Undefeated, third-seeded Mavs prepare for tournament run in Vegas

Tuesday’s 78-73 win against the Miami Heat completed the Mavs’ undefeated run through the preliminary round of the Las Vegas Summer League tournament, and with that Dallas has earned not only the No. 3 seed, but also a first-round bye.

The Mavericks will have Wednesday off before playing the winner of tonight’s Kings/Bucks matchup at 7:30 p.m. CT on Thursday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2. Should Sacramento win, there’s a chance we’ll see rookie point guards Dennis Smith Jr. and De’Aaron Fox face off. See the full bracket below. (The Mavs are in the bottom half.)

Smith dazzled in the first two games, and his hot run in the desert continued into the fourth quarter in the third game against Miami, when the 19-year-old hit a late dagger 3-pointer to help seal the win. Through three games, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 Draft has averaged 18.3 points, 5.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.3 steals on solid 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 35.7 percent from deep. He’s also averaging 7.3 free throw attempts per game, an encouraging mark for a rookie.

Second-year point guard Yogi Ferrell caught fire against the Heat, exploding for 23 points to lead the team and increase his per-game averages in Las Vegas to 15.0 points, 2.7 assists, and 3.0 steals on 46.7 percent shooting from the field. Finally, big man Brandon Ashley — a power forward who’s been playing center here for Dallas — has continued to raise eyebrows, scoring 14.0 points per game on 51.6 percent shooting from the field and 41.7 percent from 3.

The Mavericks might head into the single-elimination tournament slightly shorthanded, however. Guard Josh Adams, who showed flashes in the team’s first two games, announced via Instagram on Wednesday that he’d signed a contract with Turkish club Anadolu Efes. He didn’t play against Miami, and it’s unclear at this time if he’ll be available for the club’s remaining games in Las Vegas. That means more minutes available, however, for reserve guards such as New Zealander Corey Webster, who’s connected on 40 percent of his 3-pointers so far in Las Vegas. Prior to that, Webster had primarily played small forward.

Any additional roster shuffling could open up more playing time for Ding Yanyuhang, who’s already become a fan-favorite in Vegas. The MVP of China’s domestic league, Ding has displayed a combination of skill and grit that’s made it easy for him to win over the fans. From pump-faking defenders out of their shoes to driving the lane against Josh Jackson, he’s showcased a dynamic offensive game. Defensively, he’s already fouling much less often in Vegas (just two fouls through three games) than he did in Orlando (2.4 fouls per game), but he’s remained aggressive and tenacious on that side of the ball. He has the opportunity to remain on the Mavs’ radar and — who knows? — might even play himself into a training camp invite. That decision ultimately would likely not be made for some time, however.

Some other notes and observations:

– Rookie and Baylor product Johnathan Motley has been much more efficient in Vegas, shooting 61.5 percent from the field after connecting on only 39 percent of his shots in Orlando. Motley did drain the game-winning jump shot in the Orlando league title game, so perhaps that gave him some added confidence before heading westward. The Orlando games also represented his reintroduction to basketball after not playing for several months after undergoing MCL surgery in April, so he was shaking off the rust on the East Coast. He’s shown more positive signs as the Vegas tournament has progressed.

– Dorian Finney-Smith hasn’t been shooting the ball well to this point, connecting on just 3 of 24 from the field and 0 of 12 from 3. To be fair, a few of those shots have been of the in-and-out variety. Finney-Smith said before the tournament began that the Mavs have tinkered with his shot this summer to eliminate a hitch in his jumper, so this is the first time we’re seeing that process play out in a game situation. Those kinds of things take time, and he’ll improve there. What’s stood out more to me about his performance out here, though, is how vocal he’s been on the defensive end. He’s talking and communicating more than any other Maverick in Vegas on that side of the ball, which is something he said before flying out here that he felt the need to do as a second-year player. He’s calling coverages and directing traffic like a center, only he’s playing forward. He makes his money on the defensive end, so it’s good to see him developing into a leader there.

Dennis Smith Jr. can absolutely throw it down. But the rest of the team can, too. Their pregame layup lines in Vegas have been awfully impressive. Between Smith, Adams, Torian Graham, and Carrick Felix, the Mavs have a pretty deep roster of forceful finishers. They’ve been fun to watch.

– The list of Mavs I’ve seen who have taken a trip out here since the tournament began (in no order): Seth Curry, Harrison Barnes, Devin Harris, Dwight Powell, and J.J. Barea. Restricted free agent Nerlens Noel also came to the game on Wednesday night, and had a funny on-camera moment with head coach Rick Carlisle.