Nate Hinton may be a second-year player, but this is his first go-around in the NBA Summer League. And it’s no secret that he loves it.

Hinton was an undrafted rookie heading into the 2020 NBA season. Due to the truncated offseason, he – like every rookie –  didn’t get the opportunity for game reps at the annual Las Vegas Summer League. This year, he’s wasted no time getting into the swing of things, relishing in the extra time he has in the gym.

“Me being in this environment, just being in the doors, is really helping my development,” Hinton said after practice on Wednesday.”I’m just here. Here early, I stay all day. I don’t have anything else to do. I’m out here by myself. So, I don’t have any other responsibilities. I wanted to get better, so this is what I want.

“Me seeing it last year, and me wanting to take that next step in my career and my life, I am just in the gym all day every day working on my game.”

Hinton’s focus for NBA Summer League:

Development is the focus of Hinton’s Summer League goals. He’ll define his success for the summer by how much he’s gotten better by the start of the NBA Season. Yet, he knows he won’t get to where he wants to be by accident. He has to work.

Mavericks Summer League head coach Greg St. Jean described him as one the biggest “gym rats” on the team. So, at least from the outside in, it looks like Hinton is doing what he can to be the best player he can be.

But what drives Hinton to wake up every day and work isn’t the allurement of fame. It’s for something far simpler – the joy of competing as an everyday player. The NBA Summer League provides him an opportunity to experience what it feels like to be an everyday NBA player while also allowing him to help lead a locker room full of young players vying for roster spots.

“I just want to go out there and compete,” Hinton said. “I worked my tail off this summer. Now, it’s just time for me to go out there and have fun and go do what I have been working on. I’m just taking that next step in my professional career, showing I have gotten better since that last time everyone has seen me.”

Familiarity aids Hinton in his first Summer League:

Hinton as a second-year player found that the experience he gained last season has proven beneficial during his first Summer League training camp. He views this Summer League experience through the lens of a “redshirt” year. And though he couldn’t play last year, he’s still provided tips for the rookies and younger players on the Mavericks Summer League roster.

“This being my second year, my maturity is being shown,” he said. “I am using what I learned from last year and utilizing it in the practices now… It’s a great experience so far.”

One element that helps Hinton with building chemistry and rapport with his teammates is that they aren’t strangers to him.

A majority of the Mavericks Summer League roster is filled with people he’s played against growing up. Whether he’s played against them on the AAU circuit or saw them in passing playing in college, he’s pretty familiar with his teammates, and that’s helped him build the connections necessary to play well on the court.

“Everybody is real close and together on this team,” Hinton said. “I’m excited for it, and excited to play.”

The lack of a Summer League last offseason robbed Hinton of this opportunity to solely focus on his development as a player while gaining live game reps. This summer, it’s his goal to take full advantage of what playing in Summer League can do for his development.

“I’ve grown so much,” he said. “I am always growing and being put in situations where I have to grow… I am just being who I am, and not getting caught up in ‘being in the NBA.’ Just being thankful, more appreciative, and having more gratitude.”

Related reading on Dallas Mavericks:

“NBA Summer League: a period of growth for Tyrell Terry.” 

“Analyzing the Dallas Mavericks free agency moves thus far.”

“Meet the undrafted free agents the Mavericks brought in on draft night.” 

Feature image via Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports