Here are a few random thoughts on the Mavs first preseason game of the year. All of the Dallas regulars are either old or injured so they basically played the 3rd string all night, which is interesting in its own way. I've got a thing on what I saw from the Nuggets side of things last night at the AAC coming over at Real GM.
- Charlie Villanueva won the coveted Plains Capital Bank Player of the Game Award for a quintessential Charlie 3 performance. He scored 18 points in 23 minutes and perhaps more impressively he did so while putting up 17 shots. He was out there gunning like it was no one's business and it was great. Sometimes you could tell he had pre-determined he was going to shoot the ball before he even received the pass. And by sometimes I mean pretty much every single time down the floor. He has got a beautiful looking shot and it is so effortless coming off his hands. I hope this guy is hoisting 3's in the NBA until he's 40.
- John Jenkins hit some pretty nice Steph Curry pull-up 3's off the dribble but I'm still pretty worried by what I saw. I'm just not sure he's an NBA-caliber athlete. He just doesn't move very well and he can't get off the ground. The Denver guards could get around him any time they wanted. He had 1 assist on 7 turnovers and every time he put the ball on the floor it was pretty much a live invitation for one of the Nuggets to take it from him like they were stealing candy for a baby. I'm all for playing guys who can shoot 3's but you have got to be able to do something else to stay in the game in the NBA. I'm just not sure Jenkins can play acceptable NBA defense to the point where a coach could feel comfortable putting him in the rotation. I hope I'm wrong though because the Mavs could sure use another wing shooter off the bench.
- Justin Anderson didn't do much statistically but it looked like he belonged on the floor, which is an accomplishment for a rookie in his first NBA action. The main thing with him is that he's going to have to be able to consistently knock down open 3's. That might sound obvious but it's a difficult transition for a young player to make from the shorter NCAA line and he doesn't have the type of all-around game to justify his presence on the floor if he's not a consistent threat from the perimeter. Point being that if he gets in a shooting slump, which happens a lot to rookies adjusting to playing the smallest roles and having the least amount of shots and touches they have ever had in their basketball lives, he's going to have to come off the floor. This game is a pretty good example - he was 0-4 from 3 and he had 1 point and 1 rebound in 14 minutes. It's a make or miss league so he just has to make his 3's.
- Zaza looked pretty good. He showed off the mid-range jumper, some nifty interior passes as well as some rebounding. He's a proven vet and a solid NBA player - he's no DeAndre Jordan but he's definitely not the worst starting C in the league. The worry I have is playing the combination of Zaza and Dirk together. That's a really, really slow frontcourt in the modern NBA and those two are going to get absolutely shredded in transition and pick-and-roll defense.
- Jeremy Evans has got something. He was the only Mavs frontcourt player to have a positive plus/minus (+7 in 21 minutes) and I don't think that was a coincidence. Even in an NBA game, Evans stands out in terms of his athleticism. Maurice Ndour is a good athlete but the difference between him and a guy like Evans is night and day. Evans just makes things happen with his length, athleticism and energy, whether it's playing above the rim, crashing the boards or getting out in transition. He even showed a decent amount of feel with 2 assists. The Mavs have him on the Aminu game-plan in the pre-season where he's allowed to jack up as many open 3's as he can handle. He went 0-3 from deep and if he can ever knock down that shot they would really have something. Of course, that is the most famous if in the modern NBA. Either way, I can definitely see him in a Brandan Wright role as a super-athletic small ball 5 coming off the bench and he's also interesting playing with a shot-blocking C like Sammy D because of the amount of length the team has in the paint with both those guys prowling around.
- This is unfair to Ndour but all I could see when I was watching him was a less athletic version of Evans. The difference was that he went from 2-5 from beyond the arc. I would need to crunch the numbers on the roster but I'm definitely not against keeping both Ndour and Evans on the roster this season. The Mavs desperately need some youth, length and athleticism.
- I want to see more of Jamil Wilson. He has the NBA body (6'7 230), he was a decent 3-point shooter at Marquette (career 33.6% on 2.0 3PA's) and Buzz Williams did a pretty good job of cranking out NBA wings when he was there - Wesley Matthews, Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder. All those guys were hard-nosed defenders who were well coached and fundamentally sound and they all knew how to play basketball, which may sound like faint praise for a professional athlete but it really isn't. There are a lot of guys who come in the league who just don't have the feel to be successful pros at the highest level of the game. I can't say I remember much about Wilson in college because he was a role player who averaged 11 points a game as a senior but I'm at least intrigued.
- Brandon Ashley is the opposite of Wilson in that I watched him a ton at Arizona and I'm pretty sure he's not an NBA player even though on paper it would seem like he has a chance. He's one of those guys who was billed as a 3/4 combo but is really a pure 4. At the PF spot, he doesn't have great size, he's not very athletic and he's not a 3-point shooter. That's not a combination that is going to get you very far in the modern NBA.
Somehow, after all those words, I clearly buried the lede from tonight's game.