Key Storylines from Dallas Mavericks' Summer League Team
While many sports fans are still recovering from the epic NBA postseason that culminated with a seven-game NBA Finals, true basketball junkies are getting their kicks from the NBA Summer League.
The Summer League allows young players to show teams all around the NBA what they can do and get some serious playing time that they might not get in the regular season.
Like most NBA squads, the Dallas Mavericks have much intrigue surrounding their 2013 Summer League roster.
After a mediocre season in which it missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, Dallas will certainly be looking closely at its Summer League team to see if it holds any talent that could contribute to next year's roster.
Is Gal Mekel Ready to Play Big Minutes?
Just a week ago, point guard seemed like a loaded position for the Dallas Mavericks.
However, the Mavericks are now shockingly thin at that position after losing rookie Shane Larkin to a broken ankle and changing their minds about signing Devin Harris when learning about a toe injury.
Now, Dallas is in desperate need of a backup point guard. It's unclear if they'll will be bringing back Rodrigue Beaubois or Mike James from last year's team, so Mekel may be getting the backup point guard role by default if Dallas doesn't make any more moves.
Is Mekel ready to back up Jose Calderon in Dallas in 2013-14? The first evidence we will get on that is his play in the Summer League.
Mekel had plenty of success in Israel and at Wichita State, but the NBA is a whole different animal.
The former Super League MVP has played 29 minutes per game in the Mavericks' first two summer league contests, and so far it has been a successful week for Mekel.
In the Mavericks' win over the Sacramento Kings, Mekel scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting while adding four rebounds and four assists.
In Dallas' second game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Mekel was again solid, scoring 11 points with four assists and two boards.
Mekel had three turnovers in each game, which is manageable, but something he will need to work on in the near future.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Mekel commented that he was a "true point guard" and that he "likes to get everyone involved and make my teammates better." Those mindsets could be very good for a Mavericks team that already has a few dynamic scorers on board.
It remains to be seen how Mekel will fare against seasoned NBA competition, but so far it looks like he is the front-runner for the role of backup point guard when the season begins.
How Have the Returners Improved?
Although much of the Mavericks' Summer League roster is composed of new players looking to make an impression on Dallas executives, there are some who were on the team's roster last season.
Jae Crowder, Bernard James and Josh Akognon all played for the Mavericks in 2012-13, with Crowder and James spending the whole season on the main roster. Now, they all have had an offseason to improve their games. The Mavs front office was no doubt intrigued to see how the trio would perform in the Summer League this season.
All three have had different performances in the first two games of the summer.
Crowder, who was the only Mavericks draft pick from 2012 to play a significant role on the team last season, was expected to be the star of their summer team. So far in a small sample, it has been a good showing for him.
Crowder is averaging 16.0 points per game in the two games to go along with five rebounds. He is shooting a decent percentage from the floor at 46 percent, but he has struggled with his long ball, shooting just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc.
One positive sign from Crowder is his noticeable weight loss, showing that he is serious about adhering to his coaches' advice and committing himself in the offseason.
James, on the other hand, has played only once in the summer before getting hurt and missing the July 14 game against Charlotte.
With a potential backup (or even starting) center spot up for grabs as the Mavericks wait to hear from several free agents, James showed the same basic faults in his game as he did last season. While he was a solid presence on the glass and on the defensive end, he struggled to finish inside, scoring only two points on 0-of-4 shooting.
"Sarge" may have to show the Mavericks more offensive ability if they are going to trust him with a bigger role off the bench in 2013-14.
Josh Akognon, however, has been the clear standout amongst the returners.
Akognon played in three games for Dallas last season, scoring 1.7 PPG (five points total), but he has stood out much more in the Summer League.
At 19.0 PPG, Akognon is the Mavericks' leading scorer after dialing up 16- and 22-point games against the Kings and Bobcats.
"He's an experienced scorer. He’s resourceful and he knows how to get the ball in the basket.'' -- #Mavs coach Rick Carlisle on Josh Akognon— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) July 14, 2013
On a roster that lacks a serious scoring threat, Akognon has taken it upon himself to be that player, and he showed a serious knack for being able to create his own shot on offense.
The issue for Akognon is that the Mavericks may be too full at shooting guard for him to find a spot on the roster, and although he is only 5'11'', it is clear that Akognon is much more of scoring guard than a passer.
With Monta Ellis, Vince Carter and Wayne Ellington practically guaranteed to be ahead of him on the depth chart, plus Ricky Ledo also competing with him for a roster spot, it may be an uphill battle for Akognon to make the team.
However, that hasn't stopped him from impressing in Las Vegas early on.
Will Ricky Ledo Be a Contributor for Dallas?
There has been much discussion about Shane Larkin, the Mavericks' first-round pick, but little attention has been paid to the other 2013 selection, Ricky Ledo.
Ledo had been projected to be a potential late first-round pick, but he fell to No. 43 overall and ended up with the Mavericks in a draft-day trade.
Ledo is totally mysterious for NBA executives. He never had a chance to actually play a game at Providence, so this is the first real opportunity he has had in some time to play at a high level.
So far, Ledo hasn't done all that much to stand out, scoring just 6.5 PPG and 4.5 RPG in two games while being overshadowed by Josh Akognon and Justin Dentmon.
Nevertheless, it's clear that Ledo has potential.
It may serve Ledo much better to play a season or two in the D-League to really get his feet under him before he is ready to be a rotation player for the Mavericks.
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