DALLAS — After suffering through a sub-par season by their own standards, the Dallas Mavericks were forced to head out on summer vacation early while missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
But for the Mavs’ rookies and young contributors, this summer will be anything but a vacation.
Rallying back from 10 games below .500 on Jan. 9 to break even with a .500 record at 41-41 on the season, the Mavericks took very little positive out of the 2012-13 campaign. Still, after seeing the quick development of two second-round selections in last summer’s NBA Draft, the Mavs did see encouraging signs and building blocks for the future.
“Even to get back to .500 we (messed) up another 10 games. You know, we should have been a whole lot better. There’s just no satisfaction from this season whatsoever. None, but I mean, it was nice to see some of the rookies play,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said.
Playing in 78 games and making 16 starts, forward Jae Crowder led the youth movement for the Mavs despite being the team’s third and final draft-day acquisition with the No. 34 overall selection. Still, after getting off to a scorching-hot start, the first-year pro would admittedly hit a wall, finishing the season shooting just 38.4 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from 3-point range while averaging 5.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 17.3 minutes an outing.
Meanwhile, the pick right before Crowder also showed promise as center Bernard James became a valuable contributor for the team in the interior while appearing in 46 outings and making 11 starts himself.
Playing less than 10 minutes a game when called upon and entering the league as a 27-year-old rookie, the 6-foot-10 James averaged just 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds during his first season, but he would connect on 51.5 percent from the field while becoming an occasional force at both ends of the floor inside. Now, along with late-season pickup Josh Akognon and first-round selection Jared Cunningham, who played a total of just 26 minutes in eight games during his rookie year, the Mavs will look to see if any of their young contributors are able to step up their games while leading the charge in the Las Vegas Summer League July 12-22.
“This is a big summer for (Cunningham),” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Crowder and Bernard James both I thought did a terrific job for us. Their maturity was evident, because they were able to step in. And during one stretch of the season we had two second-round picks in our rotation, which is a challenging situation but I thought they handled it well and they both got better, so there’s some positives there. Akognon we have under contract. He’ll be with us in the summer and in training camp next year. That’s the way the plan is right now, and I view him also as an intriguing prospect.”
“We’re going to want to see Jared at summer league and hopefully he’ll work hard,” Cuban added. “Jae and Sarge [James] both showed a lot. If Jae can get to a point where he can get a knockdown jumper, he’s got such a great array and energy that he’s going to be a great player in this league. I don’t like his step-back threes, but other than that hopefully he’ll learn to avoid those. Sarge is a quick second jumper. He’s got to learn to grab the ball instead of just tip the ball, have more confidence around the basket and get a little bigger. … I think Jae showed a lot of promise. Sarge did, too. You know, we didn’t get to see Jared. We’ll see him in summer league, so I’d say a lot of the promise is knowing that we got some guys in the draft who are NBA players, and so I’m looking forward to seeing how they improve over the summer and how hard they work.”