Author: Kurt Helin

Dante Exum

Dante Exum knows his leap from high school games to Summer League was not smooth


There were flashes from Dante Exum.

There was the loping, lull-you-to-sleep dribble followed by an explosive first step where he was past his defender and at the rim. There were creative passes where his height let him see the play and he made a smart and creative choice. There were moments you could see him as the real point guard of the future in Utah.

But then there were the 15 turnovers to 14 assists through Summer League. There was the 30.8 shooting percentage. There were struggles adjusting to a level of athleticism he was clearly not used to seeing or playing against.

Wiggins owned up to all of that and the steps he needs to take coming out of Summer League, speaking to Scott Howard-Cooper of

“The last games I played was high school games and I’m one of the bigger guys out there that can push guys around,” he said. “Here, I get into the paint and I’m getting knocked over.”

“It’s been a big couple weeks for him,” said Brad Jones, the Jazz assistant coach who ran the team in the Summer-League games. “He’s got a lot going on. He’s had some ups and downs through this, but it’s also why we play Summer League, for him to go through the ups and downs.”

Exum is a project, something the Jazz knew when they drafted him. The talent was there but is yet untapped.

The Jazz roster is full of guys who need to develop — Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks — and that’s why they brought in Qujn Snyder as coach. Forget wins and losses, those will be a product of developing all that young talent. Snyder and his staff get the job ahead of them.

However, after seeing him in Vegas, Exum may have a higher upside than any of those guys. He also has the longest climb to get there.

Report: Jameer Nelson near $2.7 million deal to join Dallas Mavericks

Orlando Magic v Boston Celtics, Game 6

The Knicks needed another point guard they can trust, in case it turns out they can’t trust Raymond Felton (and Knicks fans would be more than happy to tell you why you can’t trust Felton). Dallas has Devin Harris under contract, but that was not enough.

Enter veteran Jameer Nelson.

We told you the two sides were going to meet. Well, apparently that meeting is more of a formality because they are now very close to a contract, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

No, this does not mean the Mavericks are looking to trade Felton. Officially.

Nelson averaged 12.1 points and 7 assists a game for the Magic last season, but he hasn’t done it efficiently (a .515 true shooting percentage, just below the league average). Most of his shots are three pointers (more than half his attempts last season) and he shot a respectable but not spectacular 34.8 percent on them. He’s long been good and aggressive on the pick-and-roll, plus he brings a physicality to the position.

Dallas has some nice pieces — Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Tyson Chandler — it’s just a matter of finding a point guard who can help bring it together (and some depth).

Nelson can’t give you 30 minutes a night anymore, but he can be a solid backup, plus a guy who can be used as a space-the-floor shooter in certain situations.

At that price this is a nice pickup by the Mavs, who have had a strong off-season.

Raymond Felton pleads guilty on gun charges, will avoid jail

Felton orange jersey

Raymond Felton will not be going to jail.

But I would expect the NBA will come down with some kind of suspension (or at least fine) for him.

Felton was arrested last February in New York on three separate weapons charges after he allegedly pointed a gun at his wife (they were going through a divorce at the time, although that certainly is no excuse for the behavior). New York has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, but as had been expected Felton avoided jail time by pleading guilty, reports the Associated Press.

Felton pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm. He admitted he knowingly had a large-capacity ammunition magazine and a pistol without a license….

He was immediately sentenced to 500 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Rebold said Felton will be allowed to do the service outside New York.

Felton was traded from the Knicks to the Dallas Mavericks this summer along with Tyson Chandler.

As previously noted, it’s likely the NBA comes down with a little additional punishment for Felton.

Report: Mavericks void Rashard Lewis’ contract after it’s discovered he needs knee surgery

2014 NBA Finals - Game Three

Why does this keep happening to Dallas? Last year it was Devin Harris, who agreed to a deal with the Mavericks but never got to sign it because a physical showed he needed foot surgery. (That deal was re-worked and he signed with the team, then re-signed this summer).

This year it was 35-year-old Rashard Lewis, who signed his deal with the Mavericks then it was discovered he needs knee surgery.

The Mavericks decided to void Lewis’ contract and waived him, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The standard NBA contract allows a team to void a contract if said player fails a physical within three days of signing and the team gets back to the player within another three days. Dallas met those guidelines.

The Mavericks were hoping that the additions of Lewis and Richard Jefferson would give a nice starting five (or nice starting four and Raymond Felton, if you ask Knicks fans) some veteran help off the bench. Now Dallas will be looking to replace that help in a depleted market.

Five biggest surprises from Summer League

D-League Select v New Orleans Pelicans

The Las Vegas Summer League has its champion, its MVP, and its standout players. Before we move on from Las Vegas however, let’s take a look at one more group:

The surprises.

The players we didn’t expect to perform well, or otherwise did something unexpected. Here are the five guys on my list.

• Russ Smith (New Orleans Pelicans). Summer League often becomes the world of point guards trying to get noticed by shooting the ball. Big men with good post position go hungry while guards pound the ball into the ground then cross-over, step back and fire away. Not Russ Smith, the Louisville guard playing for the Pelicans was a real floor general. Yes he scored 16 points a game but he had 6.4 assists a game as well in Vegas. There are adjustments to be made for him to stick in the league long term (more than four turnovers a game) but he was a second round pick who looks like a guy who could give the Pelicans some steady minutes at the point as a reserve.

• Glen Rice Jr. (Washington Wizards). We’ve covered the Summer League MVP more than once here at PBT, but he has to go on this list as well — we didn’t expect him to put up these kinds of numbers for Washington (25 points a game and did it shooting better than 50 percent until a rough last outing dropped him to 46.9 percent). He and Otto Porter showed some real chemistry together and look for Randy Wittman to give them a chance when the games matter to prove that pairing can have success outside Vegas.

• Ivan Johnson gets ejected. I’ve been attending NBA Summer League since it was in the Pyramid in Long Beach and I don’t remember ever seeing a player get ejected before (it may have happened, but I don’t recall it). Ivan Johnson changed that. A day after a classic interview with Basketball Insiders where he said exactly what he would do to anyone who got in front of him, Johnson (playing for the Mavericks) got frustrated with a non-call against the Hornets and used some words we can’t reprint here and that got him sent to the showers. Johnson is the one guy banned from the Korean league for life, at least nothing went that far.

• T.J Warren (Phoenix Suns). Warren was one of the best scorers in college last season but there were questions about whether his game could translate to the NBA. Well, it can if he gets out and runs in transition then scores at the basket — Warren averaged 17.8 points a game and shot 54.4 percent. Warren landed in the right place with Jeff Hornacek and the up-tempo Suns, if he gets out and runs with the bench players, and can keep finishing like he did in Vegas, he’ll get some points.

• Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Cavaliers). Another guy from our standouts list who re-appears here because, well, who expected anything out of Bennett? After missing last summer with a shoulder injury then having a historically bad rookie season for a No. 1 pick, Bennett showed up to Vegas in shape and ready to work — he averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. More importantly, he was in shape enough to play hard and physical for a full quarter. He still needs a lot of polish to his game but he looked like a guy who can be a rotation big man, which is more than you would have said much of last season.