Tonight, the No. 3 ranked Dallas Mavericks battle against the No. 15 ranked Los Angeles Lakers in the Las Vegas Summer League semifinals, and there are plenty of intriguing storylines.
No. 3 versus No. 15.
5-0 versus 4-2.
The Dallas Mavericks versus the Los Angeles Lakers.
But most importantly, Dennis Smith Jr. versus Lonzo Ball.
Never mind the fact it’s “just summer league.” A lot of these players won’t be on an NBA squad or will be fighting for their NBA lives come October. Even still, tonight’s matchup might be as close as we can get to “must watch” basketball in the summer simply due to the combined talent going head to head at the point guard position.
At this point, no Lonzo Ball action goes unnoticed. What shoes Ball is wearing has received almost as much coverage as how he’s performed in actual games. I can’t remember the last time a rookie has had a spotlight this bright, and largely because of his father. Every off-court move seems to be meticulously calculated by Big Baller Brand “mogul” LaVar Ball. But make no mistake, the 19-year-old can flat out ball (pun intended).
14 PTS - 9 REBS - 7 ASTS— NBA (@NBA) July 16, 2017
Lonzo Ball nearly had himself another triple-double to fuel the @Lakers to a #NBASummer Semifinals berth! pic.twitter.com/olKDJ4u9V6
Coming into tonight, Ball is averaging 17 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.8 assists per game with two triple doubles already under his belt. It can be easy to get carried away, but there’s no denying how much better he makes his teammates. Thus far he’s proven to be the archetype of the point guard position and every bit worthy of the second overall selection in the draft.
Compared to the media coverage of Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr.’s Summer League rise seems to be more unexpected. Smith fell to Dallas at nine after an up-and-down college career. Smith, too, had a father who was instrumental in his upbringing, yet did so seemingly from the background. And Smith Jr. also still has not signed a shoe deal -- but no one seems to care.
Smith has one big thing in common with Ball, though: the 19-year-old looks the part of a budding star.
In just his second game at #NBASummer, Dennis Smith Jr. went off for 25 PTS, 8 REBS, 4 ASTS, & 4 STLS for the @dallasmavs! pic.twitter.com/0L3CnX16Pv— NBA (@NBA) July 9, 2017
In Las Vegas Smith has averaged 20 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Smith has shown the propensity to score from all areas of the floor. He gets to the paint at will, can stop on a dime and pull up in the midrange or even knock down threes when defenders go under screens. When not scoring, Smith has shown the vision and understanding to truly excel as a point guard at the next level.
Both players are not without flaws. Weaknesses in their respective games will certainly be exposed once the NBA season starts. But whether it’s Ball’s flashy passing, or Smith’s explosive athleticism, Summer League is the perfect time to revel in what these rookies bring to the table.
Tonight’s game promises intriguing match ups, offensive fireworks and fan favorites taking the floor. So buckle up, because it’s Dennis Smith Jr. versus Lonzo Ball for a chance to propel their respective teams to the championship game.
But sure. It’s only Summer League.