The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin. Summer League is less about wins and losses and more about trying to determine what players can contribute on the NBA level.
- Despite having a clear set of goals when watching these games, it’s very easy to get caught up in whether or not the team is winning. Summer League is about different things for different players and it’s about growth and learning over wins and losses. For a “veteran” like Jae Crowder, it’s about improving his offensive consistency and being the team’s defensive leader. For a first year player like Mekel or undrafted rookie Jackie Carmichael, it’s about figuring out what you can and can’t do at the next level. As one plays basketball, the main difference between one level and the next is speed. Keeping in mind that athleticism falls under that banner, it’s incredible how fast things happen in a Summer League game, let alone a NBA game. How players learn and adjust, even over a short period of games like Summer League, is nearly as important as determining whether or not they have NBA translatable skills. Though the team is 2-2 after four games, there have been improvements for nearly the entire roster. That matters and it’s been fun to cover.
- Speaking of improvement, it was fantastic to see D.J. Stephens, the mega-athlete out of Memphis, get more playing time. In under 15 minutes, he put up nine points and five rebounds, including one jaw dropping put back dunk. His outside shot was on display as well and he made a strong argument for more minutes next game. There are few more exciting combinations than freakish athleticism and hard play and Stephens brings both to the table. It’s hard to tell if he could actually ever play in the NBA, but the raw tools are there.
- After the two weekend games, it felt appropriate to write off the entire lot of Dallas big men. I’m still unconvinced that these guys can play in the NBA, but making such a judgment after two games was rash. Jackie Carmichael, a late addition to the Dallas Summer League roster, came ready to play against the Clippers and prove that he’s a NBA quality player by chipping in 23 points and nine rebounds. His early buckets came off some crafty post play, including an excellent baseline show-and-go hook shot. Most of his later contributions came off of working the glass and pure hustle. Earl Sneed of Mavs.com correctly sums up a guy like Carmichael: you can’t help but root for him.
- For anyone who follows me on social media, I’ve been less than pleased about the Mavericks continuing to play Josh Akognon for large chunks of minutes, but against the Clippers he was spectacular. The coaching staff brought him into the game as a sixth man instead of a starter and his offensive bump helped keep the Mavericks in the game when things were looking dicey. At one point in the second quarter he scored 12 straight points. With the clogged Maverick back court (Mark Cuban announced that the framework for a Devin Harris deal is there), there is no room for Josh Akognon to see minutes, despite the fact that he’s still on the main Maverick roster. Can he catch on with another team? When he’s hot, he’s scorching and his ability to get off shots in tight space, moving away from the bucket is impressive, considering his smaller stature. His 24 points helped ensure Dallas has at least two more games in Summer League play.
- Gal Mekel had a fairly unremarkable game, at least statistically (nine points, four assists). Compared to the previous three Summer League games, his finger prints were no where to be found early as the Dallas offense sputtered along. But Mekel came alive in the game’s final minutes, hitting a big three, throwing a fantastic bounce pass to a back cutting Akognon for a lay in, and hitting a nice jumper to keep the Clippers at bay as they tried a late come back. Mekel needs to continue to improve, particularly in boxing out and other defensive areas, but his play has been convincing enough to warrant a shot at minutes when the season begins.
- This was the sort of game many Dallas observers had been waiting for from Jae Crowder (18 points, five rebounds, five assists). His defense was superb, particularly with his foot work. It’s very easy to over-challenge a shooter, allowing that player to put the ball on the floor and get into the teeth of the defense. In Summer League, Crowder has been excellent at closing out without giving his match up a chance to exploit the defense. The way he crowds his man, particularly a bigger player, has been fun to watch. Offensively, he’s a bull when driving the lane and even played the role of distributor early with Mekel being ineffective. His jumper is still pretty confusing; in Vegas he’s been short far too often, despite seeming to have nice form. I assume it’s a fixable problem, but seeing his three point shot fall short time and again has become rather predictable (Crowder is now 3 of 18 from beyond the arc in Summer League).
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.