The Dallas Mavericks are finally back in the playoffs! So what if it’s Las Vegas Summer League? Who cares there’s a chance none of the players currently competing are on the final roster when the regular season begins in October? This is the last basketball we’re getting for a long time and I, for one, am here to enjoy it.
Due to a change in format, the top eight teams in Vegas—determined by a combination of record, points scored, and points allowed—advance to a winner-take-all tournament starting Saturday and concluding Monday night. The Mavericks enter the single-elimination “playoffs” as the No. 6 seed and play the No. 3 seed Minnesota Timberwolves at 9:30 pm CST on ESPN2.
After Dallas walloped the Houston Rockets, 113-81, I told anyone who would listen in Vegas (so few people) that the team had a chance to win the whole thing. They are by far the most entertaining Mavericks Summer League team I’ve covered. Here are three reasons why I think they could win the whole thing:
A roster built to play in the tournament
In terms of over all competition, this has been one of the worst Summer Leagues for the NBA that I can recall. There are three reasons for that: First, with so many players from the 2018 draft class performing well in the NBA, the teams decided not to bring them out to the desert. Second, this current draft class is weak and that directly translated to making the games less exciting. Third, the trades impacted which rookie players could join teams in Vegas, thus hurting the over all talent pool.
The Mavericks face none of these problems. With a host of fringe NBA players, Dallas got acclimated early and formed a remarkably fun, cohesive unit. Since there were no impact NBA players on the roster, there’s no one to shut down for health concerns. Everyone there has a reason to play and play hard. Although, Cameron Payne did not play in the team’s fourth game against the Croatian National team.
Solid guard play
The ball handling rotations of Payne, Josh Reaves, Daryl Macon, and, to a lesser extent, Antonius Cleveland make Dallas’ offense hum. They’ve rarely struggled to get into offensive sets and take a lot of easy, efficient shots. This is almost entirely because of the confidence of the guards. If you’re unfamiliar with Summer League, guards dictate almost everything.
Hot three point shooting
We’ve seen it in the NBA for years, so it’s not surprising that the three-ball absolutely effects games drastically in Vegas. Through four games, Dallas is hitting 37.5% (45-120) of it’s threes, and they should continue to see good looks based on the aforementioned guard play.
The continuity Dallas has results in some specifically helpful byproducts in a tournament where line ups and rosters can change from game to game. Dallas is forcing 18.25 turnovers a game due to their great pick and roll coverage and shockingly good team defense. It’s been wild watching a Maverick team actually rotate on defense and take advantage of confusing situations.
The entire team is playing for their next contract
I mentioned this in my first point to some degree, but it’s worth bringing up again. These Dallas players have no reason to sit out games unless they have their next contract inked. Kostas Antetokounmpo and Daryl Macon are fighting for a continuation of their two-way deals. Josh Reaves is playing for his next chance, as is Shayne Whittington and Antonius Cleveland. Go down the roster and you’ll find a reason for every single player to suit up. They want to keep playing so they’ll be noticed by someone, even if it’s not for a NBA team.
How to watch
ESPN2 at 9:30 pm CST