The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Denver Nuggets 88-77 at the Cox Pavilion today in the opening game of their Las Vegas Summer League run. Of course, like minor league baseball, the score is much less important than the individual gains and impressions.
Dominique Jones led all scorers with 32 points, but his dominance probably should have been expected, given his draft pedigree and the fact that he's one of the longest tenured players participating in the summer league.
Here are some impressions from the game:
-As mentioned, Jones led all scorers with 32 points, on 12-25 from the floor (and 7-9 from the free throw line), and continued to flash his one clear premium skill: the ability to get to the basket. He does not have quite the kind of elite speed and leaping ability that perennial tease Rodrigue Beaubois does, but seems to display a better understanding of how and when to attack. His ballhandling acumen and body control in the air are both striking, and his bulk allows him to absorb contact and still finish, which he did on several occasions. But, we already knew all that, right? The big question that will follow Jones, and the question that likely required his presence for a second tour in the Summer League, is whether or not he can consistently hit from outside, so that defenders won't simply play off him and limit his driving. Jones did hit a few outside shots, including a three pointer, which is encouraging, but this will not be cured in one game.
-The first thing that hits you about Crowder, after his impressive physique, is that he is a terrific teammate. He never sags or saunters, being usually the first man back at either end of the court, and his exuberance in high-fiving or picking up fallen teammates is easy to fall in love with. Crowder also has obvious basketball IQ, making the correct pass when needed, moving well to help on defense, and doing may other of the "little things" that coaches love and statsheet-followers sometimes miss. As for that statsheet, Crowder's somewhat pedestrian line of 9 points, 5 rebounds undersells everything else I just mentioned. Crowder, who looks barely 6'5, might have a tough time producing consistently in the scoring column if he is deployed on the perimeter as often as he was in this game. He does have the ability to drive and dish, which he did well, but he is not exactly a sharpshooter. His status as a "tweener" was the big reason the Big East Player of the Year was not considered a likely first round selection in the 2012 draft.
-James made all 4 shots he attempted, recorded a game high 8 boards, and blocked 3 shots for good measure. Yet, there is definitely an adjustment to be made for James in terms of the speed of the game. He was a step slow on a few rotations, which caused him to earn 6 fouls (don't worry, nobody fouls out in the summer league) and his baskets almost exclusively came on defensive lapses by the opposing team. The rest of the time when he touched the ball he was unable to carve out any kind of quality opportunity. His post game also appears as yet undeveloped. James was able to take advantage of some of the less qualified NBA prospects with his length, but with the strong cast of bigs Dallas has assembled this offseason, it will be an uphill climb for James to earn minutes.
-Perhaps the most disappointing debut belongs to Gordon, a promising undrafted player who was considered a 2nd round talent after a productive career that finished at New Mexico. Gordon missed his only 2 attempts in 21 minutes, and seemed to struggle to get out of his own way, committing 5 fouls and turning the ball over twice. One can't condemn him after one game, but the early returns indicate that perhaps NBA teams were right to pass on Gordon in the draft.