March 8, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oregon State Beavers guard Jared Cunningham (1) and forward Devon Collier (44) celebrate the win over the Washington Huskies in the quarter finals of the 2012 Pac 12 Tournament at the Staples Center. Oregon State won 86-84. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
It's been two years since the Mavericks have suited up a team in Vegas, thanks to last year's lockout. Back then, the squad consisted of players like Jeremy Lin, JR Giddens, and even Ian Mahinmi, and featured classics like an overtime game against the Bucks featuring a Roddy Beaubois game winner.
Yes, safe to say it's been a while.
This year, there's a lot of upside on the Mavericks roster. Here's what to look out for:
Jones is the leader of this 2012 squad, as the only player who has participated in the Summer League for the Mavericks before. Expect him to lead the team in scoring, just like he did two years ago averaging 16.6 points a game. After two years of NBA workouts and practices, he will be several steps ahead of nearly everyone on the court in terms of physicality. Much more important will be his jump shot and whether he can show an ability to pass and create open shots for others.
In 2010, he did not make a single three pointer in all five games he played, and averaged just 3.6 assists to 2.4 turnovers. Jones has to show major improvement in at least one of those areas to prove he's capable of playing at an NBA level. Otherwise, he's out the door as soon as they can find a team that will take him, and even that may be difficult.
The Mavericks' first round pick has some major athleticism and upside, but probably will not showcase any of this in Vegas. Early reports indicate he has a hamstring injury that the Mavericks want to be extremely cautious with, and so the thing to watch for with this kid is simply whether or not he plays. Hopefully, the reports were premature or Cunningham is a fast healer, but don't hold your breath. As the only draft pick with a guaranteed contract, we know he's not going anywhere.
Ever since the Mavericks snagged him with the 34th pick in the draft, I've heard a lot of positive buzz about the forward out of Marquette. The Big East National Player of the Year has a reputation of being tough and hard-working, a sort of jack-of-all-trades player who does whatever it takes to help a team win. Unfortunately, at 6'6", he is a bit of a tweener, small to play at the four but not quick enough to be a three. I'm most interesting in seeing how the Mavericks use him defensively and whether or not he can guard power forwards adequately enough.
27 years old, the main thing that James will have to show is maturity, and that he's a man among boys. He should be stronger and more physical than just about every big man the Mavericks face. If he's not, then there is just not enough time for him to mature before he's already out of his prime and on a physical decline. Other than finishing at the rim, there's really no need for him to be an offensive threat. It's the defensive end that he needs to make himself stand out at and impress people.
The Rest of the Roster
Coming into last year's Summer League, nobody knew who Jeremy Lin was. He didn't lead the league in scoring or assists -- hell, he was just fifth in scoring on his own team -- but he made plays and got noticed. It was enough to get him an NBA contract, and look where he is now. All the rest of these players need to do is stand out and catch someone's eye, and maybe it will be enough. Probably not for the Mavericks, but maybe for someone.