The growth of the NBA in recent years has been impressive. Which is saying something, especially after the popularity surge the league saw in the 1990’s and 2000’s. A byproduct of that is the increased visibility of the NBA’s Summer League.
Every summer after the NBA Draft –and coinciding with the league’s free agency– 36 teams across three leagues in Orlando, Utah and Las Vegas play a week (Orlando), four days (Utah) and 11 days (Vegas) of high-octane, helter skelter and frankly, extremely entertaining basketball. The Utah league is considerably smaller and less publicized than the other two, where the Mavericks’ two teams play.
Up until their last contest on July 16th in the Las Vegas semi-final, the Mavs’ Summer League teams had won all ten of their games, including the Orlando championship for the franchise’s first Summer League title. 10 wins in 15 days by an average margin of 10.9 points highlighted a pair of very talented rosters.
Overall, Summer League teams with Legends on the roster finished out with winning records, 19-7 combined.
Those rosters consisted of incoming rookies and former NBA players looking to make a team’s training camp squad. A healthy portion of the latter are reigning G League players, and of course that includes the Texas Legends, who sent a handful of players to the summer circuits. Let’s see how they fared.
Pierre Jackson: Jackson was an untimely injury away from a serious role with the parent club Mavericks last year, but nevertheless had himself an unbelievable season with the Legends averaging 22.5 points, 7.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds. His Summer League team was the Detroit Pistons and he continued to do Pierre Jackson things.
Playing in the Orlando league, Jackson averaged 15.8 points in 24.2 minutes with 5.8 assists, resulting in a tie for third place finish in the league, coincidentally the place he finished in assists in the G League last season. He’ll play in Israel with the popular Maccabi Tel Aviv club in 2017-18.
C.J. Williams: A mainstay for Head Coach Bob MacKinnon last season, Williams played in all 50 games for the Legends and partook in the Las Vegas league with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the club he played with in the summer of 2015.
An all-around player, the three-point specialist had a big highlight in a double overtime match on July 11th. His game-winning shot was a sudden death decider (how awesome is that?!) for the T-Wolves. Averaging 10.8 points in five games, there’s a role for C.J. in the NBA and it could be coming soon.
Jameel Warney: Speaking of roles coming soon, that looks inevitable with forward/center Warney. Playing far bigger than his 6-foot-8 frame, he was a beast with the Legends in 2016-17. He put up 17.3 points and 8.0 rebounds (3.3 offensive) and took off in the second half of the season, compiling a trio of 30-point games as well as three games of 15 or more rebounds and grabbed 20 boards in a March home win against Delaware.
Jameel played in both the Orlando and Las Vegas leagues, averaging 12 points and 5.3 rebounds in the former. He shot 66% from the field, good for third in the league and finished Orlando with a Summer League high efficiency of 34.69.
Brandon Ashley: Former Arizona Wildcat (Bear Down!) standout Ashley played with the Legends in 2015-16, his rookie year. Posting 14.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG, he was named a G League All-Star before venturing overseas the following season for Alba Berlin of the German League. A member of the Mavs’ 2015 training camp squad, Ashley is back with the club, appearing as a team member in both Summer Leagues.
In Orlando, he appeared in a pair of games, posting 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds while tripling his appearances at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. In six games this go-around, he scored 11.5 points in an even 20 minutes per game. On July 8th, he scored 21 big ones with Mavericks’ Coach Rick Carlisle looking on with the NBA TV broadcast.
Johnathan Motley: The brand new two-way player rule will see Motley contractually split his time between the Texas Legends and the Dallas Mavericks, whose roster now sports an additional spot to compensate his predetermined flexibility. The burly Baylor Bear was undrafted in June’s draft but unsurprisingly quickly found himself a deal.
Signing with the Mavs, he first went to Orlando and recorded seven points and a tick over five rebounds in limited time due to a recovering knee injury, with a grand finale performance in the championship. Tallying 18 points, 10 rebounds, Motley hit the game winner with .3 seconds left in overtime to swipe the trophy from the Pistons. When the team hit Vegas, his role widened a tad and he improved to 7.7 points. The Mavericks quickly invested in the 2017 NCAA Karl Malone Award Winner (awarded to the country’s best power forward), who will share his time between Frisco and Dallas in the upcoming season.
Satnam Singh: Selected in the second round (52nd overall) of the 2015 NBA Draft, the fan favorite aspires to become the first NBA player out of India. The team has been patient with the towering Singh, that approach carrying into the 2017 Summer League.
His status as a former draft pick shines a spotlight on his development and results, but Singh is still just 21 entering his third professional season so patience is a legitimate virtue with the 7-foot-2 center.
Keith Hornsby: The ninth overall pick in the 2016 G League Draft by the Legends, Hornsby gained valuable experience in camp with the Mavs last fall and then during the regular season in Frisco. An endearing personality behooves Hornsby, who made the most of his minutes on a stuffed Frisco roster.
The son of a Grammy-winning musician, Hornsby’s per-36 minutes numbers were easy on the ears: 13.4 points accompanied by six rebounds and three assists. He joined the Mavs in the Orlando portion of the summer and played nine minutes per game in five of them, making 6-of-11 shots. His rights remain with the club and he’s expected to make his return to the organization in 2017-18.