Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume II

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 12, 2009 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Houston Rockets 98, Dallas Mavericks 95

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

Box Score

I wasn’t able to watch last night’s summer league game due to a little basketball tournament of my own, so of course Rodrigue Beaubois turned in an absolutely magnificent performance when my back was turned.  Roddy followed up his disappointing debut with a lights-out showing in game 2, registering a stat-line almost too monstrous to believe:

32 points
12-21 FG
7-12 3FG (This cat’s got some serious NBA range)
8 assists
4 rebounds
Only 2 turnovers

This face?  Right here?  My Over-the-Moon Face.  I’m absolutely thrilled that Beaubois was apparently able to be a more effective and efficient point guard, even if his trouble with fouling continued (9 fouls).  That will work itself out as he continues to get a feel for the NBA game.  Roddy is so young and so inexperienced in NBA-style basketball that it doesn’t really matter how many fouls he gets right now.  What matters is that he displays the attributes to be a hellish point guard defender.  He showed some of that in game one, but of course I can’t speak to what I didn’t see in game two.  Among his praise of Rodrigue’s game, Rick Carlisle did note that Beaubois’ defense is far from a finished product (via Arnovitz at TrueHoop):

“He brings us a different dimension. We don’t have this kind of angular speed, or supreme-type athlete at the point guard position right now. So he gives us a different look.” Carlisle was cautious in his praise. It’s only Beaubois’ second NBA game, and he still has to learn how to play an NBA brand of defense. “When you come from a mid-league in Europe to the NBA, you have to ratchet up your level of awareness.”

David Thorpe chimed in today, on Twitter:

Beaubois has been the best pure pg I’ve seen this summer. Until George Hill. Westbrook is the most explosive game changer.

Pretty good company for the youngest Mav.

Beaubois wasn’t alone, as Ahmad Nivins continued his strong play with a near-double double (11 points, 8 rebounds).  I can’t decide how I feel about Luke Jackson’s box score, considering he scored 16 points on 11 shots, but only made 3 field goals.  Going perfect from the line is impressive and getting there for 8 attempts even moreso, but shooting such a low percentage from the field is never a good thing.

Not much to note otherwise from the Mavs’ perspective.  From my understanding, the Mavs are still reluctant to leave Beaubois on the floor as a solo ball-handler, often playing Rodrigue and Aaron Miles together on the floor.  I’ve made my position on Miles pretty clear, and again Baylor’s Curtis Jerrells superficially seems a superior candidate.  It’s hard to make any kind of real judgment off of box scores alone, but if you go strictly by the numbers, Jerrells had a superior game in more limited playing time.  There are a number of reasons why that could be true, but I’d love to see Jerrells get more of a run as a back-up point with the summer league team, rather than random rotation filler.

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?

They Smell Like the Future: Curtis Jerrells

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 9, 2009 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Baylor Senior
6′1”, 200 lbs.
22 years old
Point guard
Projection: Undrafted
Highlights (07-08)

Thus far, the Mavs have worked out point guards and centers almost exclusively, likely in an effort to discover a valuable undrafted commodity a la J.J. Barea.  Curtis Jerrells is next in line in the point guard flock, a senior from Baylor with a quick first step and nice finishing abilities.  Unfortunately, that quickness he had in college won’t be nearly as pronounced in the NBA, and Jerrells may be left with little to show for an NBA career. 

I see a bit of a comparison between Jerrells and Philadelphia’s Louis Williams.  Jerrells is great at penetrating but in truth, he has trouble making plays if he’s not diving into the lane.  NBA defenders are bigger, faster, and stronger than their college counterparts, and Curtis’ opportunities to get into the lane will be affected as such.  His jumpshot is spotty at best, meaning CJ pans out as a point guard who doesn’t do anything particularly well on the offensive end in match-ups where his speed is negated.  He’s fast, but I doubt he’s fast enough to make a consistent impact.

Jerrells’ game really hinges on his speed.  He needs to show improvement as a distributor and a shooter if he wants to be able to run an NBA offense full-time.  Right now he seems to pan out as a nice back-up point, and perhaps a difference-maker when playing against slow-footed opponents like Steve Nash or Jose Calderon.  But for now, Curtis is a point guard without much range, and yet one that often resorts to taking ill-advised jumpers because of his lack of passing ability in a motion half-court game.  Jerrells was meant to run, and when the game gets bogged down his effectiveness does as well.

If the Mavs are looking for a third guard for the time being, I think Jerrells could be a good fit.  Maybe CJ is quicker than I think he is, and that skill combined with some work on his shooting could give the Mavs another option that is a bit taller than Barea.  But if the Mavs are looking for a defensive stopper of any kind, they need to look elsewhere.  The extra inch or so he has on Barea doesn’t mean all that much, and though Jerrells has the quickness to be at least a decent NBA defender, he never really made anything of his speed as a defender in college. 

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Jerrells.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are obviously based on Jerrells’ four-year career at Baylor.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

Interestingly enough, Barea popped up as a similar player to Jerrells.  Though note the discrepenacies: the marked difference in assists, and even Barea’s edge in rebounding.  In the past year, we’ve seen enough of Barea to know that he’s a sturdy back-up point guard.  He’s undersized, but he works incredibly hard.  He can contest every shot, but he does draw offensive fouls.  And, for what it’s worth, he’s a slightly better scorer and passer than Jerrells.  I think CJ can offer something similar to Barea’s burst of energy off the bench, but until he showcases his quickness on the next level, I remain unconvinced.