The NBA preseason is fun. Seriously, hear me out.
Obviously, it’s not as fun as the regular season, but it’s fun in its own ways. You get to see some of your favorite players back out on the court, even if it’s only for a few minutes here and there. It also means real basketball is right around the corner.
For some, though, preseason is “real” basketball. No, the result doesn’t matter, but it’s somewhat of a tryout. There are 20 guys on the Dallas Mavericks’ training camp roster, but only 17 can be under contract during the regular season (15, plus the two-way guys). If you do the advanced math, you’ll find out that three guys on the training camp roster won’t be rostered during the regular season.
Carlik Jones is one of those fringe guys. After a standout college career at Radford and Louisville, the 6-foot-1 point guard went undrafted in the 2021 NBA Draft. Jones played with the Mavericks in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he stood out as one of the few players on the Dallas roster who looked NBA ready.
Jones is a do-it-all guard that can score from all three levels of the court, rebound at a decent rate, handle the ball, and create quality looks for others. Where he thrives, though, is coming off a screen.
Check out this play from the Mavericks’ first preseason game:
Jones gets the screen from Willie Cauley-Stein and then immediately uses a hostage dribble to keep his defender on his back. Then, he uses a hesitation move and nice change of pace to freeze the guy defending the roll, keeping him guessing. Ultimately, that allows Jones to launch himself away from the bottom defender and towards the left side of the rim where he smoothly lays the ball up with his off-hand.
This is just one example of Jones getting to the rim in creative, NBA-level ways, but there were a handful of these types of plays in the Mavs’ first preseason game. After the game, I asked him what he sees on the floor that allows him to beat defenders off the dribble and get to the rim at will.
“It’s just all about angles,” Jones said. “I give a ton of credit to the bigs. They set their screens, and coming off is an advantage not only for me but for our offense. When a big sets a good screen, the person that’s guarding the ball is going to be behind.”
Carlik is right. In the play highlighted above, WCS gives him a nice screen that sets everything else up. But it’s Jones’ ability to keep the defender on his back, keep the big man guessing, and then finish with his left hand that impresses me.
In 14 minutes of action, Carlik Jones put up 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field in a preseason win for the Mavericks.
Who knows what Carlik Jones’ future is? It’s hard to imagine the Mavs creating a spot for him on the roster, but I’d love it if they did. If I had to choose between Trey Burke and Carlik Jones, Burke would already be on a plane out of Dallas before I could type out my answer.
The Mavericks have three more preseason games left. Watch Carlik Jones in a Dallas uniform before you lose the chance. You won’t regret it.