Quantifying success in the NBA summer league isn’t easy.
Sure, winning is the goal. And it’s nice. Greg St. Jean helped coach a team to the MGM Resorts Las Vegas Summer League title a few years back and said it was a terrific moment for him and his players.
But every summer, there are 29 other teams that have to gauge their brief time together in the offseason camp differently.
“For us, success for the summer league is going to be about making sure we’re building habits,” said St. Jean, who was with Sacramento when the Kings won the summer league in 2014. “Obviously for the guys who are currently on the roster, it’s an unbelievable opportunity to evaluate them in game settings that last year they didn’t get a ton of.
“From an individual standpoint, trying to get guys evaluated, if we’re able to get a better feel for what they can do in our new system offensively and defensively, that will be a success.”
But it does help if you can have success on the court, he added after the Mavericks’ second summer-camp practice Wednesday.
“As a competitor, we want to go out there and try to win every game we can,” he said. “I’ve been a part of a summer league championship before and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot more fun going out there winning than losing, so we’re going to try to play to win. But at the end of the day, it’s about trying to build habits. And that’s what we’re going to measure our success on.”
The Mavericks have 11 players in their summer camp. Josh Green will join them at some point next week after he’s finished in the Olympics with the Australian national team.
The Mavericks are hoping a few players take big steps during this two-week stretch. Nate Hinton is one of them.
St. Jean described him as a gym rat who has been putting in time before, during and after the summer practices the last two days. The Mavericks will have another practice Thursday, then fly to Las Vegas on Friday, where they will continue practicing before beginning their summer-league action on Monday against Philadelphia (3 p.m., NBA TV).
Hinton was an undrafted rookie last season who played sparingly after signing a two-way contract.
However, he showed enough promise that the Mavericks are eager to find out of he can continue improving as a 3-and-D specialist.
“Nate is a gym rat. He’s in here every day,” St. Jean said. “He comes back at night. He puts the hours in and he’s somebody who is ultra-motivated to get better. I’m looking forward to coaching him in a game setting. He’s very receptive. We’re pleased with the growth he’s shown, his shot-making ability, play-making ability and today (Wednesday) he had a really strong day for us.
“We’re going to lean on him as well as Tyrell (Terry) and some of the other guys with some NBA experience to be our leaders.”
The Mavericks don’t have a lot of guys with NBA experience going to Las Vegas. They don’t have a pick from last week’s draft. But it’s a safe bet that one or two (or perhaps more) of their summer roster invitees will be on the final roster in October.
Hinton could be one of them.
“I’m not technically a rookie, but I feel like a redshirt in some ways,” he said. “This is my second year and first year doing this (summer league).
“I just want to go out there and compete and take that next step in my professional career and show that I’ve gotten better since the last time they’ve seen me. I’m excited to play. I’m here early and stay all day. I don’t have anything else to do. I don’t have any other responsibilities, so I want to get better. This is what I want.”
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