Two-way contract signee Johnathan Motley hopes to fill need for Mavs inside

DALLAS — Despite still working his way back to 100 percent after suffering a torn meniscus to conclude his final collegiate campaign, former Baylor standout Johnathan Motley showed the Dallas Mavericks’ front office enough during summer-league play to earn a two-way contract for this upcoming season.

Going untaken in June’s NBA Draft, the 6-foot-10 Motley will now try to carve out a niche in the league after three stellar seasons at Baylor. He will also attempt to earn a regular roster spot moving forward with the Mavericks after averaging 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game during his junior season to earn consensus All-American second-team honors. And after becoming Baylor’s first-ever player to win a major individual award by garnering the 2017 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year, Motley will look to become a mainstay on the Dallas front line for seasons to come.

“I just think my body feels better day after day,” Motley said last month after starring on the Mavs’ summer-league teams in Orlando and Las Vegas. “It’s just a testament to what they’ve got me doing off the court, running and lifting some weights on my knee, hamstrings and glute stuff. My body is just feeling better and better, so that’s to credit for the success I’ve been having.

“It was tough, but you’ve got to take everything for what it is and just find a way to bounce back,” he added. “I’m thankful the Mavs signed me. I feel wanted here. Those guys have got me doing some things to help me and leading me into the right direction, so I’ve bought in to everything they’ve got me doing.”

The ’17-18 season will mark the first year that the league’s two-way contracts will be implemented, allowing teams to have up to two players who will spend the bulk of the year in the NBA G League and not more than 45 days with their NBA squad. Two-way players are also paid a corresponding daily amount based on the number of days they play in each league. And with only players that have been in the league for four years or fewer able to sign two-way contracts, Motley says he’s been handed an opportunity to fulfill his NBA dream while working his way back to full strength.

Motley, a Houston native, played limited minutes during the Orlando summer league, averaging 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 block per contest. However, Motley’s most memorable highlight of the tournament came in the most critical time after his game-winning jumper in the championship game gave the Mavs the Orlando summer-league title with an 83-81 win over Detroit on July 6. He then stepped up his production and playing time during the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas, posting averages of 7.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in just 14.8 minutes an outing as the Mavs went 5-1 and advanced to the semifinals of the tournament. And after knocking down a staggering 58.8 percent from the field in Las Vegas, the athletic big man says he fully expects to fill a void inside for the team this upcoming season.

“I mean, it’s been a crazy, crazy month. It didn’t start off too good with not being drafted. That was a tough night, especially expecting for sure to get drafted. But I’m just thankful the Mavs gave me a chance even with the injury and all that stuff,” Motley admitted. “I was just thankful. … They’re really excited to have me. I think this is the perfect fit. You know, everything happens for a reason. I just feel wanted here. They only had one draft pick in Dennis (Smith), so I feel like I can come in and do some pretty good things. They’re really invested in me, so I feel wanted and I feel like we can really do some good things here.”