Inside the D-League (#3)

Inside the D-League (#3)
Dec 30, 2005, 01:27 pm
Another installment of Inside the D-League brings us news and notes from around the league, a look at the performances of the NBA players participating in the action here, as well as some thoughts on what it takes to stand out in a league such as this.

Jones recalled from the NBDL

Dwayne Jones of the Minnesota Timberwolves was recently recalled from the D-League. He went through warm-ups for Minnesota’s game on December 28th against the Seattle Supersonics, but was not activated for the game. The Timberwolves, thin at center with both Michael Olowokandi and Mark Madsen ailing, expect to activate Dwayne Jones for the December 30th game against the Orlando Magic where he could play his first regular season NBA game.

Marshall sent to the D-League

The Dallas Mavericks sent forward Rawle Marshall to the Fort Worth Flyers of the NBDL on Thursday, December 29th. The Mavs had planned on sending Marshall to the D-League at the start of the season, but were forced to keep him on the roster as a backup due to injuries at the small forward spot. Marshall could see his first minutes in the D-League on Friday, December 30th when the Fort Worth Flyers travel to Arkansas to play the Rimrockers.

Blatche to be recalled

Andray Blatche of the Washington Wizards will be recalled from the D-League after his game on December 31st. The Wizards planned to send Blatche to the NBDL to get back into game shape after being released from the hospital because of a gunshot wound to the chest he suffered before training camp. Washington has determined that 5 games is enough, and that Blatche’s conditioning has reached a suitable level for him to return to the NBA.

Rockets make first NBDL callup

The Houston Rockets signed point guard John Lucas III (son of NBA great John Lucas) of the Tulsa 66ers, making him the first independent D-League player to receive an NBA contract this season. Lucas averaged 15.1 points on 52% from the field and 3 assists per game for the 66ers. He’ll be playing for a Rockets team that has struggled with injuries at the point guard spot. Lucas could see his first NBA action on December 31st against the Golden State Warriors.

Dorsey and Johnson injury released

Point guard MaJic Dorsey of the Fort Worth Flyers and center Ken Johnson of the Albuquerque Thunderbirds have both been injury released from their respective teams. An injury release differs from an outright release because it allows the team to retain the rights of the injured player rather than the player going back into the D League available player pool. These players then can be brought back after a team physician clears them to play again. Center Nick Billings was signed to fill the void on the Flyers, and Anthony Coleman was signed to play center for the Thunderbirds.

Hawks look to D-League point guards

The Atlanta Hawks will be working out multiple point guards from the NBDL in the coming weeks. Derrick Zimmerman of Ausin and MaJic Dorsey of Fort Worth are both expected to work out in Atlanta, and TJ Cummings has been mentioned as well as a possible candidate for a workout. Atlanta, a team lacking depth at the point guard position, may look to sign a D-League player to develop at this position for the rest of the season. They have been rumored in many trades recently, and a deal could leave them with an open roster spot to sign one of these players.

NBA Players Update

Andray Blatche (Roanoke Dazzle, Washington Wizards)

Per game stats: 13.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists. 52.6% FG, 80% FT

Throughout his 4 game tenure in the D League, Blatche has proven that he has some improvements to make before becoming an NBA contributor. This is not surprising, however, considering he’s coming out of high school and off a serious injury. It would really help Andray if he learned to play in the post, and to do this, he needs to add weight to his skinny frame. Added muscle would help on the defensive side of the ball as well. He does have nice handles, and the ability to create off the dribble, but Blatche will need to work on creating for other people and not trying to do too much off the dribble. With averages of 1.5 assists and 3.5 turnovers, it’s pretty clear that Andre’s decision making needs to improve. At this point, Blatche does score on good percentages, and shows nice versatility on the offensive end of the floor. Andray Blatche has some nice tools to work with, and now he needs to put in the time to develop the areas he is lacking.

Sean Banks (Tulsa 66ers, New Orleans Hornets)

Per game stats: 10 points, 3.2 rebounds, .8 assists, 42.2% FG, 70% FT, 30% 3-point

After a nice start to the season, Banks has regressed in the past couple of weeks. Across the board there has been a big decrease in stats, and his inconsistent play has lead to a decrease in minutes played. Banks has a lot of talent on offense, but it seems when he isn’t scoring the ball, he doesn’t contribute in any other way either, which will hurt how effective he can be at the NBA level. His increasing number of turnovers per game, 2.7, looks bad on the stat sheet when compared to less than 1 assist per game. To be fair to Sean Banks, his point guards have greatly increased their scoring lately, causing a decrease in assists, so Banks has had less of an opportunity to put up big scoring numbers. This does not explain the decrease in percentages across the board, however, and such a talented offensive player should be able to use his gifts to score without being set up. To play every day in the NBA, Sean will need to become more aggressive on defense, and find other ways to contribute than scoring, because guys who can score in the NBA are a dime a dozen, and slumping scorers stay sitting on the bench.

Ersan Ilyasova (Tulsa 66ers, Milwaukee Bucks)

Per game stats: 10 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 39.8% FG, 68.4% FT, 33.3% 3 point

In the last D-League article from DraftExpress, we wrote that Ilyasova would need to improve his shooting percentages a great deal to prepare himself for the NBA. He has improved in this area with an increase in field goal percentage by over 3 %, and an increase in 3-point field goal percentage by over 8%. Ilyasova‘s biggest struggles during the summer league were with foul trouble, but this has become less of a problem for him, and he now averages only 3 fouls per game. To become NBA ready, Ilyasova needs to continue to play inside more and work to get to the line. This will open up the rest of his offensive game and create some clean looks from the perimeter.

Dwayne Jones (Florida Flame, Minnesota Timberwolves)

Per game stats: 9.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 44.7% FG, 58% FT

Jones played well enough for the Flame to get a call-up to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that desperately needs a center. Before being recalled, Jones had two games where he posted offensive rebounding numbers in the double digits. His biggest struggle in the D-League came in his last game, where he was limited by Wizards center Peter Ramos to only 5 points. Dwayne will probably post very low numbers in the scoring column when he gets time with the Wolves, and might even be back in the minor leagues once the team gets healthy (unless Minnesota trades away a center).

Peter Ramos (Roanoke Dazzle, Washington Wizards)

Per game stats: 13.2 points. 9.2 rebounds, 1.92 blocks, 52.6% FG, 56% FT

Ramos has increased his scoring recently, and in doing so, increased his field goal percentage. With the shortage of good centers in the NBA, there is not much competition for a guy like Ramos in the D-League, and he scores on opposing centers without much trouble. He really needs to work on passing out of the post when he gets doubled. Ramos clearly has trouble with this concept right now as proven by over 4 turnovers per game. If Ramos shows the commitment to understanding the game better, he will become less foul prone, block more shots, and increase his assists numbers, but improvement in these areas is the only way that Peter Ramos will see meaningful minutes in the NBA this season.

Donta Smith (Arkansas Rimrockers, Atlanta Hawks)

Per game stats: 16 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists

After a slow start to his NBDL career, Donta Smith exploded for 36 points in one outing, and has been very solid since then. Smith contributes by not only scoring, but setting up his teammates as well. To get to the point where he can contribute every day in the NBA, he’ll need to become more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball, and work to become a more potent threat on the perimeter. Smith also seems to sometimes stand around when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, so movement off the ball would be a nice addition to his game.

Pape Sow (Arkansas Rimrockers, Toronto Raptors)

Per game stats: 19.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 52.6% FG, 73.2 % FT

In his last game, Pape Sow had a great stat line as he scored 27 points and pulled down 24 rebounds as he continued to dominate the D League. The improvements he has made to his offensive game and free throw shot have seemed to have stuck with his game, as he has played at a consistent level. Pape did struggle with a hip pointer injury two weeks ago, which limited his effectiveness in one game and kept him out of another. For somebody described as a very good athlete and defender, you have to wonder why his shot-blocking numbers are so low. He appears to be more of a quick athlete than the explosive one he has been described as, and his listed height of 6’10 inches is at least an inch too high. Pape Sow has great versatility on defense, and will be used by the Raptors to guard the 3. Sow could fit in nicely with Chris Bosh and Charlie Villaneuva in the Toronto front court, where he could guard the small forward position on defense and play the power forward or center positions on offense. A Toronto Raptors scout we spoke with indeed mentioned envisioning this type of lineup on the floor sometime in the future. If Sow continues to dominate the D-League, you have to wonder how long it will be before Toronto gives him a shot.

Bracey Wright (Florida Flame, Minnesota Timberwolves)

Per game stats: 21.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 35% FG, 75% FT, 34.2% 3-point

Bracey, a very solid scorer in the D League, has hit a slump from behind the 3-point arc over the past couple weeks, dropping from 39% to around 34%. He also has struggled down the stretch of a couple big games, missing key free throws, something that drives NBA coaches nuts. His scoring ability may translate over to the NBA, but Bracey’s future would be a lot brighter if he were able to log some time at the point guard position. Despite these shortcomings, Wright has played fairly well, and remains one of the more consistent players in the NBDL. If Bracey does continue to play at a solid level for the Flame, he may be given a shot at some point to replace struggling guard Richie Frahm of the Wolves.

Scouting the D-League

In a league like the National Basketball Association’s Developmental League, the goal of all the players is to get a contract with an NBA team. Different players seem to go about this goal different ways, and it can make the D League tough for NBA teams to scout.

A lot of NBDL players seem to think that posting good scoring numbers will lead to a callup to the NBA. This really hurts the overall quality of play for the teams, and the product often looks the same as a high school AAU game, with a lot of one on one play and little thought to the team. So what do NBA scouts look for in the D League? Well according to one NBA scout we spoke to, they look for guys who “play the game the right way.” This statement about playing the right kind of basketball is often thrown around, but what does it mean?

The first thing that will impress a scout is tough defense, something that is a rarity in the NBDL. The players who put in a ton of effort on the defensive side of the floor, and understand good help defense will be the first to be noticed by scouts. Another thing scouts really look for is how many ways the player can contribute to the team. Every player on any level will have an off night scoring, but if a player can contribute in a number of other ways, his impact on the game still contributes to the team. A good way to examine this is to first look at a player’s stats for consistency, and if they are somewhat consistent, look at the season highs in each category. A player who understands how to play the game will have some very nice numbers across the board for season highs.

In tracking the D-League, NBA scouts look at the improvements a player makes more than anything else. By the time a player gets to the NBDL, they have probably been tracked since high school, and people already know what they can do on the court. So scouts always look for a guy who shows the desire to work hard and improve his deficiencies. This concept escapes many D League players who play for one stat (PPG), but for those who understand it, the opportunity awaits to be developed by an NBA team. If you’re an NBA GM looking to add a guy to your bench, a player who plays tough defense, can rebound, and make hustle plays is going to be more valuable than a guy who can come in and score but do nothing else.

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