Inside the D-League

Inside the D-League
Mar 06, 2007, 09:05 pm
Conroy Cut by Clippers

After receiving his second 10 contract of the season, Will Conroy will return to the Tulsa 66ers after being cut by the Los Angeles Clippers. Conroy appeared in 2 games with the Clippers, and had 6 assists in just 17 minutes in a win against Indiana. Rather than retain him, the Clippers acquired Jason Hart who was recently waived by the Sacramento Kings. NBA teams favor experienced players when looking to add a 3rd point guard, and it can make life for somebody close to the NBA like Conroy difficult. It’s clear that he has the talent to play in the NBA, but it creates a challenge for any point guard when forced to learn a new system and teammates in 10 days.

Tucker Breaks D-League Scoring Record with 51 Points

Shooting guard Clay Tucker of the Arkansas Rimrockers broke the D-League scoring record last week when he dropped 51 points in Austin on Saturday. Tucker’s 51 points came on 18/30 from the field, 4/6 from the three point line, and 11/12 from the free throw line. Though his team has struggled, he has been one of the better scorers in the D-League this season at nearly 18 points per game. Tucker broke the previous record held by Billy Thomas, who scored 49 points during the 2002-2003 season.

Richardson Recieves 10 Day with Blazers

Shooting guard Jeremy Richardson of the Fort Worth Flyers has received his second call-up of the season. The Portland Traiblazers have added Richardson, who received two 10 day contracts with the Atlanta Hawks earlier this season. He has yet to appear in a game for the Blazers. Richardson is in his first year out of division 2 college Delta State. He displayed his ability to move off screens and hit jumpers during his time in the D-League. For right now, it appears as if the Blazers may use Richardson just as a practice player, but they could decide to retain him for the rest of the year if they like his upside enough.

3 Players Receive Workout with Nuggets

With J.R. Smith recovering from knee surgery, the Denver Nuggets worked out Von Wafer, Luke Jackson, and Joe Shipp from the D-League. Wafer was recently cut from a 10 day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, while Jackson received a contract with the Clippers earlier this season. Wafer, Jackson, and Shipp are all known for their three point shooting in the D-League, and all could be valuable role players in the Nugget’s system.

Stinson Finds New Home in Fort Worth

Curtis Stinson has been waived by the Dakota Wizards, and acquired by the Fort Worth Flyers from the available player pool. Stinson averaged 11.4 points per game in 12 games with the Wizards. He fill in at shooting guard in Fort Worth, where they just lost Jeremy Richardson to the NBA. Stinson is a rookie out of Iowa State, who will need to develop point guard skills to reach the NBA.

James Lang Back in Arkansas

James Lang was waived by the Washington Wizards last week, and immediately acquired by the Arkansas Rimrockers, where he spent most of last season. The 23 year old center scored 11 points in his D-League season debut, and he will give the Rimrockers a much needed boost in the front court. Lang averaged 1 point and 1 rebound in 11 games with the Washington Wizards this season, before he was cut to make room for Mike Hall.

Tucker Back to 14ers

The Toronto Raptors have re-assigned P.J Tucker to the Colorado 14ers. The rookie out of Texas appeared in 14 games with Colorado earlier this season, and averaged 10.3 points and 3.2 rebounds in 24 minutes per game. Tucker will need to continue improving his shooting range, as well as his positioning on defense.

NBA Player Updates

Will Blalock, Sioux Falls Skyforce/Detroit Pistons
7.0 ppg, 8.0 apg, 4.0 rpg

Blalock has done a good job distributing the basketball, and creating plays for others since being assigned to the Skyforce. The biggest the thing he will need to work on is shooting the ball, particularly from 3 point range. If he can become passable in this area, Blalock should certainly have a future in the NBA as a third point guard. He was outplayed by Pooh Jeter in his last game, but he has kept his turnover numbers surprisingly low.

Mile Ilic, Colorado 14ers, New Jersey Nets
3.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.33 bpg

Ilic seems rusty at this point, and it will take a good 5 games minimum for him to adjust to playing again. He appears to be semi-skilled on the offensive end, but this hasn’t translated to the game all that well yet. Ilic will need to become stronger and improve his body, and this will help him in the post, as he doesn’t fight for position well at this point in time. This also holds true on the glass, as Ilic gets most of his rebounds in the D-League simply because he stands taller than anyone else. For a player like Ilic, he has to adjust to a different style of play in addition to shaking off the rust from sitting on the bench. He won’t be ready to play in the NBA for some time now, and his time in the D-League could be well spent if the Nets leave him in Colorado long enough.

Amir Johnson, Sioux Falls Skyforce/Detroit Pistons
18.4 pgg, 8.4 rpg, 3.2 bpg

Johnson has excelled in the D-League this season, and won D-League Player of the Week honors for his play last week. Due to his high level of athleticism and strong body, Johnson gets a lot of his points inside, where opposing players can’t match what he brings to the court physically. Johnson has started to display the ability to knock down the mid-range jumper, and his back to the basket game is slowly improving. At the of 19, Johnson’s upside as a prospect remains very high, and the time he has spent in the D-League has clearly benefited him. He could potentially be a hustle type player for the Pistons within the next two years, but he has the potential to be a starter in the NBA down the road if he can polish his skills. Defensively, Johnson does need to work on being more physical, and he needs to use his body to rebound rather than relying on his natural leaping ability.

Alexander Johnson, Arkansas Rimrockers/Memphis Grizzlies
11.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg

Johnson played well in limited minutes for the Grizzlies earlier this season, and time in the D-League should only help him gain confidence. An athletic big man, Johnson can work on further developing his low post game. He does have the ability to step out and knock down the mid-range jumper with ease, and his rebounding fundamentals are very solid at this point. Johnson knows how to play the physical game, and he should be a force for the Rimrockers if he plays with good effort. Though he doesn’t have the upside of Amir Johnson, Alexander should be a good rotation big man in the NBA for a long time.

Damir Markota, Tulsa 66ers/Milwaukee Bucks
8.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.2 apg

Like Ilic, Markota is faced with the challenge of learning to play a new type of game in addition to adjusting to receiving playing time again. At this point in time, he seems to lack confidence in his shot even though he was known as a good three point shooter overseas. In the flow of the game Markota has passed up numerous open looks that his teammates encourage him to take, and instead tries to create jumpers off the dribble. He looks to be comfortable facing the basket on the offensive end, but he will need to work on playing within the flow of the game. At this point, Markota looks to be a long term project, and he could benefit from a couple seasons in the D-League.

Allan Ray, Austin Toros/Boston Celtics
14.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.0 apg

Ray lacks the ideal size for an NBA shooting guard, but this weakness doesn’t hurt him at all in the D-League. He has scored the bulk of his points at this point in time going to the hoop thus far, though his jumper has been falling as well. As a 4 year college player, Ray knows how to play through his limitations, and the D-League will be a place where he should score at a very high level. If he can become more consistent with his scoring ability, and improve his ball handling, Ray will have maximized his D-League experience.

Marcus Vinicius, Tulsa 66ers/New Orleans Hornets
9.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.0 apg

Vinicius has a very nice shooting stroke at this point in time. He has a high release and can shoot the ball off the dribble, though his release is kind of slow. Off the dribble, he has displayed the capability to score going to the hoop in the D-League. Vinicius can dribble with either hand, and finishes smoothly inside. His biggest weakness in terms of playing in the NBA will boil down to physical limitations, but he could turn into a nice shooting specialist type. He has a very nice feel for the game, and displayed the ability to make some nice passes. It will be interesting to see if he can translate this skills he has displayed in the D-League to the NBA.

Team Updates

Idaho Stampede, 25-11

Idaho won their only game last week against the Anaheim Arsenal thanks to 15 points and 20 assists from Randy Livingston. Luke Jackson and Ricky Sanchez also came up big for the Stampede. Idaho has adjusted to the loss of Peter Ramos well, and they have a deep group of players at the 1-4 positions. They have won their last 4 games, and 8 of 10 thanks to all-around team play.

This week Idaho plays in Dakota on Wednesday, before making the trip to Albuquerque for a Sunday game.

Colorado 14ers, 24-14

Colorado went 4-0 last week, with wins over Dakota, Austin, Fort Worth, and Sioux Falls. They won all of these games without shooting guard Von Wafer, who has just re-joined the team. Pooh Jeter had 13 assists in the win over Dakota, but his impact on the court goes far beyond the numbers. He makes his teammates better on the court, and does a great job of controlling the tempo of the game. The 14ers have also been helped by Louis Amundson, who recently came back from the Utah Jazz. Most players coming back from the NBA struggle their first couple games back, but Amundson stepped in and played like he had never left. He has averaged 13.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game since returning from Utah. Elton Brown has also been steady for the 14ers lately, and Mike Harris has contributed as well.

This week Colorado will host games Friday and Saturday night against the L.A. D-Fenders.

Dakota Wizards, 20-13

Dakota lost to Colorado and Sioux Falls last week, before bouncing back for a win over Bakersfield. Renaldo Major has remained a steady presence for the Wizards on both ends of the floor, despite the fact that there have been many scorers added to their backcourt. Rod Benson has 4 double doubles in his past 5 games, and led the D-League in rebounding for the month of February at 9.9 per game. James Maye has left the team after struggling recently. Maye was one of Dakota's top scorers throughout the year, but his role had been reduced recently with the addition of Corey Williams and Chris McCray. To bolster their front court, Dakota recently acquired Darius Rice from the available player pool.

This week Dakota hosts Idaho Wednesday before traveling to Arkansas for Friday game.

Fort Worth Flyers, 20-14

Last week the Flyers lost to Sioux Falls and Colorado before bouncing back for a victory against Tulsa. They have struggled to find a go-to scorer since Pops Mensah-Bonsu returned to the NBA, and Jeremy Richardson received his third 10 day contract of the season. Kevin Burleson has stepped his game up recently, but he seems more comfortable distributing the ball than being the primary scorer. Luke Schenscher has played well recently, but he dislocated his finger against Colorado. They were able to pop it back into place right away, and he won’t miss any time because of it. The acquisition of Curtis Stinson will give them another scorer, and they should be back in the mix if Richardson returns before the end of the season.

Fort Worth will look to come together as a team in practice this week, as they don’t have any games until next week.

Sioux Falls Skyforce, 20-16

Sioux Falls went 3-1 last week, with wins over Fort Worth, Dakota, and Bakersfield, and a loss to Colorado. They have been helped greatly up front by Amir Johnson of the Detroit Pistons, who has been their stop gap since losing Jared Reiner to the Bucks. Stephen Graham has emerged as a top scoring option for the Skyforce, and he’s not averaging 17.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. Frank Williams has also played well lately, and his three point shot continues to fall with consistency. Robert Hite has struggled with consistency in the D-League, and it will be important for him to become a consistent scoring threat for Sioux Falls.

This week Sioux Falls plays Thursday and Friday games in Albuquerque, before traveling to Bakersfield for a Sunday game.

Los Angeles D-Fenders, 19-17

Last week L.A. beat Anaheim, but struggled in a loss against Albuquerque. Wesley Wilson has started to play well for the D-Fenders up front, which will be important as they try to make a run towards the post season. Brian Chase has been a lot more consistent lately, and scored 22 points per game last week. Andre Emmett has been a steady presence, but they will need a better effort from Sean Banks, who has struggled from the field recently. It would still benefit the D-Fenders if they could add a strong big man in free agency, but they have set themselves up to make a playoff push.

This week Los Angeles plays in Tulsa on Wednesday, before traveling to Colorado for Friday and Saturday games.

Albuquerque Thunderbirds, 18-18

The Thunderbirds are currently the hottest team in the D-League, as they have won their past 7 games. Last week they won games against both Arkansas and Los Angeles. Dijon Thompson and Joe Shipp have lead the Thunderbirds recently, and they have been helped greatly by Andreas Glynaidaks at center. At this point in time, they have as much balance on their roster as any team in the D-League. Coach Cooper has placed himself in a good position to win a second D-League championship if he can keep this group of players together.

This week Albuquerque hosts Sioux Falls on Thursday and Friday, before playing a home game against Idaho on Sunday.

Anaheim Arsenal, 17-22

Anaheim beat Arkansas last week, but lost to Los Angeles and Idaho. Andre Owens, Jawad Williams, and Majic Dorsey have all stepped up as top scorers for the Arsenal lately. Stephen Smith has played well for Anaheim as well, but sometimes struggles from the field. The biggest problem for the Arsenal at this point in time is their lack of depth, and a low scoring big man. They would benefit greatly from another guard off the bench, and a big man who can put the ball in consistently from inside of 10 feet.

This week, Anaheim plays their only game on Saturday in Bakersfield.

Austin Toros, 15-19

Last week Austin lost both of their games to Colorado and Arkansas. BJ Elder played well against Colorado, but scored only 2 points against Arkansas. Jamar Smith struggled against the Rimrockers, though he has been playing a lot better as of late. The Toros should benefit from the presence of Allan Ray, who was assigned by the Celtics. Ray might take some time from BJ Elder, but his scoring ability will give the team a boost that they have sometimes lacked at times this season.

This week, Austin plays their only game Friday in Tulsa.

Tulsa 66ers, 14-21

Last week Tulsa lost their only game to Fort Worth. They struggled because Will Conroy was with the Clippers, and they didn’t have a single true point guard on the roster. Alan Anderson started at the point for Tulsa, and ran the team well, but they were unable to overcome poor shooting from the field. Des Farmer struggled with his shot from behind the three point line, but he had some very creative finishes going to the hoop. Dehnam Brown displayed his shooting ability, but struggled with his slashing game. The 66ers will be greatly helped by the return of Conroy, but they still would benefit from the addition of another point guard.

This week Tulsa will try to get back on track with 3 home games. They host Los Angeles on Wednesday, Austin Friday, and Arkansas on Saturday.

Bakersfield Jam, 13-25

Despite their poor record, the Jam have been much more competitive lately. They lost close games to Idaho and Sioux Falls last week, before getting blown out by Dakota. Tamar Slay has played very well for the Jam as of late, and has averaged 17.6 points per game over his past 8 games. Mateen Cleaves has also emerged as the top point guard on the team, and has averaged 17.1 points and 7.6 assists per game on the season. Kevinn Pinkney has also continued his strong play, though he remains one of the few scoring options for the Jam up front. Quyntel Woods has struggled to get into the flow of things since joining the D-League, but could potentially turn into a solid contributor.

This week Bakersfield hosts Anaheim on Saturday and Sioux Falls on Sunday.

Arkansas Rimrockers, 11-26

Arkansas lost to Anaheim last week, but beat Austin thanks to a 51 point outburst by shooting guard Clay Tucker. In addition to Tucker, Roger Powell has been one of the better players in the entire league over the past month and a half. Arkansas had struggled to get scoring from the power forward and center positions, but that problem is now solved with the acquisition of James Lang and Alexander Johnson. They really have a chance to string some wins together if the new players can build chemistry quickly.

This week, Arkansas hosts Dakota on Friday before traveling to Tulsa for a Saturday game.

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