The opening game of Las Vegas Summer League saw the Dallas Mavericks pull away late with a convincing win over the Miami Heat. Jonathan Gibson led the Mavericks with 30 points on a barrage of three point makes. Rodney McGruder led the Heat in scoring with 18.
Summer league games are often a mess, particularly in the early games, with teammates who have barely practiced together playing for contracts or to simply get noticed by NBA, D-League, or overseas teams. The early goings of this game were no different and the more coherent Maverick squad (led by Justin Anderson and recent signee A.J. Hammons) looked the better team early. The Heat were unable to connect from just about anywhere all game, only hitting eight non-three point shots. The Mavericks built a small lead in the first and continued to inch ahead before a fourth quarter three point barrage put a healthy level of separation between the two teams.
Before getting any further, it's important to consider what to watch for when enjoying these games. More than anything else it's important to look for what a particular player can do on the NBA level, whether it's scoring, rebounding, defense, or even energy. Past the highly drafted rookies, every summer league player is hoping to stand out with a particular skill or skill set in order to hopefully gain some kind of further employment consideration.
Understanding that, let's get into the game's takeaways:
Jonathan Gibson can shoot the basketball
Many of us, myself included were thinking "who the heck is Jonathan Gibson?" He poured in 30 points, mainly from beyond the arc (6-of-10 from downtown). Well it turns out he's a former New Mexico State player who has spent time all over the world playing professional basketball. Most recently he spent time in the Chinese Basketball Association absolutely roasting teams to the tune of 42 points per game. (Yes, that's a 42 points per game average.)
Simply put, the Mavericks are pretty well stocked at the guard position, but a one game overreaction here would be thinking that I'd rather Dallas give Gibson a camp invite over Roddy Beaubois. Scoring that many points per game is hard to ignore, even given the competition he was playing against. (Gibson said afterwards that Summer League is definitely a higher level of competition than the CBA, and you've probably seen how ragged Summer League is.) Keep an eye on him the next few games as a player like Gibson can shoot the Mavericks out of games just as quickly as he can help give them a big lead. The other ugly fact is that undersized scoring guards rarely find consistent homes on NBA teams. Still though, it's nice to see a player have a game like this.
Justin Anderson is going to matter next season
The stat line for Anderson is pretty: 19 points, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, and six rebounds. Considering his role next season should be the first wing off the bench at around 20 minutes per game, the highlights of what he brought to this first summer league game is promising.
First, the good: his catch and release from deep looks much less mechanical. His strength is far superior to most guys he'll match up against while in Vegas. He's confident in his forays off the dribble. His energy is contagious. Oh, he also had an off hand tip dunk off a missed free throw. Anderson is an athletic freak.
There wasn't much bad to report, but it's worth watching. Anderson really needs to work on his off hand dribbling; it's hard to explain without seeing it, but there are times he uses his left when the right is far more appropriate. He got caught a few times in the air trying to make fancy passes.
Considering he will rarely get asked to do anything off the dribble in half court sets next year, Anderson looked really, really good. There's more than enough reason to be excited for him next season.
More effort is needed from A.J. Hammons
If Hammons ever wants to prove his doubters wrong, he's going to need to play harder. Hammons' first summer league effort was non-descript, scoring four on four shots, grabbing six rebounds and one steal.
The first half saw Hammons look largely disengaged on the offensive end, as he was asked to set screens and roll the to the rim. Defensively he was often flat-footed and a step late (which can be excused somewhat by unfamiliarity with teammates). While Dallas does need to reward him on the break and feed him in the post at least a few possessions, Hammons must understand his role for Dallas in the NBA will not be that of a post scorer. His body language was also simply awful.
His size alone was fairly important against the Heat just because they had no one that could physically move him out of the lane. In the coming days it will be important for Hammons to actually show a little fire on the floor.
Dorian Finney Smith could be fun
It was just one play, an up fake followed by a straight line drive to the rim where he was fouled on a dunk attempt, but Dorian Finney Smith showed why the Mavericks signed the undrafted player out of Florida to a partially guaranteed deal. At 6'8 with a seven foot wingspan, Finney-Smith is a good athlete with a good shot. He didn't show much statistically in his first summer league game, but his energy was evident.
If the Mavericks have a passing point guard on their roster, this particular Maverick summer league squad could be fun on the fast break with Finney Smith and Anderson.
Don't read much into Satnam Singh not playing, but don't expect much either
Last summer league, Singh didn't get burn until game three. Miami had a number of smaller players in the big man positions so there really wasn't much role for the lumbering Singh. Singh will probably play some minutes while in Vegas, but it's safe to say that he's not a NBA player. He might have been in earlier iterations of the league, but he is simply too slow laterally to ever make an impact.