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4 thoughts after the Dallas Mavericks fall to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 91-80 in NBA Summer League

Dallas looks pretty good, but can’t get past a tough Thunder squad.

2023 NBA Summer League - Dallas Mavericks v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday afternoon, 91-80. Cason Wallace led a balanced Thunder attack with 20. Jaden Hardy was the high point man for Dallas with 24.

Both teams opened play looking a bit rusty, with some ugly possessions to start the game. The Mavericks settled in though, with some nice pick-and-roll action between Jaden Hardy and Dereck Lively, with the latter securing a couple of difficult catches off bounce passes. Hardy also knocked down a smooth pull-up three off the dribble. Chet Holmgren took advantage of playing smaller Dallas defenders in the latter part of the first quarter, scoring at the rim and from deep. Oklahoma led Dallas after one, 18-15.

The Mavericks had a tougher second quarter, with the Thunder connecting on repeated attempts from beyond the arc. Yet Dallas kept attacking throughout the frame and the guards weren’t deterred by stellar rim defense from Holmgren. Olivier-Maxence Prosper had a strong offensive quarter, connecting on a three following a Holmgren block and scoring off a cut to the basket while using the rim to stave off another Holmgren block attempt. The Mavericks found themselves trailing 48-42 after twenty minutes of action.

It was the Thunder’s turn to go cold in the opening minutes of the second half and Dallas closed the gap to one point by the six-minute mark. Dallas retook the lead on a Hardy three from the top of the key which caused a Thunder timeout. Oklahoma City responded hard after the timeout, quickly retook the lead on some made threes, and took a 69-61 lead into the fourth.

The Thunder pushed the lead to double digits with strong attacks in transition. A pair of fast break buckets got Dallas within 10, only for Cason Wallace to hit his sixth three of the game on a half-court attempt following a deflection into the backcourt by the Dallas defense. The Mavericks kept trying to rally back, but couldn’t find a combination of buckets and stops to make it interesting late. Dallas fell 91-80.

Now, some thoughts:

Dereck Lively has a long way to go, but what Dallas saw is clear as day

As Lively shot up the draft boards during the final weeks of the pre-draft process, it was clear that NBA front office executives saw something. I didn’t watch any tape of Lively before this game and after one contest against good competition, it’s pretty clear what Dallas saw. Lively’s huge and has great feet and a defensive feel. He also displayed good hands as well, catching some difficult passes (guards, stop putting the ball below a big man’s waist on passes, thanks). He’s strong as well, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more aggressiveness. One thing that’s worth noting is how Chet didn’t do much when Lively was on the floor. There’s a reason for that.

Offensively, it’s a mixed bag but that’s fine after one game. He got bumped off a pick-and-roll catch once and threw up a weak left-handed shot. But he also dunked with authority earlier in the game off of a tough catch.

He has no idea how to screen. It’s nearly comical. But that’s something that he can learn and that comes in concert with working with the same players (think Doncic and Kyrie) over and over. It will come. Dwight Powell will teach him.

OMax and the perpetual motion machine

Watching the various contributions of Olivier-Maxence Prosper is going to rquire a second look. Defensively he was impressive, pairing with Lively to guard Holmgren some. He’s got a remarkable feel for where to be on defense and plays so, so hard. The box score is a bit light on anything numerically, but he made an impact on the game just by his movement on both ends.

Jaden Hardy is ready for more

Having watched Hardy at two consecutive summer leagues, it’s really something how much more physically dominant he looks. Last year, I remember thinking about how he had a good frame for adding muscle. Well, folks, he’s added muscle. His shoulders look STRONG and he played fearlessly, using that strength. While he didn’t have the most efficient game ever, the Thunder possesses some defensive monsters in Cason Wallace and Holmgren (not to mention Jaylin Williams). Watching Hardy attack the rim knowing who was there waiting for him was really encouraging. The three-point looks weren’t great tonight, but his shot remains so pure Getting fed by Luka Doncic ought to help clear up some of the defender distance he sees in a NBA game versus here in Vegas.

Playing time for the rookies

16 minutes for Dereck Lively and 17 minutes for OMax isn’t going to cut it. While there’s probably a very good coach-speak reason as to why the two didn’t get as much burn (my guess would be not enough practice time due to the trade elements that weren’t finalized), I also don’t care. We’re all here to see the guys who are going to be on the team. More than half the game for these players, please.

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