Las Vegas Summer League: A Primer

Posted by Kirk Henderson on July 12, 2013 under Previews | Read the First Comment


With the start of Las Vegas Summer League today, I decided to reach out to a couple few people on the basketball blogosphere who have a better handle on the NBA Summer Leagues and developmental basketball as a whole. Though I’ve been watching the Mavericks for years, this will be the first time I’ve really paid attention to the Mavericks Summer League roster. Learning what to look for, what to expect, and what to hope for is important when placing value on Summer League performances.

My first exchange was with Ridiculous Upside writer Dakota Schmidt (@Dakota_Schmidt).  While Dakota also contributes to Behind the Bucks Pass and Rufus on Fire, I reached out to him because he spends an inordinate amount of time following developmental basketball.

Check out the roster here, noting that there has been a late addition of Jackie Carmichael

What sort of advice can you give first time viewers of Las Vegas Summer League?

My advice to anyone watching Summer League for the first time would be to enjoy watching the likes of Jae Crowder, Bernard James, and Shane Larkin  play against other solid prospects but to be hesitant before you get too excited about their performances. There have been multiple times where players flourished during Summer League only to tumble off the face of the earth when making their way to the NBA. Josh Selby is one example who comes to mind.

Enjoy the crazy and weird rotations that don’t really make any sense and watching your rookies in action for the first time. You might even see a player or two from the past that you forgot existed. All in all, just have fun watching basketball because it won’t come back around until October.

Why did the format change to more of an AAU style tournament?

To boost the overall appeal of the whole Summer League experience. In previous years, the overall mindset going into Summer League has been as a showcase of sorts to present some of the top prospects before they made their way to the NBA. While that plan has worked immensely since it’s inception, having an AAU style tournament will just make the games more interesting to both the casual and hardcore fans.

What do you hope to see out of the current Mavericks, Jae Crowder and Bernard James?

Projecting the future of 2nd round picks is tricky in a normal situation, but it’s more difficult when you’re dealing of someone like Bernard James who is not a typical “prospect”, mainly due to his age. When it comes to Crowder, I just want to see how he’ll performs because he wasn’t used consistently throughout his rookie year.

While Crowder does have potential to be that reliable “3 and D” type of player, he was hesitant in his overall approach to basketball last season, which disappoints me because I think he could be successful moving without the ball or using his large frame to be a better rebounder. Speaking of rebounding, Bernard James should an extremely fun player to watch in Vegas because of how talented he is in that department. I’m the type of basketball fan that gravitates towards scrappy players, and James could thrive in the more chaotic Summer League environment.

What about the recent draftees, Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo?

Both Ledo and Larkin are worth keeping a close eye on for two completely different reasons. In Ledo’s case, I honestly don’t know anything about him as a player because he hasn’t played organized ball since high school after being ineligible last year atProvidence. On the other hand, Larkin is one of the more polished rookies going into the 2013-14 season. The questions that surround Larkin all center around his size. His success or failure in attacking the basket in Summer League is probably the main thing to watch for the Dallas Maverick rookies.

Is there anyone else on the roster who could conceivably make the team? If not, do any of these players have the potential of making the league one day?

First, we would have to figure out what’s going on behind the scenes with Mark Cuban and the rest ofDallas’ front office and their plans for the 2013-14 season. With the team still dead-set on making the playoffs, it looks like the Mavericks rotation will mostly consist of notable veterans so it’s not likely for any of these undrafted players to be inDallasat the start of the season.  Somebody like Christian Watford could make an impact as a long and lanky forward who can work in the pick and roll with Shane Larkin because of his extremely solid perimeter shooting abilities. Some other notable names include DeWayne Dedmon, Terrico White, Jackie Carmichael and D.J Stephens who could be seen in the D-League next year.

Whats your opinion on the state of the Dallas developmental philosophy?

Since Dallas has decided to focus on making playoff pushes until Dirk Nowitzki retires, meaning player development will continue take a back seat as they continue to sign veterans over NBA D-league players. Since the Mavericks are the sole owners of their D-League affiliates, the Texas Legends, they can continue to bring in young players to develop running the same systems and philosophies as thier NBA counterparts.

While the Dallas draft history has been less than successful, having draft picks in the early to mid 20′s makes it extremely difficult to pick out that player who can instantly produce at the pro level. Though Larkin will probably see time with the Mavericks, an untested player like Ledo is likely to spend big chunks of his season learning the Maverick philosophy with the Texas Legends.

With the real lack of solid prospects that they can develop around,Dallashas picked their fingers through the D-League crop when they acquired Chris Douglas Roberts, Justin Dentmon (both played with the Legends) and Chris Wright in the previous season. Because of the current goals of the Mavericks, it’s hard to judge whether the development program is a success or failure. They really haven’t used any of the assets they’ve brought along with the Legends.

Thanks Dakota. 

Be sure to check out TMG’s Bryan Gutierrez as he contributes to ESPN Dallas during LSVL.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.