D-League Showcase Profiles: Call-Up Candidates (Part Two)

D-League Showcase Profiles: Call-Up Candidates (Part Two)
Jan 18, 2011, 10:45 pm
Profiles of some of the top NBA call-up candidates seen at the D-League Showcase in South Padre, Texas: Ivan Johnson, Tiny Gallon, Marcus Cousin, Jeff Adrien, Vernon Goodridge, Scottie Reynolds, Chris Lofton, Marqus Blakely and Matt Rogers.

D-League Showcase Coverage:

-D-League Showcase Profiles: Call-Up Candidates (Part One)
-D-League Showcase Profiles: NBA Allocation and Rights-Held Players
-Interviews, Part One
-Interviews, Part Two

Ivan Johnson, 6-8, Power Forward, Erie Bayhawks
19.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.2 turnovers, 51% FG, 77% FT

Jonathan Givony

A 26-year old power forward in his second D-League campaign after spending time last year replenishing his bank account in South Korea, Ivan Johnson is exactly the type of vagabond journeyman you tend to find in the D-League, having bounced around four colleges before making his way to the minor leagues.

From a skills standpoint, Johnson is anything but a typical player, though, as he's one of the most gifted scorers in the league. In a different life, perhaps coming from a different background, Johnson would be a clear-cut NBA rotation player, but instead he's toiling in obscurity making the basketball equivalent of minimum wage.

Standing 6-8, with terrific hands, a very impressive body and the type of dexterity and agility you rarely see from a player his size, Johnson is a versatile power forward who can do a little bit of everything offensively.

Featuring soft touch on his jumper and range out to the NCAA 3-point line, Johnson can make shots with his feet set or off the dribble and converts 77% of his attempts from the free throw line, a place he finds himself often.

Also capable of creating his own shot, he's an excellent ball-handler for his position, at times grabbing a rebound and then taking the ball coast to coast himself. He likes to face-up from the high-post and attack his man aggressively off the dribble, showing terrific footwork and the ability to slither his way around the paint in impressive fashion. He runs the floor like a deer and is also a solid passer when he wants to be, a product of his excellent basketball instincts.

Despite his impressive skill-set from the perimeter, it's in the post where Johnson is clearly the most effective. He uses his strong frame extremely well to body up his man and finish aggressively through contact, but also has a very developed finesse game, showing all kinds of fancy moves in the paint and the ability to finish softly with either hand.

Unfortunately Johnson's offensive efficiency is hampered by his poor decision making ability, as he doesn't always seem to know what his limitations are, and tends to overestimate his skill-set frequently. He looks off his teammates too often to instead settle for tough, contested fadeaway jumpers, and is far more turnover prone than you'd like to see.

Defensively, Johnson shows poor fundamentals and more often than not just doesn't look interested in making his presence felt. He rarely gets into an actual defensive stance, instead just standing around with his arms down, and lacks significant intensity crashing the defensive glass, as evidenced by his poor production in this area historically. It's unlikely that he received very much coaching in the little time he spent bouncing around colleges as a teenager, and it's probably his work on this end of the floor that's holding him back the most from making the NBA at the moment.

Johnson also comes with some serious red-flags surrounding his intangibles, a reputation that's followed him at every level he's played at. NBA teams love his talent, but wonder if he's worth the baggage that inevitably comes along with it. This excellent article by Matt Calkins written four years ago goes into much more detail, and from what we've heard, not much has changed.

As luck would have it, Johnson had just an average performance (by his standards) at the D-League Showcase last week, with the eyes of the entire NBA on him, but then followed that up by scoring 46 points in the game immediately following that.

Will Johnson ever get the chance to play at the level his skill-set indicates he should? That's probably more up to him than anything. But it shouldn't surprise anyone if an NBA team gave him a ten day contract to take a closer look.

Tiny Gallon, 6-8, Power Forward, Maine
15.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 3.6 turnovers, 1.1 block, 50% FG, 20% 3P, 69% FT

Jonathan Givony

Tiny Gallon showed the many strengths and weaknesses of his game at the D-League Showcase, ultimately not looking all that much different than the prospect we evaluated last April.

Showing up severely out of shape, likely even worse than he was at the pre-draft camp where he measured 302 pounds with 15% body fat, Gallon is still the same incredibly talented player who is a just a small mentality shift away from turning into a legit NBA rotation player.

Gallon is scoring prolifically, mainly on post-ups but also by knocking down the occasional jump-shot and crashing the offensive glass. He's an extremely talented post-player who can establish position with ease and shows nimble and fluid footwork in the paint, and an assortment of moves. He'll take some questionable shots from the perimeter from time to time, but will knock down enough to show that he has potential as a floor-spacer at the NBA level.

He's also one of the top-10 offensive rebounders in the D-League despite being just 19-years old, thanks to his outstanding instincts and tremendous 7-4 ½ wingspan.

Gallon is hampered significantly by his extremely poor conditioning level, particularly on the defensive end where he was mostly a non-factor at the Showcase. He gives up on plays, shows poor fundamentals, and struggles to defend opposing power forwards who can take him off the dribble due to his below average lateral quickness.

His shot-selection can also be severely lacking, as is his decision making, evidenced by the fact that he ranks as one of the most turnover prone players in the league.

Gallon will surely be back on an NBA roster at some point in his career, especially if he decides to get his conditioning in order. He's the type of player who has the talent to earn as much money as he wants to playing professional basketball.

Marcus Cousin, 6-11, Center, Austin Toros
14.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 1 block, 54% FG, 83% FT

Jonathan Givony

A late-blooming center in his second year of professional basketball, Marcus Cousin has been one of the nicest surprises of this D-League season thus far.

6-11, with long arms, an excellent frame and a fairly intriguing skill-set, Cousin has been putting up solid numbers for San Antonio Spurs affiliate the Austin Toros, scoring nearly 20 points per-40, and ranking as one of the league's best rebounders.

Offensively, he is capable of scoring both inside and out, showing a decent post game which he augments with a fairly consistent mid-range jumper. He can establish deep position in the paint with his excellent frame, mostly to turn into a right-handed jump hook or attempt to draw a foul. From the perimeter, he's a solid pick and pop option with nice mechanics and the ability to get his shot off in a variety of ways, also converting 83% of his free throws on the season

Not exceptionally athletic, Cousin is just an average runner and isn't one to finish above the rim in highlight reel fashion. Possessing just an average feel for the game, Cousin is not a very prolific passer and still has work to do in terms of gaining experience and figuring out his optimal role at the pro level.

Defensively, Cousin's size, frame and long arms are major assets at any level of basketball, and already help him out significantly inside the paint. While not much of a shot-blocking threat, Cousin puts the work in early by bodying up his man aggressively, and is able to make a nice impact against most of the traditional big men he faces in the D-League.

Where he runs into trouble is when matched up with undersized, but athletic big men who can take him off the dribble and bait him into biting on pump-fakes. His lateral quickness is not the best and he has a tendency to leave his feet too easily at times, while his motor occasionally leaves something to be desired.

The fact that he's such a prolific rebounder on both ends of the floor helps his cause quite a bit, though, as there's always a demand for big-bodied players who can clean up the glass in the NBA.

After transferring between Seton Hall and Houston in college and then going through a pretty tumultuous rookie season as a pro, bouncing around between Turkey and Israel, never really finding his rhythm, Cousin is getting big minutes at the D-League level, and is likely opening up some NBA eyes along the way. Its probably only a matter of time until someone gives him a call-up to see what he can offer.

Jeff Adrien, 6-6, Power Forward, Rio Grande Valley
20 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 63% FG, 65% FT

Jonathan Givony

Jeff Adrien made the Golden State Warriors opening day roster and even lasted for 15 games, seeing a good amount of playing time and rebounding prolifically, but was eventually released when the team decided to sign guard Acie Law.

Adrien has since been taking his frustrations out on every team in the D-League, establishing himself as arguably the most productive player in the league since being traded to Rio Grande Valley. He ranks as the best rebounder in the league and one of the top-10 scorers, doing so extremely efficiently and in turn leading the league in PER.

Adrien has expanded his game quite a bit since college, noticeably improving his basketball IQ and becoming a much more polished player. It's clear that the lone year he spent playing in Spain helped a great deal, as he seeing the floor better and forcing the issue less than he did in the past. He's become a much better passer and ball-handler, has improved his free throw shooting, and looks significantly more aggressive offensively than he was at UConn.

Mostly a post player in the past, Adrien is doing a very good job facing the basket, utilizing his strong first step from the high post to make his way to the basket and score around the rim. While not overly consistent with his jumper, he looks to be working on this part of his game quite a bit, something that could reap benefits down the road. Very athletic and aggressive around the basket, Adrien doesn't waste the scoring opportunities he's presented with in the paint, usually finishing in emphatic fashion.

The bread and butter of Adrien's game, and his main virtue as an NBA prospect remains his rebounding ability. Although undersized at 6-5 ¼ without shoes, he possesses a mammoth 7-2 wingspan which helps him out tremendously, especially when you consider his He-Man like frame. He's constantly lurking trying to make things happen on the offensive glass, and plays with an excellent intensity level that is surely winning him fans at the NBA level.

Defensively, Adrien lacks height but doesn't save any effort, bringing the same hard-nosed mentality he does on the glass when being posted up inside. Somewhat limited trying to stay in front of aggressive ball-handling power forwards on the perimeter, Adrien must improve his lateral quickness and feel for the game on this end of the floor if he wants to stick on an NBA roster.

Adrien did not look out of place in the 15 games he played with the Warriors in the NBA to start this season, something that definitely bodes well for him looking forward. He saw some solid rotation minutes in competitive situations and emerged as one of the best rebounders in the league in the admittedly small sample size. With the way undersized, high-energy power forwards are performing these days in the NBA, teams won't be as hesitant to give him a call-up as they might have been in the past.

Considering the way he's producing, it's likely only a matter of time until Adrien is signed by someone. If given an opportunity to play, there's a pretty good chance he will stick around based on what we've seen and heard.

Vernon Goodridge, 6-9, PF/C, Springfield Armor
9.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 1.5 turnovers, 4.4 fouls, 52% FG, 71% FT

Joseph Treutlein

A soon to be 27-year-old rookie, Vernon Goodridge might not have much more upside as a prospect, but what he brings to the table currently is a great body, reactive and explosive athleticism, and a high motor, defense-oriented style of play that NBA coaches like from their end-of-the-bench players.

While Goodridge's age is certainly an issue, his propensity to foul is even more so, as indicated by his 4.4 personal fouls in just 24.7 minutes per game. While his physical and aggressive man and helpside defense are both strong traits of his game, figuring out how to tone it down so he doesn't get into foul trouble so easily should be Goodridge's first priority right now.

While clearly more of a defensive than offensive player, Goodridge does bring some decent traits to the table on that end of the floor. He has a nice right-handed hook shot and turnaround jumper with range out to 7-8 feet, while also being pretty physical in backing his man down and crashing the offensive glass. He doesn't show much in terms of a perimeter game, however, and his effort level falls off at times, with him being a rare player that is much more tuned in on defense than offense.

Looking forward, Goodridge likely is what he is at this stage, as it's very rare for a player to develop noteworthy new skills at this age. Cutting down on his fouls so he can stay on the floor more is the most important thing he can do, and if he can there's an outside chance he can make his way onto an NBA team's roster, as athletic, active, defensive-minded bigs don't grow on trees, and he's a good player to have as a practice body as well.

Scottie Reynolds, 6-2, Point Guard, Springfield Armor
14.9 points, 4.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 2.3 turnovers, 46% FG, 85% FT, 37% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

One of the most well known rookies playing in the D-League after a highly visible college career at Villanova, Scottie Reynolds is having a good but not great rookie season for the Springfield Armor. While he struggled in the two games we saw live here in South Padre, Reynolds is scoring efficiently on the season despite playing on one of the worst teams in the league.

Looking at his game, Reynolds is doing a lot of his damage operating out of pick-and-rolls, something his team's offense relies heavily on. He does a good job recognizing multiple options and keeping his head up, getting most of his assists in this manner either hitting the screen man or an open shooter in the corner.

As for his own offense, Reynolds is shooting well from the perimeter when he gets open looks, being equally dangerous spotting up or pulling up, however his lack of great athletic tools certainly shows when he's trying to get the step on his man, struggling in that regard as expected. His adjustment to being his team's primary ball-handler alongside a similar type of guard in JamesOn Curry also is problematic, as the team's offense can stagnate at times.

Looking forward, Reynolds' below average athletic tools and lack of a true point guard mentality make an NBA call up questionable, though playing with a roster that's both weak overall and poorly fit to his skills certainly doesn't help matters.

Chris Lofton, 6-2, Shooting Guard, Iowa Energy
15.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.0 turnovers, 47% FG, 42% 3PT, 75% FT

Joseph Treutlein

One of the best shooters in the D-League at 42% from behind the arc on 6.6 attempts per game, Chris Lofton has made some subtle improvements to his game since his time in college, starting with his improved frame, as he's in the best shape of his career at the moment.

Offensively, Lofton is very much a role player with more than half his field goal attempts coming from behind the three-point arc and doing little of his own shot creation. He does a great job knocking down both open spot-up shots and coming off screens, moving well off the ball and showing great discipline with his decision-making as evidenced by his extremely low turnover numbers.

Lofton does little in terms of creating shots for himself or others, not really possessing the speed off the dribble to consistently take his man, something that limits his production and leads to some drastic swings in his game-to-game point totals. He needs plays run for him to get his points, though he does a good job moving off the ball and spacing the floor even when the ball isn't coming his way.

While Lofton's always been able to make contributions offensively, he's also been known as somewhat of a liability defensively. He's now playing the best defense of his career, putting in a ton of effort and showing great awareness off the ball, picking off passes and doing as good a job he can in man defense. While his size will always be problematic if matched against opposing shooting guards, his toughness and instincts are making up for his lack of lateral quickness and length to a certain extent.

Looking forward, Lofton could be a call-up candidate for a ten day contract in the right situation, as his spot shooting, hustle, and basketball IQ are appealing, especially for wide open offenses or teams with oversized point guards who can cross match in the backcourt defensively. His long term potential is certainly limited, but it wouldn't be surprising if he gets a chance to make a roster at some point.

Marqus Blakely, 6-5, SG/SF, Bakersfield Jam
12.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.0 steals, 2.2 turnovers, 54% FG, 61% FT

Joseph Treutlein

A great athlete with a monster wingspan, Marqus Blakely certainly looks the part of NBA wing prospect, but his skill level and feel for the game at that position are still struggling to catch up as he makes the transition from power forward.

Blakely is pretty limited in the halfcourt at the moment, having to deal with collapsing defenses whenever he does get the chance to put the ball on the floor given his team's makeup. He still manages to contribute in a variety of areas, however, putting his non-stop motor and hustle to good work crashing the glass on both ends, getting out in transition, and playing hard defense both on and off the ball.

While he's still clearly a work in progress and will likely need to make some strides offensively in order to make it in the NBA long term, he already got a good look from the Clippers in preseason and brings quite a few nice things to the table with his physical tools and defense. Playing the type of hustle game that coaches love certainly helps matters, but developing into at least a respectable spot-up shooter is the best thing Blakely could do to improve his chances at getting more looks in the NBA down the road.

Matt Rogers, 6-11, Center, Texas Legends
7.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 1.3 turnovers, 52% FG, 75% FT

Joseph Treutlein

One of the more interesting long-term prospects in the D-League, Matt Rogers was the Legends' first-round pick in the draft this year out of Division II Southwest Baptist University. Coming off a knee surgery that has taken away some of his athleticism, Rogers is still finding his way into the team's consistent rotation, averaging just 14.5 minutes per game thus far with those numbers fluctuating noticeably from game to game.

From a physical standpoint, Rogers has excellent size, pretty good length, and a well-built frame, while being well coordinated and mobile for someone his size. He isn't the most explosive athlete and isn't going to blow anyone away with his leaping ability, but it's tough to say if he's fully recovered from surgery and how much more athletic he will be over time.

While it'd be foolish to come to many strong conclusions based off such a small sample of playing time, Rogers certainly shows some nice things on the offensive end, where he has a crafty post game with solid instincts on the block, having a strong turnaround jumper in his arsenal along with some decent counter-moves. He also does a good job crashing the offensive glass and making simple cuts to the basket, showing no problems going up strong at the rim.

The most intriguing part of Rogers' offense from the long term, however, is probably his perimeter jumper, as he's hitting on 75% of his free-throws and hit 81% his final year in college. This isn't quite translating to his spot-up jumpers quite yet, as he's hit just 7-for-20 of the mid-range jumpers charted by Synergy thus far, but the potential is obviously there for him to develop into a nice pick-and-pop threat.

Defensively, Rogers is active and has good awareness, showing nice toughness, moving well off the ball, keeping his hands up, and using his length to close off passing lanes. He's struggled some adjusting since knee surgery, not being nearly as much of a shot-blocking threat as he was in college, lacking some elevation on his attempts. His fundamentals are solid in the pick and roll, though he could do a better job adjusting to professional post defense rules, as he doesn't take full advantage of the ability to use his forearm and hand, allowing opponents to score against him more than they should.

Looking forward, it's tough to come to any conclusions about Rogers' game except to say it will be interesting to see how he develops down the road. He's in an excellent situation being on a team connected with a well run NBA franchise, and already has a decent foundation to work with. He's also playing against a much higher level of competition than he's ever faced before, something that will take some time to adjust to.

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