Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 22, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume V

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 21, 2010 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

In lieu of a delayed recap of the Mavs final game at the Vegas Summer League, I’ve opted for a player-by-player review based on their exploits. If you’ve come in search of some analysis of Moussa Seck that’s probably more serious than it should be, actual praise for Mouhammad Faye, or a first look at Ian Mahinmi, you’ve come to the right place.

Rodrigue Beaubois: Experience is important, but Beaubois didn’t demonstrate much growth in terms of running the point. He had his moments — a read here, a read there — but this was not a particularly successful trip for Rodrigue. However, Beaubois did show off his pull-up game a bit, something he didn’t do with much frequency last season with the Mavs. Granted, he didn’t have much of a chance; pull-up threes are the kind of shots Beaubois is able to take in Summer League, but probably shouldn’t be taking with the actual team. There are better shots to be had when playing with Dirk Nowitzki et al. Aside from that wrinkle, Beaubois played off the ball a bit too much and didn’t blow me away as a traditional point guard prospect. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s worth noting.

Dominique Jones: Dominique Jones isn’t quite a bull in a china shop — he stands just 6’5”, after all — but at the very least he’s a Tasmanian devil in a Pottery Barn. It’ll be nice to see if Jones can get to the basket (and to the free throw line) consistently against bigger and badder NBA regulars, but he passed his first exam in that course with flying colors. Jones isn’t a particularly versatile scorer just yet, but his driving abilities are sealed and ready for NBA use. He has a quick first step. He’s incredibly strong. He can drive in both directions, finish with contact, and attack the basket in a variety of ways. Jones may seem like a black hole at times, but he’s not an unwilling passer. He’ll find his teammates, but there’s no question that his offensive focus is to score as frequently as possible, regardless of who’s defending him.

However, as I mentioned in my game-by-game recaps, Jones was just as excellent defensively. It’s still very early, but Dominique looks like a player that could be defensively viable at both guard positions, and his tenacity on that end is beyond impressive. His technique still needs work, and he needs to continue to develop to become a better team defender. However, Jones looked remarkable in showcasing his one-on-one defensive abilities (staying in front of his man, bodying up, contesting shots, etc.).

Jeremy Lin: It’s not easy to walk into a gym where every unheralded prospect is looking to make a name for themselves and do just that, yet Lin earned himself an NBA contract on the strength of his play at Summer League. Jeremy has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, which is pretty remarkable considering the Mavs were Lin’s only Summer League invite.

Lin surprised a lot of people with his ability to keep pace athletically, which was thought to be one of his bigger weaknesses coming into Summer League. It looked like a non-issue, even as Lin was asked to check John Wall. Jeremy looked strong in the open court, but he also impressed with his vision and decision-making in half-court sets. I don’t know of Lin will ever have the talent necessary to be a full-time starting point, but it’s not hard to imagine him providing scoring and playmaking off the bench in a regular capacity.

Jeremy Lin’s journey in Vegas was a gradual unveiling. Initially, he showed an ability to make simple, effective passes and finish in the lane over NBA shot-blockers. Then came a surprising diversity in his drives and moves to the rim, which is essential for long-term success on the perimeter in the NBA. Lin also added a few threes for good measure, giving team officials reason to hesitate before inking his jumper as a weakness on the scouting report. Finally, Lin really showcased his defensive abilities by pressuring ball-handlers and attacking the passing lanes. He’s hardly a finished product, but Lin can do a bit of everything.

Omar Samhan: Dexter Pittman may be a rotation player for the Miami Heat this season, but Omar Samhan couldn’t even secure a spot on an NBA roster. This makes very little sense. Though Pittman is probably the more intriguing athletic specimen (buried underneath his robust exterior is a definite NBA athlete), he clearly doesn’t have the proper understanding of how to use his size to his advantage. Samhan does. Neither player is in optimal NBA shape, but if we’re looking at which prospect has a better understanding of mechanics, spacing, and talent utilization? There’s no debate. Samhan works his way into the low post to drop a baby hook, while Pittman spins and elbows his way into an offensive foul.

Pittman is just one of many. With so many raw center prospects in the NBA that never find actualization, it’s a shame that players like Samhan can’t even get their foot in the door. Omar is a very poor defender if pulled out to the perimeter, not a sure thing in the post against real NBA bigs, and would have his minutes capped by poor conditioning. Still, he was able to score and rebound well against some of the better centers Summer League had to offer, which has to count for something.

For some reason or another, it’s acceptable for a wing player to be an intriguing, one-dimensional scoring talent, but blasphemous for a center or power forward to do the same. Samhan may not be a great NBA rebounder or defender, but would there really be anything so wrong with getting a few free offensive possessions out of him in the low post?

Ian Mahinmi: Ian had an abbreviated Summer League run, but he showed glimpses of what we can expect next season. Mahinmi rebounded very well in fairly limited minutes, and while he wasn’t a dominant offensive force in any particular game, he showed off a few skills that should be helpful in real NBA games. He has a nice mid-range jumper that can keep defenses honest. Mahinmi looks quicker on his feet than any other Maverick big. He’s not afraid to offer help from the weak side. Mahinmi isn’t the strongest finisher, but at least in Summer League he was able to go up strong and draw fouls.

Mahinmi will frustrate some fans with the holes in his game, but provided we stay focused on what he can do (come on, he’s the third center on the roster, after all) rather than what he can’t, I think it’ll be very clear how cool it is to have a guy like this on the team as an insurance policy.

Mouhammad Faye: While Mouhammad Faye didn’t quite have a Jeremy Lin-style explosion, I feel he played pretty well in Vegas. Faye will never be an impact player offensively. His influence on that end will always be strictly complementary, which means that the most important skills he can showcase are the ability to hit open jumpers and finish freebies at the rim. He did both. Faye’s defense could possibly get him a chance with an NBA team some day, as he’s both well-equipped (Faye is listed at 6’9”, but has Stretch Armstrong limbs) and hard-working. It’s very, very difficult to gauge defensive success in the Summer League because of how sensitive those skills translate to a 5-on-5 game with more experienced opponents. Moving from Vegas to the NBA regular season won’t make a made three rim out. It won’t make a smart pass into the wrong move. But a successful individual defender in Summer League could end up flubbing when forced to be part of something more.

For now, that’s where Faye is. He needs three-point range before he’s given a serious NBA shot anyway, but he also needs to prove that he can operate effectively as a team defender. That’s exactly what he’d be able to do in the D-League, if the Mavs choose to make him a part of the Texas Legends’ inaugural run.

Faye is already 25. He’s not going to overhaul his game by the time his career is through. Still, based on the strength he’s shown as a defender, he could be an interesting guy to have on the wing. Faye really needs to bulk up if he’s going to play as a combo forward (he’s a bit slight even to guard NBA 3s at the moment), but he has the makings of a pretty impressive NBA defender.

Shan Foster: Shan Foster is the mythical three-point shooter who can’t shoot. Foster shot 46.9% from three during his last season at Vanderbilt, but he just doesn’t look all that comfortable spotting up at the NBA three-point line. He shot just 25% from beyond the arc in Vegas, and that’s not even close to what it would take to secure Foster a spot on an NBA roster. He’s not a bad defender, but Shan really doesn’t do much offensively except shoot. I wouldn’t call him a black hole, but he certainly doesn’t make plays. He doesn’t drive. He doesn’t post up. He spots up frequently, and misses far more than he should.

J.R. Giddens: I just don’t see it. Giddens plays hard, but he doesn’t seem to have a particularly good grasp of where to be on the court. One could appreciate him solely for his hustle, but too often is he forced to rely on it based on his own mistakes. He seems like a pretty decent positional rebounder, but considering Giddens really failed to show any standout NBA skills aside from his athleticism, I’m not sure he’s cut from the NBA mold. A good player, but unfortunately he just doesn’t seem good enough.

Moussa Seck: Ever the project, Seck’s height is undeniably attractive in an NBA setting, but he has a long way to go before he’s ready to use it. Not only did Seck really only shine offensively when putting in an easy dunk, but his body needs a lot of work before he’s NBA ready.

Consider Yao Ming. The guy is built like a tree, and even with the amount of upper and lower body work he’s done throughout his career, he still has trouble staying healthy. Such is the life of the league’s giants, who have the principles of physics working against them.

Seck could benefit a lot — particularly in the strength and conditioning departments — from playing in the D next season, and I have a sneaking suspicion we may see him in Frisco. But until he puts in the work to make his body NBA-ready, he’s not worth having a particularly serious discussion about. I will say this: Seck may not be all that mobile, but he can surprise people as a shot-blocker for pretty obvious reasons. If Seck could ever bulk up enough to at least put up a fight on the glass, he could find enough minutes to be a difference-maker on the defensive end. Teams simply have to account for him when he’s on the floor, even if Seck lacks a natural feel for the flow of the game.

DeShawn Sims: I was a bit more impressed with Sims’ play in the Orlando Summer League than I was with his performance in Vegas. Sims is a tad small for a natural 4, and his largely face-up game only reinforces that fact. He’s not a great rebounder, but it’s not for lack of effort; Sims puts in the work on the boards, he’s just not all that tall, strong, or athletic. He could be worth an extended look, but Sims doesn’t seem like the kind of talent that would take the jump from Summer League to the NBA all that well.

Amara Sy: Strong, but awkward. Aside from the occasional bizarrely soft jumper, Sy really didn’t look like a basketball player. He got a bucket now and again, but I’m not exactly sure what it is that he’s supposed to do on the court. He’s not a good rebounder (though he really should be, given his strength and athleticism), doesn’t have much touch around the rim at all, and isn’t more than a passable NBA player. Sy seems like a lock to continue in the D-League for a spell before floating back across the Atlantic.

Josh Mayo: Pretty quick, but doesn’t have the blinding speed necessary to make a difference as a 6-foot-flat point guard in the NBA. Mayo didn’t have much of a chance to display his talents behind Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and Jeremy Lin, but he also played incredibly pedestrian basketball when he did make it to the floor.

Eric Tramiel: If he ends up in Frisco, it will be solely as a ticket draw (Tramiel came out of UNT, which is about a 30 minute drive from the Legends’ new home). Tramiel didn’t play badly per se, but his defense — while competent — wasn’t impressive to make up for his no-show offensively. It’s tough for guys in Tramiel’s position to impress NBA scouts, but there are also reasons why players of his ilk struggle to even find PT in Summer League.

Darryl Watkins: Big body. Not horrible. Disappears, both on the court and from the Summer League roster.

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume II

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 11, 2010 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

The journey continues, as the Mavs took on one of the Vegas Summer League’s most talented teams in the Houston Rockets:

  • Rodrigue Beaubois shot himself quietly into that good night during the first Summer League game, but put together quite the follow-up. Beaubois was far more patient in running the Mavs’ sets, but more importantly he looked like himself. Rodrigue hit jumpers spotting up and off the dribble, and made Houston’s defenders look positively silly with his speed. Ish Smith is a speed demon in his own right, but keeping up with Rodrigue in the open court isn’t a job for mere men. 28 points on 60% shooting with four assists — that’ll do.
  • And before you get too upset about Beaubois’ four turnovers, it kind of comes with the territory. Not only is Rodrigue trying to carry the Mavs’ SL squad, but he’s also trying to be extra aggressive in both his scoring and playmaking.
  • Omar Samhan is kind of fantastic. Conditioning is clearly still an issue, but his footwork, touch, and energy are all excellent. He killed it against the more athletic (but defensively limited) Jordan Hill by showing off his face-up J, array of interior moves, and even his ability to attack off the dribble. Samhan’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he uses his technique (whether it’s a shot fake or a drop step) to succeed despite inferior athleticism. He’s good, and while he doesn’t have the defensive seasoning or endurance to play a big role, he could be a reasonably effective bench scorer almost immediately. Summer League defenders aren’t identical to real NBA competition, but Samhan is an intelligent and physical player. He’s a guy you can trust to figure it out.
  • Jon L of Ridiculous Upside listed J.R. Giddens as one of the day’s “Nonstars,” but I was actually pretty impressed. Relative to Giddens’ usual efforts, he was much more in control and certainly more disciplined. He still gambled at times on defense and made his mistakes offensively, but his typically impressive effort level seemed a tad more calculated than usual. Maybe his basketball instincts were just more in tune, but he seemed to play relatively well in the areas which were previously flat.
  • Jeremy Lin was rather terrific again, even if he was completely eclipsed by Beaubois and Samhan’s incredible production. I’m still a little surprised at well he finishes inside, particularly after absorbing contact. His frame doesn’t necessarily suggest that he’s frail, but Lin’s release on floaters and layups is consistently soft and true. He’s also been rebounding pretty well for a point, even if he’s played off the ball at times as well.
  • I don’t see anything particularly interesting in Amara Sy’s game. He’s a big body and seems like a decent enough athlete, but doesn’t seem to have any offensive game. Sy lost the handle on a few possessions and airballed a baseline jumper, which is probably enough of a reason for Dallas to keep the ball out of his hands. If he’s a designated defender, I’m still waiting to be impressed.
  • Mouhammad Faye, on the other hand, I think is already a pretty decent defender. He obviously needs work before his defense is good enough to keep him afloat in the big leagues, but for Summer League purposes he’s a good glue guy. He finishes around the rim, grabs boards, and forces his match-up into tough shots. Dallas could have done far worse in terms of potential wing players.
  • Shan Foster seems to have matured as a player, but he hasn’t showcased any particularly appealing NBA skills. He’s bulked up a little bit and seems to be a bit pickier with his shot selection,but the results still haven’t been all that promising. Foster’s primary NBA utility was supposed to be his shooting ability, but he really hasn’t demonstrated that he can knock down shots from any range consistently in a supporting role.
  • Darryl Watkins made his debut for the Mavs, but he only played about three and a half minutes. He’s a more polished center than Moussa Seck (who can grab boards, but hasn’t shown any basketball moves nor the ability to properly use his incredible height), but also a bit older. Seck could be an interesting Texas Legends candidate, but Watkins hasn’t shown much yet.
  • Rockets guard Jermaine Taylor is a slightly more complete version of Dominique Jones. He shares Jones’ ability to fight to the rim and finish, but Jermaine is undoubtedly the better playmaker at this stage and a better ball handler overall. Taylor is one of my favorite players running in Summer League, and Mavs fans should really watch Jermaine and the Rockets to get a better feel of where Dominique Jones could be in a year or two. Jones is just as much of a natural scorer, but it’s about filling in the gaps.
  • Worth noting that the TrueHoop Network and SB Nation had a 5-on-5 Battle Royale for inter-network supremacy, and the good guys won, 50-47. Yours truly grabbed MVP honors with 32 points and 17 rebounds on 57% shooting, though those four turnovers were killer. Great playing with all of the TrueHoopers and the SBN folks, and hopefully THN can defend the title next time around.