The NBA Summer League smells of sweaty jerseys, hardwood floors, and most importantly, hope. NBA executives, coaches, media, and basketball junkies gather into one hot sweaty gym to grab a peek at the new up and coming talent in the NBA. Summer League seems to have a buzz different from any other NBA event like All-Star weekend. The youth-driven focus infuses summer league with a palpable sense of hope, even if most of the players present won’t even make an NBA roster.
In the Dallas Maverick kingdom we are not accustom to such hope. Maverick draft picks over the last decade have featured the likes of Maurice Ager, Dominique Jones and the illustrious Jared Cunningham. Roddy Beaubois captured the hearts for brief moment in time, but his frail frame led to his undoing. Maverick fans have long been looking for a new talent in which to place their hope: enter Ricky Ledo.
When the Mavs grabbed Ledo with the 43rd pick in the 2013 draft, he was viewed as a low risk high reward player. Ledo emerged from relative obscurity after being declared academically ineligible for his freshmen year. Scouts loved Ledo’s size, handle, and jumper, but raised concerns about his character.
After watching Ledo’s grainy high school footage on YouTube, it is very easy to fall in love with his game. He has a highly aesthetic style of play with his exquisite handle and Kevin Durant-like shooting form. Although Ledo possessed an NBA skill set, his lack of college experience left his skills unrefined. This led to a yearlong stint down in the D-League with the Texas Legends.
The yearlong stint in the D-League gave Ledo a chance to hone his sklls and gain valuable game experience. At 6’7, Ledo is quite large for a shooting guard, but he sees himself more as a combo guard and has even expressed that he’d like to play the point.
When you watch Ledo play, you can see flashes of his point guard skills with his ability to get in the lane and dish to big men or shooters. However, Ledo projects more as a secondary ball handler and someone who can work as an offensive initiator off the bench, much like the role Vince Carter has filled.
In the earlier part of the year Ledo really struggled with his consistency. More specifically, he was indecisive with his decision-making around the rim. He had no problem getting to the rim, but once he arrived he didn’t have a feel for when to make the dump off pass, pull up for the floater or take it all the way to the rim.
As the season progressed, Ledo developed a nice close range game with nifty floaters and spin moves around the rim. He still struggled to locate weak side defenders, but he developed a nice sense of timing of when to hit big men underneath the basket.
Ledo doesn’t possess elite athleticism, but his high-level ball handling allows him to navigate the court easily. His shooting numbers look mediocre, but Ledo has the mechanics to develop into a really good shooter. Ledo brings an aggressive mindset to the court in the mold of Jason Terry.
In an extremely small sample size with the Mavs this year (only 33 minutes), Ledo managed to lead the team in usage (and net rating!). Ledo’s aggression translates to the boards, where he averaged nearly six a game in his time with the Legends. It’s this aggressive mindset that should allow Ledo to find his footing in the league.
Going into this year’s summer league, Ledo will have to prove that he’s worthy of earning minutes on a quality NBA team. Depending on whether or not the Rockets match Chandler Parsons offer sheet, there could be a small role for Ledo to slide into. Summer league is a difficult place to evaluate players because of the poor talent and lack of cohesive team play.
Nonetheless, Ledo will need to show the coaching staff that he has improved his decision-making, level of awareness on both ends of the court, and the amount of (a Carlisle word here) force he plays with. He can do that by fighting hard through screens and making quality decisions with the ball, especially in pick and roll.
Ledo has all the offensive talent in the world, but the level of effort he brings and his defensive disposition will ultimately decide whether or not Carlisle plays him (see: Crowder, Jae).
The basketball community gathers at summer league to find out what could be. Ricky Ledo could be the second coming of Penny Hardaway or he could be a poor man’s Jordan Crawford. Our imaginations can run wild, because Ledo is an unknown commodity at the NBA level. So enjoy the summer of Ricky Ledo, because soon the mystery will be gone and the fun along with it.