Inside the D-League (#2)

Inside the D-League (#2)
Dec 14, 2005, 05:50 am
The season for the NBA's Developmental League has been under way for nearly a month now, and only 8 NBA players have been sent down as part of the new minor league system. Though this is not surprising to many people, all of the players who have been sent down have been given minutes to produce and opportunities to improve their game. Dijon Thompson of the Phoenix Suns has even been recalled after showing good scoring ability. The system still could use some tweaking yet, but it is pretty safe to say that more players will be sent down in the near future.

Hodge requests the D league

Denver Nuggets rookie guard, frustrated with his lack of playing time, has requested that he be sent to the Austin Toros, the Nugget's D league affiliate. Hodge holds the belief that by only practicing, it limits how much better he can become, and he feels that the NBADL is the best place for him to advance his game. Many players have said in the past that they would consider it an insult to be asked to play in the D league, so for a first round pick to make this request is pleasantly surprising. If the Nuggets honor Hodge's request, it would make him the 9th NBA player and only 1st round pick to be sent to the developmental league.

NBA Players Update

Pape Sow (Arkansas Rimrockers, Toronto Raptors)

Per Game Stats: 21.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, .6 assists, 1.28 blocks, 3.4 turnovers, 52% FG, 78% FT.


Sow has been the most dominant player in the NBADL so far, posting the best game for a D-League player this season with 40 points and 14 rebounds in his second game. His rebounding fundamentals have looked great, using his body to fight off opponents before leaving the ground to get the ball. In his 40 point game, Sow went to the line 20 times and made 18 of his attempts. His free throw stroke looks worlds better than it did over the summer. Most of his points came off of face up moves to the hoop, where he showed nice touch around the basket, and good quickness in getting there. Pape's patience down low is what allowed him to earn so many trips to the free throw line. In scoring the 40 points he did not dunk the ball once, and he seems like a guy who is more of a quick athlete than an explosive athlete. Sow was able to put both Luke Schensher and Deji Akindele in foul trouble, but the smaller and quicker Brandon Robinson had some success scoring on him. Pape Sow does average 3.4 turnovers per game, a number that needs to be lowered. He does look like he understands the game better, however, and made some very nice passes both in transition and out of the paint. The biggest question surrounding Pape is his size, he seems a lot closer to 6'8" than his listed height of 6'10." Regardless, if Sow keeps playing like this, he'll be called up to a Raptors team that lacks rebounding and inside scoring sooner rather than later.

Sean Banks (Tulsa 66ers, New Orleans Hornets)

Per game stats: 15.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 51.9% FG, 50% 3 point.

Sean Banks has displayed impressive scoring ability thus far in the NBADL. In the past, Banks has often been criticized for taking too many 3 pointers, but has only taken 14 in his 5 games so far, using the three as a weapon to compliment his ability to get to the basket. Banks has been finishing well at the hoop as well, and is shooting above 50% from both the field and three point line. To take his game to the next level, Sean Banks could work on setting up his teammates for easy baskets on his drives to the hoop. His defense still needs some work, but it appears that his head has been in the game so far. There have been no off the court problems for Banks, which is needed from somebody with a checkered past, and if he continues to play well on the court, the Hornets could call him up to add another nice young weapon on and up and coming team.

Ersan Ilyasova (Tulsa, Milwaukee Bucks)

Per game stats: 9.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.0 turnovers, 36% FG, 25% 3 point.

Turkish 19 year old rookie Ersan Ilyasova, having played 9 D-League games, has proven that there is a long path ahead of him before he can contribute in the NBA. His best skill by far has been his rebounding, and Ersan has bulked up considerably from the summer league in Minnesota, where his frame was way too skinny for an NBA forward. Aside from that, Illyasova has some work to do. His shooting percentages from both the field (36%) and three point line (25%) both need to increase, and right now he is settling for a lot of jump shots. Ilyasova needs to work on going inside more and getting to the line, right now he has 12 free throw attempts in 9 games. Ersan looks lost a lot of the time on the court, finding himself out of position on both ends of the floor. Though his season stats overall look average, he has shown a lot of improvement since the start of the season, and recently had his best game of 19 points and 13 rebounds on 8 of 13 shooting. He is still a young player, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him spend his first two years in the NBADL, but he does have the tools to become a solid contributor at the NBA level.

Dwayne Jones (Florida Flame, Minnesota Timberwolves)

Per game stats: 9.2 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.2 blocks, 2.0 turnovers, 44% FG, 68% FT.

Jones, known as a defensive force in college, was sent to the NBADL by the Timberwolves to improve his offensive game, rebounding, and sometimes inconsistent man to man defense. Right now Jones ranks second in the D League in rebounding (just behind Pape Sow), which is a good sign, as Jones had major problems catching and hanging onto rebounds in the Minnesota summer league. In Jones' most recent performance, he pulled down 21 rebounds, and he also had a 16 board effort against Peter Ramos of the Wizards. Dwayne has made some improvements to his offensive game, showing a mechanical jump hook on offense, and contributing a lot of put-back dunks. In the NBA, Jones might be able to get by with a limited offensive game, while his free throw shooting is slightly improved from college, though 68% could be improved upon. From everything we've been told, Dwayne's defense is still very solid, and he is working on changing shots and forcing players to miss rather than attempting to block everything. Dwayne Jones will probably need to spend the entire season in the D-League working on his faults, but he does have the tools to become a solid defensive center at the NBA level.

Peter Ramos (Roanoke Dazzle, Washington Wizards)

Per game Stats: 11.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.25 blocks, 4.12 turnovers, 44% FG, 59% FT.

Ramos is still quite raw, and needs to improve on both ends of the floor before being able to see significant minutes in the NBA. His rebounding numbers have been solid, and he has shown a lot of promise in this area. Ramos is actually boxing out more this year, rather than relying on his leaping ability to collect boards. His offensive game still needs polish, but he has a nice little jump hook in the lane. Ramos' free throw shooting also needs improvement, and he needs to start taking contact rather than shying away from it and getting to the line with more frequency. On defense, Peter Ramos has been out of position at times, but is much improved last year in both man and help defense. He leads the league in total blocks, and is second in blocks per game at 2.25. Foul trouble has been common for Ramos this season and he needs to figure out the right time to go for a blocked shot if he wishes to stay out of foul trouble and on the floor.

Donta Smith (Arkansas Rimrockers, Atlanta Hawks)

Per Game Stats: 3.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2.7 turnovers, 25% FG

Smith, used in only 6 games by the Atlanta Hawks this season, was sent to receive the playing time that was not available to him at the NBA level. Smith has only played 17 minutes per game in his three appearances with the Rimrockers, and has not found the flow of the offense. In his best game, Smith had 3 assists to go with his 7 points in 22 minutes. It should be interesting to see if Donta progresses his game enough in the D League to find some minutes on a team stacked with young wing players.

Bracey Wright (Florida Flame, Minnesota Timberwolves)

Per game stats: 24.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.67 turnovers, 47 % FG, 39% 3 point.


After being selected by the Timberwolves in the second round of the 2005 draft, GM Jim Stack sent Bracey to the D-League for him to improve his playmaking skills. Stack envisions Wright being a combo guard in the NBA, as Bracey has been primarily a scorer off the ball his entire life. In the NBADL, he has put up good numbers, but with Andre Barrett playing the point, Bracey has not been able to work on his point guard skills. Wright leads the league in scoring on 47% shooting from the field, and has scored a high percentage of his points using a nice midrange game. He is undersized for a 2 guard in the NBA however, and the Timberwolves already expect big things from undersized guard Rashad McCants who is barely 6'3" himself but is built much better than Wright. It does help that he could play next to 6'7" guard Marko Jaric, and his type of shooting ability is always sought after by NBA teams. Right now Bracey Wright is averaging the same number of assists and turnovers, but it does not appear he'll have the chance to become a point guard as long as Andre Barrett is around. If he continues to score well, the Timberwolves could call him up to replace the scoring of injured guard Troy Hudson.

Feature Team: Fort Worth Flyers

The Fort Worth Flyers, an expansion team, have played their first 7 games of the season without an NBA player being sent down to their roster. Despite this, they still have an exciting group of players, including some who could find themselves on NBA rosters down the road.

A typical day as a member of the Flyers consists of a practice at a local Texas high school, which is usually held at either 9AM or 11AM. The practice starts off with just light warm-ups and stretches, and progresses in intensity throughout the two hours. Coach Sam Vincent preaches hard nosed defense, and spends a good portion of practice working on drills involving both half court and transition defense. The practice usually ends with a scrimmage, playing games to 10 points (1 point per shot) with three defensive stops marking a change of possession.

After practice, the team returns to their apartments which are provided by the team. The players have a good amount of free time after practice, in which they do a number of things. Coach Vincent has provided all the players with a membership to a fitness club near the apartments where the player are expected to lift weights. Members of the Flyers often can be seen eating at a local mall, and at the apartments, the players often watch basketball (both NBA and college).

Members of the Fort Worth Flyers are expected to be a part of the community, and on many occasions make public appearances. Autograph sessions are common, as are other events, including a recent scrimmage in front of local soldiers.

After they play home games, two members of the Flyers are required to sign autographs and interact with the public (different players stay after each game). From attending the games and practices, it is clear to see that the D-League does a good job of not only preparing the players for the NBA style of game, but also fan interaction that accompanies an NBA contract.

Fort Worth Flyers players:

Deji Akindele- A center out of Chicago State, Akindele is a player many people expected to see drafted this past summer. With good size and athleticism, Deji could see himself in the NBA in the near future. In NBADL play, he has averaged 12ppg on a good field goal percentage. Akindele does get in foul trouble quickly at times, but when he's on the court, he plays solid defense. To best increase his chances of an NBA call up Deji Akindele needs to work on his free throw shooting and understanding of the game. It would also help if he could learn to use his left hand on offense, but the tools to become a serviceable NBA center are there. Deji's biggest problem in the past has been consistency, so a string of solid games would do him wonders.

Kelenna Azubuike- After going undrafted out of Kentucky, Azubuike recently signed a contract with the Fort Worth Flyers. Kelenna already has an NBA body and above average athleticism, and has good range on his shot at times. Inconsistency has always been his biggest problem.

Some games Azubuike's shot will be money, and other games it's nowhere to be found. His shot selection and handle also need to improve. Rebounding has been a knock against him in the past, but Kelenna showed good use of his athleticism in pulling down 7 rebounds in his NBADL debut. Kelenna Azubuike must show consistent use of his skills to receive a call-up to the NBA, but athletes of his caliber will always be in high demand.

Vonteego Cummings- A former first round pick by the Pacers, Cummings is attempting to get back into the NBA after a 4 year absence. He possesses very deep three point range, and the ability to finish near the basket while absorbing contact. The biggest obstacle for Vonteego is that his ideal position is shooting guard, but he has the size for a point guard. Thus far in D League play, Vonteego has shown decent point guard skills to accompany his scoring skills, and a solid ratio of 2.5 assists to 1 turnover. Though he's near 30 years old, Cummings would fit in nicely on an NBA team wanting a veteran combo guard.

Daryl "MaJic" Dorsey- A former And1 tour player, "MaJic" played himself into the NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago after an MVP season in the World Basketball Association. Though he has played limited minutes thus far in the NBADL, Dorsey has displayed solid ability to run the offense, as well as nice scoring ability. The biggest knock on him is that he lacks the ideal size for an NBA point guard, but he can finish well in the lane. Right now Dorsey backs up the veteran Vonteego Cummings, but if Cummings is called up, Dorsey could put up some good numbers.

Keith Langford- Keith is a very good athlete, but he has some improvements to make to work himself into the NBA. Though he has a good handle, he goes left almost every time, which makes him easier to defend. Langford also needs to work on shooting when he is open rather than passing up open looks only to drive into double teams, and it does not help that he is undersized for a shooting
guard. Langford has been very team oriented on the court, and though he has not been scoring well himself, he has created some nice looks for teammates. The best attribute Keith has brought to the floor is solid defense, both on and off the ball. To work his way onto an NBA roster, Keith will need to show he can improve his shot as well as his percentages from the field.

Brandon Robinson- A great athlete, the 24 year old Robinson brings some nice skills to the table. He has a good shot out to midrange, and doesn't force anything on offense. The biggest problem with Brandon's game is gambling too much on defense, always attempting to get steals and blocks rather than moving his feet to stay in front of the offensive player. To find himself on the NBA radar, Robinson will need to improve his handle and three point range, because at 6'8" 215 pounds, he does not possess the size to play the 4 in the NBA.

Luke Schenscher- As a rookie out of Georgia Tech, Luke is very skilled for a center. He has some solid moves in the paint including a hook shot that he seems to be able to drop on anybody. Luke can also shoot the ball out to midrange, and can make some nice passes out of the post if he doesn't feel he has the position to score. Schenscher's lack of bulk is the biggest obstacle keeping him from the NBA. He gets pushed out of position on defense at times, and right now, lacks the athleticism to be any type of shot blocking threat. Still, skilled centers can be hard to come by, and Luke could find himself in the NBA at some point this season.

Anthony Terrell- Anthony has good athleticism and a very chiseled body, which allows him to be a very physical player. Terrell also has a nice understanding of the game, and makes some nice passes to find open teammates on offense. To grab the attention of NBA scouts, he will need to work on his shooting range and perimeter skills. At 6'6," he lacks the height of an NBA power forward. Terrell has inconsistent range out to 15 feet, and has not displayed the three point range that NBA teams will look for in a small forward.

Ime Udoka- To this point, Udoka has been one of the top players in the NBADL. He is 4th in the league in scoring at 21.1 points per game, and 10th in rebounding at 7.3 per game. Ime gets his points in a variety of ways, showing competence at getting to the basket an finishing around the rim, knocking down open shots, and creating nice looks from midrange. His biggest weakness so far has been turning the ball over. He averages 4 turnovers per game, and he gets into situations sometimes where he dribbles to bad spots on the floor where he has no choice but to force a pass. Though a good all around player, Udoka doesn't have one skill that stands out as being great. Ime could be a nice complimentary player in the NBA, and is one of the guys who stands out as a candidate to be the first players signed out of the D League.

Anthony Wilkins- A versatile player, Wilkins can play the 2 or the 3, and has the ideal size at 6-7 for an NBA player. Wilkins' best asset is shooting ability, but he is a smart player who does all the small things, including creating chances for teammates and collecting offensive rebounds. To get to the NBA, Anthony Wilkins will need to be more assertive in finding his own shot. He has the ability, but has not gotten into the flow of the game to this point in the D-League. If Wilkins can get into the flow of the game and show more assertiveness on the offensive end, he'll have a better chance to get back on to an NBA roster.

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