Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume I

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 11, 2009 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

Milwaukee Bucks 65, Dallas Mavericks 59

Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box Score

The JV Mavs’ summer league debut was about as rocky as it gets.  It was beyond painful to watch, and that’s coming from someone who was intrigued to see what players from both teams had to offer.  I still managed to choke down turnover after turnover after turnover (the Mavs alone had 25), and saved all of you the displeasure of watching some of the worst basketball I’ve ever laid eyes on.  These summer league rosters are assembled primarily from rookies, recent draftees, and D-League talent.  The teams only have a handful of practices before they play under Vegas lights, and last night they certainly played like it.

I’ve got nothing against summer league, in theory or in practice.  Most of the time, I enjoy the bright spots of the game in spite of some generally poor play.  But last night’s game was so uncoordinated and sloppy on both sides, that it was borderline unbearable.  Luckily for us (or rather, me and the other schmucks the NBA suckered into paying for the online feeds), the games usually turn out markedly better by the end.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

As for Game 1, there was one bright, shining star for the Mavs, made even more brighty and shiningier by the dullness that surrounded him: Ahmad Nivins.  I was personally anticipating the match-up between first round picks Rodrigue Beaubois and Brandon Jennings, but for the most part both point guards weren’t ready to run even a summer league offense.  Nivins, on the other hand, showed plenty on both ends of the floor.  On offense, Nivins was an active offensive rebounder and a sound finisher.  He showed range out to the college three-point line, but wasn’t too in love with his jumper.  But the superlatives don’t end there, as Nivins matched up mostly against Milwaukee’s first round pick in last year’s draft, Joe Alexander.  Joe ended up 4-18 on the night with 2 turnovers, which is mostly a testament to Nivins’ defense.  This is quite literally the first time I’ve ever seen Ahmad play, but if he keeps up this kind of production and activity, it will be awfully tough for the Mavs to deny him a roster spot.

Rodrigue Beaubois, flagged as the point guard of the future and the guy to watch on the summer league team, needs playing time.  And he needs it badly.  You could see exactly what  piqued the interest of Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle when Beaubois demonstrated his quickness in the lane and his skill as a drive-and-kick point guard, but Roddy still has a long way to go before he can play within himself.  He didn’t demonstrate a knowledge of when to push the ball or when to pull back out, his passing on the perimeter was a bit lazy, and he was caught with a careless dribble on a few occasions.  Make no mistake: Roddy Beaubois is a talented point guard, but he’s still very, very raw.  He may be ready for spot minutes on the pro level, but surely nothing more.  Mavs fans will have to be content with flashes of Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo for now, two players that Beaubois clearly channels during his brighter moments.

Brandon Jennings seemed to suffer from similar problems, though I wouldn’t give all the credit to Beaubois’ defense.  Rodrigue did an admirable job, to be sure, but also seemed very foul-prone in his first NBA contest.  Jennings also didn’t help his cause by settling for outside jumpers, which have been described as one of the weaker points of his game.  But Roddy (still not crazy about that nickname) clearly has the defensive ability to stay with the league’s quicker point guards…even if, for the moment, it translates to a bit of foul trouble.

Baylor product Curtis Jerrells could barely get off the bench, largely because the Mavs seemed more interested in Aaron Miles.  Personally, I don’t understand the fascination; Miles is a perfect example of why slow and steady doesn’t always win the race, and why “manage the game” point guards often find their way out of the league sooner rather than later.  Miles actually managed to one-up Beaubois with 8 fouls and 7 turnovers (compared to Beaubois’ 6 TOs).  I know it’s the first game, but with Miles I couldn’t even find reason for optimism.  Here’s to hoping that I’m proven wrong.

Shan Foster did not play well.  For a shooter, he sure does have problems shooting.  Several open looks for Shan that he just couldn’t convert.  I don’t think Foster was really ready to make the jump to the Mavs’ roster anyway, but his first game back from Europe in a Mavs’ uniform was definitely a disappointment (1-7 FG or 2 points, though he did notch 4 rebounds and 2 assists).

Mickael Gelabale: you’ve got my attention.  No star power to speak of, but Gelabale is a comfortable, athletic, role player type who could fit in comfortably as a wing defender.

Nick Calathes was nowhere to be found.

Luke Jackson was a highly-rated prospect coming out of college, and still has the potential to be a niche player in the big leagues.  He’s clearly working on becoming a bit more of a play-making forward in the Luke Walton mold.  He had some success on that front, but could really benefit from learning to play within himself a bit more on offense.  The summer league team isn’t riddled with players who can create shots, so maybe Luke feels he needs to fill that role.  Who knows.  But he had a high turnover game for guy who would be a minimal usage player on the next level.  Prove to the team that you can handle the ball a little, dish the rock, and hit the spot-up three.  That’s what’s going to earn you a roster spot with the Mavs, not forcing the issue.  Jackson also attempted a dunk in traffic, which drew maniacal laughter from one audience member.  E for effort?

  • Cynthia

    I’m not surprised that Nivins did so well. He’s athletic, can shoot, a good rebounder and a solid defender. Hopefully, he’ll keep this up. Given all he did in college I was surprised he fell to the 56th pick. Looks like we might have gotten ourselves a real gem with that pick.
    I’m surprised Beaubois didn’t do better. Maybe it was just nerves or the fact that he has only played European ball or both. The MAVS certainly saw something there otherwise they wouldn’t have signed him….hopefully we will be able to see what they see before the summer league is over.
    I know it’s “just” summer league, but the competitive side of me wants to win EVERY game….too bad Nivins didn’t have any help. He CERTAINLY did his part.

  • Jared

    FYI, according to McMahon at the DMN, the Mavs were unable to secure insurance on Calethas so he’s not playing in the summer league after all.

    • Rob Mahoney

      @Jared: Yeah, I saw that. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Jaredallas

    so, i don’t know who all was suckered into paying for the live feeds (or worse yet, subscribing to NBATV bc those a-holes said they showed “all the summer league action”), but it does exist free:
    just checked it, fair quality Golden State’s on right now. my guess is this site is somewhere shy of “completely legal” so catch it while it’s up.

  • Cynthia

    Thanks Jaredallas…will check that out. I do pay for NBA tv and the league pass every season and it SUCKS that they aren’t showing the summer league. I refuse to pay to watch it on my computer. And yeah, it po’s me also!

  • David

    Beaubois scored 34 points and had 8 assists against Houston in the second game of the Mavs.

  • Jaredallas

    feisty bunch we got there. fought til the end. although he only went 2-2, i was impressed with the way andre brown carried himself.
    Beaubois went off but i’m concerned that the excellent D we were hearing about might not be legal in the NBA.

    • Rob Mahoney

      @Jared: Give Rodrigue time, he’ll come around on defense. Just needs some time to gauge the officiating and learn the tricks of the trade.

      As for Andre Brown, you should expect as much. He’s more of a vet than most of the players in summer league, as he’s seen both NBA and D-League action. He’s also 29, so his understanding of the game is no doubt a bit more nuanced than some of the raw talent in Vegas. He’s alright, but remember there are very real reasons why Brown has yet to receive his first guaranteed contract.

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