LAS VEGAS – New Orleans has received rampant praise for the massive haul it received in a June trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, but in hindsight the deal carried at least one downside: It forced three Pelicans players from the recent draft to sit out a pair of summer league games.
Since being officially cleared to play this week, Jaxson Hayes (No. 8 overall pick), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17) and Didi Louzada (35) have shown what New Orleans and its fans were missing earlier in the event, making an enormous impact in consecutive dominant wins over Chicago and Cleveland. On Wednesday, the trio of newcomers helped the Pelicans grab a rapid double-digit lead, then breeze to a likely berth in the league’s eight-team tournament, which begins Saturday.
Alexander-Walker (26 points) notched his second straight game of 20-plus points, while Jaxson Hayes (13 points, seven rebounds) again made his presence known in the paint. Second-rounder Louzada delivered 12 points and a pair of three-pointers, making him 5/9 from three-point range over two games.
Alexander-Walker set the tone from the jump by effectively running the offense, either scoring himself or dishing to a teammate (six assists, to go with five rebounds), having been moved to point guard after he was superb as a distributor Monday vs. Chicago. New Orleans powered to a 27-11 edge through 10 minutes and was never threatened on the scoreboard.
“He was outstanding out there today,” Pelicans summer head coach Fred Vinson said. “We’re just excited to have him.”
Billed primarily as a defender and rebounder coming out of college, Hayes has scored nearly a point a minute in two games, posting 41 points in 44 minutes. Louzada – who will play overseas in Australia in 2019-20 – has provided scrappy defense and consecutive double-digit scoring games.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
New Orleans built a 26-point lead in the first half, then kept Cleveland at arm’s length for the entire third period, taking a 66-46 edge into the final stanza.
PELICANS PLAYER UPDATES
Glue guy Kenrich Williams provided his usual savviness and ability to get to loose balls before anyone else, notching a valuable nine points and 10 rebounds, along with three assists and two steals. He was a team-best plus-20 when he was on the floor. …
For the third time in four games, Kavell Bigby-Williams (LSU) reached double figures in scoring, this time tallying 13 points on 5/7 shooting. He is 17/25 in summer league, which is 68 percent, from the field. …
UConn product Jalen Adams gave New Orleans five players in double-digit points, with 11 on 5/8 shooting. Adams had a couple crafty drives past the Cleveland defense for right-handed layups.