Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume III

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 14, 2009 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Phoenix Suns 95, Dallas Mavericks 90

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

Box Score

While wins in Vegas Summer League are the NBA equivalent of funny money, the minutes played are not without consequence.

For one, this is real, NBA basketball.  It’s not played in big arenas or with the brightest stars, but these are representatives of real NBA teams playing other potential competitors with the NBA logo on their unis.  It’s damn sloppy and a huge step down talent-wise from what we see in the NBA, but it’s not a bad meet-and-greet for players and the fans.  It lets us get a decent first look at the Mavs’ draftees, and proves that Nathan Jawai(bberwocky) is, in fact, a  real person.

But basketball wouldn’t be basketball without the harsh reality of injuries.  Rodrigue Beaubois was treated first-hand to that experience last night, as he suffered a left knee contusion in the waning moments of the game.  It’s apparently nothing serious, and Beaubois isn’t expected to miss any Summer League time.  Whew.

But even when Beaubois’ wasn’t making headlines (well, let’s be honest: footnotes) with his injury, he was catching plenty of eyes.  So far we’ve seen three very different games from Roddy.  Game one was an adventure, to put it kindly; Beaubois clearly needed time to feel his way into NBA basketball.  Game two was a demonstration, a Beaubois-led clinic exploring what he could develop into as a point guard.  Game three was an organic, yet controlled attempt by Rodrigue to show his skills as a point guard.  Three very different looks, two of which are very promising.  Strong play in Summer League is hardly indicative of future success, but Beaubois has the look of a stud.  He knows his way around a basketball court, and even it takes him a few years to fully grasp everything going on around him, his instincts and natural talents are pretty swell.

Rick Carlisle came on the broadcast for awhile to talk about a variety of the topics, Ahmad Nivins among them.  Rick gave the usual “WE COULDN’T BELIEVE HOW FAR HE FELL, I MEAN, HE WAS OUR GUY ALL ALONG!” speech, which I’d usually dismiss as lip service.  But after watching more of Nivins in real game action, I would be incredibly disappointed if he wasn’t on the Mavs’ opening day roster.  There are clearly some holes in his game, but I’m still waiting for the reason this guy was a second round pick.  Nivins is fundamentally sound, he has some range, and he’s a solid defender (at this level, anyway). While it’s difficult to say just how well he’d perform against the big boys, he could really help provide some depth at the 4.

Nathan Jawai had some serious troubles.  Even when executing the most basic of post moves, Jawai seemed to be in slow motion and often came up short.  Having Robin Lopez on you doesn’t help, but from his single performance in a Maverick uniform, I see no reason for optimism.  One point (0-5 FG), five rebounds, six fouls, and still one sweet nickname for the Jawaibberwocky.  Give me Ryan Hollins, or give me death!

Shan Foster’s shooting finally came around, but even in his most impressive effort yet, he was decidedly mortal.  The Mavs will be waiting a long time if they expect Foster to develop into a useful player; For now, he clearly needs the ball in his hands to be effective at all, and even in that capacity he’s no particularly good at anything aside from shooting.  Consider Foster’s stroke isn’t pure enough to be counted on night-in and night-out, that doesn’t bode well for his NBA prospects.

The other notable names remain the same, but no one has stood out in a way that would command your attention.  It’s become abundantly clear to me that Luke Jackson’s only role in the NBA would be as a spot-up shooter, but his defense would likely limit his effectiveness.  Mickael Gelabale works really hard on the basketball court, but probably shouldn’t be anything more than a third-string wing player.  Aaron Miles had his best game of the SL, and yet I still can’t convince myself that he’s an NBA player.  Instinctively, my eyes turn to Beaubois and Nivins on the court, and there’s a reason for that.  Not only are they the Mavs’ draft picks this season and hope for the future, but they remain the only players on the Mavs’ summer league roster capable of holding your attention.

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?