With Summer League behind them, Mavs face ‘tough decisions’ rounding out training camp roster

Dennis Smith Jr. made highlight-reel plays, Ding Yanyuhang made headlines, and the Mavs’ players under contract played well for the most part throughout their six-game run in the Las Vegas Summer League. That much is clear.

But the club now has some decisions to make ahead of training camp, and the “other” players on the Vegas roster didn’t make that process any easier. Sometimes, though, that’s a good problem to have.

The Mavericks can bring up to 20 players to training camp. Currently, the club has 14 players under contract with the big-league team and one player, Johnathan Motley, is signed to a two-way contract. That means he can spend up to 45 days with the NBA team, and will otherwise spend his 2017-18 season in the G League with the Texas Legends.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each NBA team can sign up to 15 players to the roster, plus two more players to two-way deals, for a total of 17 players. That means perhaps one of the players from the Las Vegas team could earn the Mavs’ other two-way deal, but Dallas isn’t obligated to utilize that slot. The other three spots on the training camp roster are still up for grabs, though, and they could potentially be filled by some of the players from Vegas.

“Each guy has shown their ability to fight, and that’s exactly what we represent with the Mavericks,” Vegas head coach Jamahl Mosley said. “And that’s what they’ve shown. It’s gonna be tough, tough decisions.”

The good news is the Mavericks have plenty of time to make those choices, but not as long as they had last year. Training camp will start slightly earlier this fall than it has in those past, because the NBA has moved up the start of the season by a couple weeks. The complete regular season schedule will be released next month, but it’s already been revealed that the league’s opening night will be Oct. 17, which is now less than three months from today.

It’s pure speculation at this point to try to identify the players that could make the 20-man roster because so much can change between now and then. For example, guard Josh Adams had a solid showing early on in Vegas — so much so that Turkish superpower Anadolu Efes offered him a contract. It’s free agency season for overseas clubs, too, and several players from the Mavs’ Vegas squad (most notably Ding and Corey Webster) have experienced great success playing overseas, so some of those teams can come calling.

Still, it’s worth taking a look at some of the players who represented the Mavs in Vegas to get to know them and their game. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the more notable performers you might not be as familiar with, especially if you didn’t catch many of the games — which are all archived here.

Below are their per-game and per-36 stats, which do a better job of illustrating their impact. Remember that summer league games are only 40 minutes long, so even the starters only played 20-25 minutes most nights, leading to relatively low per-game numbers. (Note: The following shooting splits are FG%/3P%/FT%.)

Brandon Ashley

Per-game: 11.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 block, 47.4/29.4/66.7 splits
Per-36 minute: 20.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 blocks

Ashley faced perhaps the most challenging job of any Maverick in Las Vegas. A power forward by trade, Ashley was thrust into the starting center spot after Dallas dealt A.J. Hammons to Miami for Josh McRoberts. He responded well, however, stretching the floor on offense while boxing out well enough to open up rebounding opportunities for the rest of his teammates, most notably Dennis Smith Jr. Ashley also grabbed 1.3 offensive rebounds per game.

He was a then-D-League All-Star two seasons ago for the Texas Legends before signing with German club Alba Berlin. At only 23 years old, his best basketball is still ahead of him. It was good to see him hit some 3s, too, which has become a requisite skill for 4s in this era.

Ding Yanyuhang

Per-game: 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 41.4/25.0/80.0 splits
Per-36 minute: 16.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals

Ding did much more than just win over the fans in Las Vegas. The reigning CBA MVP impressed the Mavs with his combination of skill and high energy on both ends. His offensive aggression led to a total of 27 free throw attempts in Vegas and Orlando combined, against 61 field goal attempts. That kind of free throw rate is going to raise eyebrows, as it demonstrates his ability to drive around longer, more athletic players and get to the rim. On one memorable play, Ding took No. 4 overall pick Josh Jackson off the bounce and got to the cup. That’s a coveted skill at the wing position.

He connected on just 25 percent of his 3s, but the shooting stroke is there from the mid-range, which suggests he could expand his range in time. (He’s still only 23.) The speed of the NBA game is much faster than in China, and he seemed to adjust better to that as his summer went on. He looks like the kind of player who can one day make the leap from the CBA to the NBA. Could it be this season, or in the future? We will see.

Carrick Felix

Per-game: 6.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 50.0/10.0/76.9 splits
Per-36 minute: 13.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals

Felix’s numbers won’t jump off the page, but he’s the kind of guy that does all the little things that might go unnoticed. The league didn’t track charges drawn in Vegas, but if it did Felix probably would have been at the top of the list. He played both forward spots for the Mavs and defended almost every position, and did it well.

At a sturdily built 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, he’s got the look of a prototypical 3-and-D wing. Last season for the Long Island Nets — where he briefly played with Yogi Ferrell — he scored 9.1 points per game and shot about 25 percent from beyond the arc. Teams will want him to eclipse the 30 percent mark, but the Mavs have a history of working with players to develop their outside shot.

He also produced one of the highlights of the tournament.

🙌🙌🙌 #mavssl17

A post shared by Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) on Jul 13, 2017 at 7:11pm PDT

Corey Webster

Per-game: 6.2 points, 1.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 40.0/33.3/100.0 splits
Per-36 minute: 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.4 steals

One player who’s already got the outside shot down is Corey Webster, whose 3-point percentage took a slight dip in the Mavs’ final game in Vegas as they hoisted a ton of long-range shots trying to come back from a 26-point deficit. Webster, 28, finally got his first taste of American basketball this summer. The New Zealand native is a six-time champion in both his home country and Australia, and is a bona fide superstar in that part of the world.

He was also a very disruptive defender, able to get up into his opponent’s breathing space and force turnovers. The guard has a very modern approach to transition offense, too, streaking down the floor on the wing and spotting up at the 3-point line instead of attacking the basket, which kept the lane open for his teammates to drive and either kick it out to him or finish with a layup themselves. NBA teams always need shooting, and Webster can definitely do that.

Steven Spieth

Per-game: 1.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 50.0/100.0/100.0 splits
Per-36 minute: 7.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists

Spieth had the most local ties to this team of anyone on the roster, as he’s from Dallas and has been coming to games for years. His older brother, Jordan, is a PGA megastar, but Steven earned his Vegas invite after putting together a very strong senior season at Brown, where he averaged 17 points, six boards, and three assists per game on 41 percent shooting from deep.

The rookie didn’t get a ton of run in Vegas, but was able to make plays when his number was called. In the club’s quarterfinal victory against Boston, Spieth finished with five points, three rebounds, two assists, a steal, and he drew a charge in 18 minutes. He played every position in that game from shooting guard to center. The 22-year-old is committed to earning a pro basketball job, and he’s got the skill to do it.

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