Othyus Jeffers, 6-5, SF, Iowa Energy, 1985
Standing 6-5, with a great build, an outstanding wingspan, and phenomenal athleticism, Jeffers clearly has NBA-level tools. He is extremely fast getting up and down the floor, is very explosive around the rim, and possesses an outstanding first step. Hes clearly still making the transition to playing on the wing full-time from his natural position of power forward, but definitely has the physical attributes to do so.
Jeffers is very aggressive looking to get to the basket, particularly in transition, where he really excels. He likes to face up from the elbow, where he can explode past his man with one dribble and finish tenaciously at the rim. He goes both left and right, showing good, though improvable ball-handling skills, but knows his limitations and does not turn the ball over. He picks his spots very efficientlythe main reason hes shooting a ridiculous 61% from the field, and gets to the free throw line at a fantastic clip8.5 times per-40 minutes. Hes extremely competitive, and certainly stood out as one of the hungrier players we saw, but is also a team-first type who did not get caught up in the selfish play that often plagues this leagueoften showing nice passing skills.
Jeffers biggest strength (besides his athleticism) clearly lies in his defense. He is incredibly tough and can absolutely smother opponents on the perimeter with his terrific combination of strength and length, taking great pride on this end of the floor. He gets in the passing lanes at an excellent rate, and is lightning quick getting out in transition. This activity level certainly translates to his work on the glass, where he is arguably the best rebounding wing player in the D-League, at nearly 10-boards per-40. He is especially impressive on the offensive glass, which is one of the main reasons he is so efficient from the field.
The part of his game that needs to improve the most is clearly his jump-shot. Hes currently not a threat at all to make shots from the perimeter, showing inconsistent shooting mechanics, with a release point way above his head, and very streaky range outside of 15 feet, both with his feet set and especially off the dribble. To really take his game to the next level, Jeffers must become at least a decent perimeter shooter, as he won't be able to get to the rim in the NBA or high-level Europe nearly as effectively as he does in the D-League.
Jeffers is a great example of why the D-League existsa place to harbor under the radar prospects who for one reason or another fall off the radar. We had a chance to sit down with him and hear his startling storywhich was chronicled in great depth in a piece by Marlen Garcia of USA today earlier this year. Jeffers played at Los Angeles Southwest Community College, at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and at NAIA-based Robert Morris, landing there after being shot in the thigh for trying to protect his sister from her abusive boyfriend.
To play in the NBA, Jeffers will have to significantly polish his skill-set and become a full-time 2/3. Its not out of the question that someone falls in love with his outstanding toughness, athleticism and tenacity, but he needs to show that he will not be a liability offensively playing exclusively on the wing. There is no doubt that he put himself firmly on the radar screens of many franchises with his play, though, and is certainly someone to keep an eye on in the future.
Coby Karl, 6-5, PG/SG, Idaho Stampede, 1983
Karls contributions go much further than the box-score, as hes a very complete player with an outstanding understanding of the game. His body is looking better and better and his athleticism is not too shabby, particularly once he gets going past his below average first step.
Karl is a terrific shooter, as his 40% percentages on nearly two 3-point makes per contest would attest. Very few of those attempts come on clean looks, though, and it wouldn't be out of the question to see him shoot a much higher percentage if he consistently were able to get his feet set. Karl makes tough shots coming off screens or pulling up off the dribble, showing great mechanics and a real knack for putting the ball in the basket.
Karl really excels on the pick and roll, being extremely creative off the dribble and seeing the floor well. He is a very good ball-handler and can dish off to an open teammate using either hand, showing outstanding vision and smarts in the process. He gets to the free throw line in the D-League at a pretty good rate, as hes a tough guy who is not afraid to take the ball strong to the rack, and is more explosive than you might think getting up and finishing. His decision making leaves a little bit to be desired from time to timehe is prone to trying to do a little too much with the ball, and therefore turns it over at a pretty high rate.
Defensively, Karl is limited by his average to below-average lateral quickness, often looking a half a step slow when trying to stay in front of his man. Hes able to make up for that at times with his smarts and phenomenal length (he possesses a freakish 6-11 wingspan), and certainly cant be knocked for his effort. Still, there are major question marks about his ability to defend a position at the NBA level (the one or the two?), and this is probably what he needs to show the most to executives that make the trek to watch him play.
Karl is clearly one of the top guard prospects in the D-League, and should be on any NBA shortlist for a potential call-up. Whether he has what it takes to be a legit rotation player remains to be seen, but there is really only one way to find out.
Derrick Byars, 6-7, Small Forward, Bakersfield Jam, 1984
Byars is one of the best shooters the D-League has to offer, connecting on a ridiculous 49% of his 3-point attempts this season, on over 5 attempts per game. He is excellent with his feet set, and can get his shot off against most defenders relatively easily thanks to his terrific size. Hes also pretty effective pulling up off the dribble, as well as posting up and fading away for a turnaround jumper. Off the ball, he is extremely smart finding open spaces from which to cut to the basket and get easy looks at the rim. The fact that his team plays unselfishly and really knows how to space the floor definitely helps in this regard.
Just an average ball-handler at best, Byars is pretty limited in terms of creating his own shot from the perimeter. He has good strength but isnt a great athlete, although he could certainly be considered above average at this level. Hes an unselfish player, though, who feeds off his teammates and looks content being a role-player, which is obviously what he would be if called up by an NBA team.
Defensively, Byars had a very positive showing here at the Showcase, as he has excellent physical tools to get the job done, but also displays nice fundamentals. His length allows him to contest shots effectively, and he slides his feet pretty well when defending the ball. He isnt a very fiery or intense guy, though, and is surprisingly a relatively average rebounder, not always showing the type of hustle you might expect. This passivity seems to be something that shows up in his entire game, and might be what is holding him back from truly breaking out.
Byars isn't going to wow most people with an incredbily versatile skill-set or phenomenal athleticism, but he is a solid player with good tools and two very important NBA-level skills. Teams looking for a role-playing wing player who can step into a rotation, make shots and defend either the 2 or the 3 will probably give him a long hard look.
Alex Acker, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Detroit Pistons, 1983
Incredibly smooth, he plays at a good pace, and for the most part stays under control, although there are a few instances where his decision making is questionable. For example, he attempted to lead 1 on 3 fast breaks on several possessions this week, which inevitably led to turnovers. Acker has a tendency to fall in love with his jump-shot at times and refrain from attacking the hoop, the reason why he traditionally shoots a low percentage from the field and gets to the free throw line at a poor rate.
His passing ability is undeniably one of the best parts of his game. He can make difficult passes in both the half court and in transition, often threading the needle to a teammate under the hoop. He also showed the ability to act as a facilitator in an offense, making the extra pass to open shooters or driving to the hoop and finding an open man.
His whole game however, offensively and defensively, seemed to deteriorate as the games progressed. It was a trend for him to play aggressively early, looking for his shot and pushing it in transition. But by the 4th quarter, he was passive and would even go several possessions without touching the ball. He seemed to almost give up and not care that both games were very winnable not doing his part to secure a victory. He shows very little emotion and almost seemed relieved in both games when the 48 minutes were up. Clearly Acker did not want to be here, as you can see from his body language that this level is most likely beneath him. Defensively, he put almost no effort into stopping his matchup, which is not surprising considering his reputation.
Acker is a great talent who could be able to live up to his potential and be productive NBA rotation player if he were able to channel his energy, maintain his focus and play hard on both sides of the ball for every minute hes in games. He didnt seem eager to fill that role this week, though, and considering that hes 26 years old, he might not any time soon.
Walter Sharpe, 6-9, SF/PF, Detroit Pistons, 1986
Sharpe showed a couple of very good post moves, including a few drop steps that ended with thunderous dunks, showing footwork, elusiveness, and athleticism that is nearly un-guardable at this level. He doesnt really have a very polished face-up game, though, and the times that he tried to put the ball on the ground didnt work out to well for him, as he would think too much, over-dribble, and turn the ball over. He clearly has quite a bit of raw talent here, but was unable to translate that into real production in the games we saw.
Sharpes defensive flaws were very evident this week. He was constantly pushed around in the paint by opposing power forwards, exposing a softer side to his game. When guards penetrated, the slightest contact shoved Sharpe under the basket and out of the play, clearly showing a need to add weight and toughness as well. His rebounding was also non-existent, grabbing seven rebounds in two games, none of which were in traffic.
There are many questions regarding how Sharpes talent will translate to the NBA at this point in time. Defensively, we had a hard time figuring out what position he would be able to defend, as hes not fundamentally sound enough to guard 3s, and certainly not strong enough to guard 4s. Offensively, he has a world of potential, but he lacks a go-to move and his perimeter skills are surely not at an NBA level yet. Sharpe clearly has all kinds of potential, but does not look anywhere close to contributing to the Pistons in the near future. Struggling to get playing time here and really not standing out with his production is probably not a great sign