Dwight Powell is a recent example of the Texas Legends helping the Dallas Mavericks groom a young player into a rotational player. The work he put in last season with the Legends paid off, and the Mavericks are hoping that they will see similar results with two more of their players: Justin Anderson and Jeremy Evans.
Justin Anderson was selected by Dallas with the 21st overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Anderson has played in 38 games as a rookie, averaging 8.1 minutes per game. With Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews firmly entrenched as the key perimeter players, Anderson has had a hard time carving out consistent playing time. With the Legends being a readily available resource for the Mavericks, Dallas has sent Anderson on assignment over various portions of the season to help the rookie.
In seven appearances with the Legends this season, Anderson is averaging 23.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in 38.3 minutes. It’s always up to the player to determine how they’re going to handle a D-League assignment. Anderson recently shared his thought process.
“Coming down, you first think, ‘OK, I need to go down here to score,’” Anderson explained. “My first couple of games … you get so anxious when you get told that you’re coming down to play, so you start thinking so much about offense, and sometimes you can maybe take out-of-control shots or make out-of-control plays.”
Though the results haven’t led to more playing time with the Mavericks, Anderson has used the appearances with the Legends to help build his confidence. That’s something that is essential for playing at the highest level. With more time and experience, both with the Mavericks and the Legends, it is becoming more evident that the game is starting to slow down for the rookie.
“It does help boost your confidence,” Anderson said of getting time in the D-League. “However, it only boosts your confidence when you’re playing the game the right way. If you come down and you’re jackin’, and you’re not there fully and you’re careless — I think I was like that (in my) first game. I put everything into telling myself that I wouldn’t be like that (now).”
League observers saw Jeremy Evans as the type of player that could possibly resemble Al-Farouq Aminu last season for the Mavericks. Aminu was an athlete who the Mavericks slowly developed over the course of last season into an impact energy player off the bench who could stretch the floor with his 3-point shot, which had been refined during the season. However, Evans has appeared in just 30 games for the Mavericks, averaging just 8.4 minutes per game.
“The whole concept of him asking to go down there to work on his game is unprecedented.” – Rick Carlisle on Jeremy Evans
Now in his sixth season in the league, Evans is looking for any opportunity that he can to re-establish himself in the league. That includes using every day at practice with Dallas’ coaching staff and then going out of his way to request assignments to the D-League with the Legends to get valuable playing time.
“It’s really helping his adaptation to the perimeter, as a perimeter player at the small forward position,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of Evans’ time in the D-League. “He’s shooting the ball extremely well, he’s getting accustomed to guarding the perimeter.”
In four appearances with the Legends this season, Evans is averaging 16.8 points, 9.0 rebounds in 35.8 minutes. He’s also shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from 3-point range.
Carlisle has seen a lot in his 13 years as a head coach, and he really respects the effort that Evans has made and the impact the D-League has on players both in and out of the NBA.
“I hope other NBA players see his example and understand that the Developmental League is a great tool to improve your game and improve your value in this league,” Carlisle said. “He’s working on his game. He’s working on developing a different skill set to become a guy that can play the perimeter on a regular basis. I greatly admire his desire to go play minor league games to work on his game. No NBA player has ever done that. It was his idea. He’s getting better.
“He’s growing as a player and this is a phenomenal example for all other NBA players interested in getting better,” Carlisle continued. “The whole concept of him asking to go down there to work on his game is unprecedented.”
While the two Mavericks are in different point of their respective careers, both are looking for ways to improve their games. The fact that both look at the D-League and the Texas Legends as a valuable resource speaks volume about the league and the organization.