If you’re like me and knew you could put off watching the premiere of Game of Thrones season 7 (because you still can’t remember anyone’s name, or who is in which family), then you tuned in to the Summer Mavs taking on the Summer Lakers.
If you’re not like me...you probably watched Game of Thrones.
It appeared after the first half that someone from the Mavs was concerned about getting to a watch party because the whole squad was completely absent, down 62-40 at half.
But after the break, this scrappy Mavericks team showed up and fought their way back, nearly taking the lead in the final two minutes before running out of gas. Hopefully you caught some of the games this month, there were plenty of reasons to have hope for the future.
We got Junior vs. Lonzo...sort of
There was much made about a matchup featuring not only two lottery picks, but two elite point guards who have been showing out in summer league play. We got that matchup tonight, but it wasn’t the full showcase.
For starters, Lonzo Ball exited the game early, leaving in the third quarter due to a calf injury of some kind (it didn’t look to be serious). And when they were on the floor together, they weren’t always opposite each other.
But they both displayed a lot of the tools that make them so special.
Lonzo had an impressive first half, going for 14 points and 10 assists. There’s no doubt when Lonzo is lit, the Lakers are cruising.
There’s also little doubt that Lonzo can’t guard Dennis Smith Jr.
DSJ finally got his submission tape for next year’s slam dunk contest, and it was glorious. He had a solid game overall (21 points, 6 assists) - and outside of a few missteps late, it was business as usual for the young point guard.
Dennis Smith Jr. will spark a bright future
There are some within the Mavericks organization that feel Junior might be even better than they anticipated. Watching him lead this summer squad has been a blast, and there’s a lot to look forward to in the years ahead.
He certainly won’t be able to do it on his own. And we’ve yet to see him play with Dirk and Wesley Matthews - along with the future core of Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel (whenever that signing happens).
But he will add plenty of dynamics to the real Mavericks team that have been sorely missing. His ability to get to the rim, and more importantly get to the free throw line, will be invaluable.
I cannot WAIT to see him play with the big boys.
What’s to come for the other young guns?
I’ll openly admit I’ve never cared about summer league before. It never seems to be a solid gauge for improvement in young role players. And before this year, the Mavericks rarely have young guys to really get excited about.
If it wasn’t for all the attention on Dennis Smith Jr. we’d all be talking mostly about Yogi Ferrell. He proved again in the last two weeks that he is a pro, and will at the very least be a solid back up for Smith.
The next storyline is guys like Ding Yanyuhang and Brandon Ashley - both showing solid play since the beginning of the month. With one two-way contract left, it looks to go to one of these two. With the money Ding has waiting for him back in the CBA, Ashley looks to be a prime candidate. He’s shown growth, and is the type of player the Mavericks are looking for positionally.
Speaking of guys the Mavs are looking for, Johnathan Motley showed a lot in Vegas. He’s rough around the edges for sure, but he’s the kind of scrappy post player the Mavericks need. He rebounds, and that alone should offer him opportunity. I like his story, and look forward to his development.
The biggest question: what’s the future for non-guaranteed contract Dorian Finney-Smith and Nicolas Brussino?
These two saw action last year in the regular season, Finney-Smith especially. The things he does well doesn’t showcase well in summer league, and I imagine his roster spot is a bit safer. For Brussino, he has his moments, but if his shot isn’t falling what will his contribution be?
There’s a lot up in the air for both wing players looking in from the outside. I wouldn’t be surprised one way or the other in regards to their future with the team.
I hope all you MFFLs enjoyed the last couple weeks as much as we did. We’re entering the dark ages of the NBA year, but there will be plenty more to dissect and reflect on before we hit training camp.
Mainly...when does Nerlens Noel officially become a Maverick again?
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