As the Las Vegas Summer League begins Friday, it's important to note that all results produced there must be taken under the summer league context. Basketball is being played on a basketball court in a basketball gymnasium, but it's a totally different game.
If you talk to anyone affiliated with a team, the concept of winning is secondary. The ideas of growth, development and assimilation are far more important. For the most part, these players are rookies who will represent the next generation for the NBA and free agents who are holding on to their NBA dreams. General managers, other executives and scouts are hoping to find diamonds in the rough to fill out their 15-man rosters.
There are also some players with Dallas ties who will participate. Former Mavs Rodrigue Beaubois, Josh Howard and Delonte West will be playing for the summer squads of the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively.
Here's a breakdown of key players for the Mavs:
Mekel is playing organized basketball for only the second time since knee surgery in mid-January. He was assigned to the Mavs team in the D-League and the Texas Legends during the later portion of the season, and he essentially ended his rookie season there. Mekel impressed many with his play last year in Vegas. While the Mavs are expecting to re-sign Devin Harris and acquired Raymond Felton from New York, there is still uncertainty at the point guard position. If Mekel can show consistency with his jumper and faster mobility, he could improve his chances of getting backup minutes.
The enigmatic swingman played in only 11 games for the Mavs in his rookie season. Ledo, 21, spent most of his time in Frisco with the Texas Legends. He showed flashes of promise, considering it was his first time playing organized basketball in more than a year, as he was declared ineligible at Providence. After drafting him in the second round in 2013, the Mavs made a relatively strong investment in Ledo with a four-year contract with Dallas. Ledo has the opportunity to be the star of the summer league roster. Showing consistency and reliability in Vegas could go a long way in carving out an actual role on the main roster.
The 6-foot-8 small forward was a target of the Mavs as they were preparing to make their selection in the second round of June's draft. Their picks ultimately went to New York as part of the deal to acquire Tyson Chandler and Felton. Fair went undrafted and agreed to join Dallas' summer league roster after multiple teams showed interest. Fair comes from Syracuse, a big program known for defense, which should appeal to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. All the same, Fair will have to impress the Mavs to earn an invite to training camp.
Carmichael was a standout last summer. Though he's only 6-foot-9, Carmichael showed he can provide physical play in the post. He was often a much-needed spark via offensive rebounds or hustle plays. Carmichael played his way into consideration for a training camp invite. With a spot not offered, he ultimately played overseas in Spain. This year, with roster spots open and a need for cheaper options in the frontcourt, it's possible Carmichael has a chance.
Johnson, 30, probably will be battling Carmichael for a potential invite to training camp. Johnson, a native of San Antonio, has experience on his side, as he was with the Atlanta Hawks for two seasons between 2011 and 2013. He fits a similar makeup as Carmichael in that he is an undersized power forward. Before playing in the NBA, he played in the Korean Basketball League from 2008 to 2010. He was then banned from the KBL for an obscene gesture toward an official in the championship series.
"Sarge" actually isn't under contract with the Mavs, but James will be hoping that a strong performance in Vegas will help his chances of earning another contract with Dallas. The Mavs probably are hoping to see dominant performances out of James, given his size and experience. James played one game with the Texas Legends this past season and scored 38 points on 18-of-20 shooting, with 18 rebounds and four blocks. Although stat lines like that aren't expected, he'll need to look strong in Vegas to get another deal from Dallas -- or any team.