The Dallas Mavericks finished the Summer League with a strong 4-1 record. While some players exceeded expectations and others had mixed performances, several key takeaways emerged from this brief glimpse of summer basketball.
Jaden Hardy Turns in a Mixed Performance
Hardy only played three games due to a shoulder injury sustained in the win against the Warriors, and while he displayed many of the skills that fans got flashes of last season, his performances were mixed bags.
Hardy averaged 23 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 34 minutes per game. His shooting, however, was abysmal. Hardy shot just 35.2% from the floor, 24.1% from three-point range and 72.7% from the charity stripe.
Granted, Hardy was the focal point of the offense. He routinely faced double teams and heavy help defense that he won’t face in the NBA and rarely got the open shots that he would get playing with Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. Hardy was also the primary point guard; a role he won’t have during the regular season.
While his performance left a little to be desired, the Summer League gave Hardy much-needed experience as he prepares for his sophomore season.
“I’m still going to continue to work,” Hardy said. “I’m going to…continue to listen to the staff…and do what they want me to do.”
Dereck Lively II and Olivier-Maxence Prosper Show Promise
With the trades to acquire Lively and Prosper not being processed until right before the start of play, the rookies had one day to practice with the rest of the Summer League team.
This makes how well they played all the more impressive.
Lively II averaged 8.4 points on 68% shooting and eight rebounds across five games. He showcased his high-end defensive instincts, routinely blocking shots or outright deterring opponents from driving into the paint. He was solid in his pick-and-roll defense, and his length helped him contain guards when he was forced to switch.
His offense, however, certainly needs improvement. He struggled mightily in setting screens, routinely receiving illegal screen fouls, and oftentimes failed to create enough contact to give his guards separation from their defenders. Lively II did show increased touch around the rim as the games progressed, expanding his offensive arsenal with fadeaways and jump hooks, and his rim-rolling and putback abilities were never up for dispute. He also impressed with his ability to pass out of the short pick-and-roll, repeatedly finding open shooters with quickness and precision. Lively II is currently a project, but he has the ability to become a starter long-term.
“He’s been awesome,” Prosper said of Lively. “Being the anchor of our defense…he’s there to have our back by challenging shots.”
Prosper, on the other hand, likely exceeded what most fans anticipated. He averaged 12.6 points on 43.9% shooting and 5.6 rebounds. Like Lively II, his defensive skills were apparent. In his best all-around Summer League game, he held Jarace Walker, the Indiana Pacers’ seventh overall pick, to just 13 points on 28.6% shooting. Prosper is excellent at containing the pick-and-roll ballhandler and shows great recovery instincts when he gets beat. He also has a high defensive IQ, knowing when to switch, when to stay and when to funnel the defender into the paint to face Lively.
He also displayed a surprisingly broad offensive skillset. Prosper has a powerful first step, and he can blow by would-be defenders on cuts to the rim or dribble handoffs. His size also allowed him to bully smaller defenders, and it is clear that he has a developing isolation skill set, using pump fakes and dribble moves to create space. His regular season role will unlikely allow him to do this frequently, but his burgeoning capability would provide another dynamic offensive tool for the team. He shot just 23.5% from three-point range, which will be a key area of improvement.
“He’s going to make you play hard,” Jared Dudley, the Mavericks’ Summer League head coach, said of Prosper. “You’re gonna see him by the end of the year helping his team bit by bit.”
The Other Guys Made Their Mark
While a lot of hype surrounded Hardy, Lively and Prosper, plenty of other Mavericks’ Summer League players impressed.
A.J. Lawson, one of three Mavericks two-way players, averaged 11.8 points and five rebounds per game. He was aggressive in the fast-break and exhibited his athleticism defensively.
“He has all the tools,” Dudley said of Lawson. “If you play hard, defend, and hit corner 3s, you have a chance.”
Mike Miles Jr., an undrafted guard out of TCU, played well enough to earn his two-way contract, averaging 11.4 points.
Jordan “Jelly” Walker and Taze Moore earned Exhibit 10 contracts with Dallas, which are one-year, league-minimum, non-guaranteed contracts that can be converted into two-way contracts. Walker averaged 12.5 points across four games with two 20+ point outings, and Moore averaged 11 points across five games.
McKinley Wright IV was the only disappointment among this group, struggling in the minutes he played and then getting injured in the second Summer League game. With Lawson and Miles confidently solidified as two-way players, Wright’s disappointing Summer League may have opened the door for a player like Walker or Moore to steal his spot.
Jared Dudley Lived Up to the Hype
The Mavericks went undefeated after their first and only loss. Dudley coached Dallas to two blowouts, with 21-point victories over the Hawks and Pacers. He also coached Dallas to wins in tighter affairs, eeking out a two-point overtime win against the Warriors and an eight-point comeback victory over the 76ers.
After watching his team’s Summer League performance, Dudley’s coaching ability has merited the attention he has recently received. He is quickly developing as a coach, and it is good to know he has a place on Jason Kidd’s bench.