The Las Vegas Summer League is a meal best consumed in buffet style — there is little order to the layering of flavors for the event, but one can nonetheless find plenty of tasty morsels, however disparate they may be. With that in mind, here is a closer look at a few of the notable prospects from Dallas’ first game in Vegas, assembled for you in the most edible form:
- The Mavs’ stint in Vegas is very clearly an audition process of sorts for Dominique Jones, whose role in the upcoming season is an open question due to Dallas’ open roster. With Rodrigue Beaubois almost perpetually shaky off the dribble and Delonte West as of yet unsigned, there’s a distinct possibility that the Mavs will be forced to rely on Jones as a reserve ball-handler and playmaker.
It’s in that regard that Jones’ Summer League success becomes a bit tricky to translate. On this team, he’s the end-all creator, the primary scorer, and the bailout option. He has a lot to prove and a considerable weight to carry, giving these showings a notably different dynamic than what he has and will encounter as a member of the Mavs’ A-team. He did a tremendous job of pouring in points, but I’m not sure there’s much to take away from his shiny scoring total aside from the physicality and skill behind it.
There’s no question that Jones is a reasonably safe ball-handler with good driving instincts and imposing strength, but none of that is exactly new. What is new — or at least renewed — is his capacity to finish around the basket after drawing contact. That was the crux of Jones’ college success, but he hadn’t yet managed to convert that element of his utility to NBA defenses and NBA bigs. We may have seen the start of that transition with this kind of performance, even if the level of play makes for an imperfect comparison to standard NBA basketball.
- Drew Gordon will take a mulligan. One of the most interesting players to go undrafted in June started out his Summer League tour with a bit of a dud, but we should still see plenty of Gordon before his time in Vegas is through. On first glance: if nothing else, Gordon moves well and sets solid screens — two things which shouldn’t be discounted or ignored, especially in a Summer League climate where quality screening is so rare.
- Jones was a dominant scorer, but I came away most impressed with Jae Crowder — the humanized form of kinetic energy Dallas selected with the 34th pick. It’s astounding how much ground Crowder can cover, even in the muddled mess of Summer League team defense; he’s responsible and persistent in his coverage of his man and all others, and did some brilliant work in rotation in general. He already looks like a relatively polished “little-things” NBA contributor, but obviously has some ways to go in terms of sorting out the more complicated machinations of the Mavs’ team defense.
- Inconsistency was the theme of the day for Bernard James. Every clever denial or smart adjustment on the defensive end was offset by an obvious and painful error. An impressive open-court corral and finish was counterbalanced by a handful of overly aggressive plays. There’s a useful player here, but James has plenty to unpack before he’s ready to actually start settling in for a pro team.
- Justin Dentmon has the ability to generate points at an NBA level, but his game brings more questions than answers. How much can quickness alone off-set his considerable size disadvantage? How much will playing against faster and bigger competition negate the shooting proficiency that Dentmon has shown in the D-League? And even given that Dentmon will never be a pure playmaker, to what capacity is his playmaking productive on the next level?