NBA.com article on Curry, Alvin Gentry praised him for his improvement in playmaking and defense.
  • Larry Drew II leads all 300-plus Vegas players in assists, averaging 9.0 per game. Drew dished out 16 Monday vs. Brooklyn, coming within one dime of tying the league’s all-time single-game record of 17. “He deserves to be in the NBA,” Erman said of the point guard, who appeared in 12 games for Philadelphia in 2014-15.
  • Khem Birch tops the league in field-goal percentage (minimum 15 attempts) at 68.8. The 6-foot-9, 220-pounder and UNLV product is athletic and runs the floor well, making him a good fit in Gentry’s system. “He’s made a great case,” Erman said of Birch creating more NBA interest this week. In 22.3 minutes per game, Birch is averaging 9.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
  • South Florida combo forward Victor Rudd (pictured above) has shown a nice blend of scoring (11.3 ppg), rebounding (6.7 rpg) and perimeter shooting (6-for-14 on three-pointers). “Victor Rudd’s been great, running the floor and making plays,” Erman said.
  • Wing player Bryce Dejean-Jones of Iowa State had a breakout performance Monday vs. Brooklyn, racking up 26 points with an impressive combination of range shooting and finishing around the basket. The 6-foot-6, 209-pounder drained four three-pointers in seven attempts, while throwing down three dunks. “He was out there doing a great job, making shots and making tough plays,” Erman praised.
  • Seton Hall product Fuquan Edwin was excellent in the first two games, scoring 16 points vs. Milwaukee and 14 against Dallas. Like Rudd and Dejean-Jones, Edwin has been a threat from long-distance and around the hoop. During the Dallas game, the forward produced one of the league’s premier highlight-reel dunks so far.
  • Former Indiana Hoosier wing Will Sheehey averaged 7.0 points in the first two games, but sustained a hamstring injury that sidelined him Monday vs. Brooklyn. Erman called Sheehey’s injury DNP a key loss, based partly on his rugged defense on the ball.