Inside the D-League: Bobby Jones Added to the Rockets

Inside the D-League: Bobby Jones Added to the Rockets
Feb 26, 2008, 02:02 am
Jones Officially Added to Rockets

Second year small forward Bobby Jones flew to Houston today to officially join the Rockets. He becomes the 15th call-up of the current D-League season, and the fourth to join an NBA team as a direct result of trade deadline movement. The 37th pick in the 2006 NBA draft, Jones spent a handful of games on assignment in the D-League his rookie season. He was traded to Denver in the 2007 offseason, and also spent time with the Memphis Grizzlies after the Nuggets released him. After signing a D-League contract, Jones joined the Sioux Falls Skyforce, where he only played 2 games, averaging 8.0 points and 3.5 rebounds. The former Washington Husky became known primarily for his defensive ability, but must continue to work on his overall offensive game and outside shooting stroke specifically to stick in the NBA for the long term.

Nichols Re-Assigned to Iowa

Rookie forward Demetris Nichols has been assigned to a second stint with the Iowa Energy. Originally drafted by the New York Knicks, Nichols spent time with the Cleveland Cavaliers before signing with the Chicago Bulls as a free agent. He’ll fill a much needed void on the Energy at the small forward spot after the departure of Dwayne Mitchell to Europe. Nichols also joins his college teammate Darryl Watkins, who he spent 4 years with at Syracuse. During his first D-League stint, the rookie showed off a nice shooting stroke from long range, but seemed too set on trying to prove he could drive to the basket. Nichols will need to focus on improving his perimeter defense and continuing to shoot the ball in rhythm.

Sims Joins the Energy, Mitchell to Germany

The Iowa Energy have added rookie center Courtney Sims from the available player pool. A former Michigan Wolverine, Sims will join fellow rookie Darryl Watkins as well as Doug Thomas in the Energy frontcourt. Iowa had struggled with front court depth since Anthony Tolliver departed for Europe. Sims averaged 11.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game his senior season, before going undrafted in 2007. He then joined the Indiana Pacers, where he appeared in three games this season, but failed to garner a guaranteed contract.

Dwayne Mitchell has left the Energy for Bamberg in Germany, who paid $30,000 to buy him out of his D-League contract. Mitchell averaged 20 points and 6 rebounds per game this season and was selected to the D-League All-Star Game just a few weeks ago. Turnovers plagued the talented and extremely athletic guard during his time in Iowa, and he struggled to shoot the ball consistently enough to receive a call-up to the NBA.

Kasib Powell Named Player of the Week

Sioux Falls Skyforce small forward Kasib Powell has been named the D-League performer of the week after averaging 27 points per game in a pair of wins. The 26 year-old forward has established himself as one of the top two-way players in the D-League this season, locking down many opposing wings defensively, while showing a number of scoring tools on the other end of the floor. Powell has always been criticized for his poor perimeter shooting, but has improved his percentage to 39% on the season after a recent streak of hot shooting. When looking at what he brings to the floor, he should receive a look from an NBA team at some point. His mid-range scoring may not translate to the NBA, but his improved perimeter shooting will help his cause on the offensive end, as will his overall versatility on both ends of the floor.

Cleaves to Re-Join Bakersfield, Barrett Traded for Reed

Point guard Mateen Cleaves joined the Bakersfield Jam today, and Andre Barrett was traded to the Austin Toros to make room for him on the roster. The veteran guard played with the New Jersey Nets in training camp and Panionios in Greece until he was released in January. Bakersfield has his rights from last season, where he played from January until the end of the season. At the age of 30, Cleaves brings his seven years of NBA experience back to Bakersfield. To make room for him, head coach Scott Roth has shipped Andre Barrett to Austin for forward Justin Reed, who had been on the trading block for a couple weeks. Barrett will provide an immediate boost to Austin’s offense, and Reed will look to bring some toughness to a struggling Bakersfield squad. As a result of these transactions, Bakersfield has used all eight of their moves for the season, meaning they will have the same roster for the rest of the year.

NBA Player Updates

Morris Almond, Utah Jazz/Utah Flash
26.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.5 apg

Almond has continued to show impressive scoring tools, and his ability to get to the free throw line has improved since he was assigned to the Flash. He shows NBA range on his jumper, and can score from mid-range very effectively as well. There is still room for the rookie to improve defensively, and his passing needs some work as well, though his assists have increased to 2.5 per game over the past three games. It is clear that Almond possesses tools that most players in the D-League dream of having. For the rest of the season, he just needs to maintain his shooting rhythm and hope the Jazz give him a chance to prove himself at the next level.

Kyrylo Fesenko, Utah Jazz/Utah Flash
9.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

‘Fes’ needs to improve his conditioning over the next couple of months to stay on the court rather than only playing around 25 minutes per game. The rookie looks to be a good fit for the Jazz offense in the future, particularly with his ability to find the open man out of the high post. It would help him to further improve his low post moves, though he does show good aggressiveness inside. Defensively, foul trouble can be a problem for Fesenko at times, but he shows the ability to be a good shot-blocker. Considering the rookie’s age (21), he should be a very valuable player for the Jazz in the future, as long as he continues to work on his physical conditioning.

Ian Mahinmi, San Antonio Spurs/Austin Toros
17.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.5 bpg

Mahinmi struggled with his scoring for about 5 games, but bounced back in his last game against Dakota by scoring 30 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking 7 shots. Foul trouble was a big problem for the rookie entering the season, and it still plagues him at times. When on the court, he shows excellent footwork on the low block, and improving touch with his right handed hook. Mahinmi also looks comfortable stepping out and hitting a jumper at times, though his future in the NBA lies in the paint. Few young big men in the NBA have the tools of Mahinmi, and the playing time in the D-League has helped greatly with his comfort level on the court. He could crack the Spurs rotation as soon as next season, and he will start in the NBA some day if he remains on his current developmental track.

David Noel, Milwaukee Bucks/Tulsa 66ers 19.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 apg

The 66ers have won 8 of 12 games since the assignment of Noel, and the wins directly relate to the way he has played. The second year swingman currently has a three point percentage of 45% on a high volume of attempts from the field. Also surprising are the nearly 4 assists per game for Noel, who seems to have improved his feel for the game since college. To improve his chances of playing rotation minutes in the NBA, the former Tar Heel must focus on taking better advantage of his physical tools going to the basket. Considering his athleticism, Noel should be shooting a higher number of free throws. Defense could also be an area of focus for the guard.

Cheikh Samb, Detroit Pistons/Fort Wayne Mad Ants 10.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.7 bpg

Samb has excellent length and will be a valuable shot-blocker in the NBA someday, also due to a quick vertical leap. Offensively, the Senegal native appears comfortable shooting a spot-up jumper out to 20 feet, but needs to improve his arsenal with his back to the basket. When Samb was drafted, it was said that his body needed a great deal of work to become NBA ready. His body has improved since that time, but added core strength would help his chances of making an impact at the NBA level. The rookie could benefit from another year in the D-League, but his size and shot-blocking ability should make him a part of the Piston rotation someday.

Mouhamed Sene, Seattle SuperSonics/Idaho Stampede 12.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg

Though he has some nice tools to work with, Sene really hasn’t developed much over the course of the current D-League season. The right handed hook remains his only weapon on the offensive end, though it looks like he could develop a mid-range jumper with some hard work. Defensively, he shows the tools to become a reliable shot-blocker, but his timing remains poor and his effort isn’t always consistent. If Sene displayed the proper focus, he has the tools to become a very good rotation big and potentially a defensive-minded starter in the NBA. Without the proper effort, it’s hard to see his NBA career lasting beyond a few more seasons.

D-League Team Updates

Idaho Stampede, 25-8

Idaho split a pair of games with Anaheim over the weekend after beating Iowa in their first game after the all-star break. Mike Taylor has paced the Stampede with his scoring lately, and increased his average to 15 points per game on the season. To improve his NBA chances, the rookie guard needs to cut down on turnovers. Randy Livingston’s steady play has been invaluable to Coach Gates’ squad the past two seasons, and they will have a great shot at the D-League title as long as the veteran remains with the team. Lance Allred remains an elite center for this league, and should gain a chance at an NBA call-up if he continues to play at this level. The center has averages of 16.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game on the season.
Idaho plays their only game this week on the road Thursday against the D-Fenders.

Los Angeles D-Fenders, 21-10

The D-Fenders lost their first game out of the all-star break to Rio Grande Valley, but bounced back for a victory over a very good Tulsa squad. The Lakers assigned Coby Karl to play in the minor leagues anticipating the loss of Brian Chase to Turkey, but the deal fell through overseas and he has remained with the D-Fenders for the time being. Cecil Brown’s production has remained high since the departure of Devin Green from the team, and he’s shooting 48% from behind the three point line this season. Sean Banks has stepped up his scoring lately, averaging 26.8 points per game in 6 February games including a 42 point outing against the Idaho Stampede.
The D-Fenders host Idaho in an important division game Thursday after another game against Anaheim on Tuesday.

Austin Toros, 21-11

The Toros have a 1.5 game lead over the surging Colorado 14ers, and made a key move to improve their team today, netting elite point guard Andre Barrett in exchange for struggling forward Justin Reed. Barrett will fit perfectly next to guard Keith Langford, who should receive another NBA look at some point this season. Marcus Williams has played more consistently as of late, and now has averages of 16.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this season. DerMarr Johnson has continued to score the ball at a high rate as well.
The Toros host Fort Wayne on Friday and Anaheim on Saturday night.

Colorado 14ers, 20-13

The 14ers have the longest running winning streak in the D-league, despite the loss of Kaniel Dickens and Billy Thomas to the NBA. Elton Brown’s inside play has been huge as of late, and his averages of 20.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game have caught the eye of some NBA scouts. It would be surprising if he didn’t receive an NBA look at some point between now and the end of the year. Justin Cage has emerged as a more important cog in the Colorado offense, and his defense remains elite for a wing player in this league. Cage has a field goal percentage of 59.6%, but his three point shooting needs a lot of work. Brian Greene is starting to get healthy, and has been a key part of the Colorado offense with his shooting throughout the win streak.
Colorado plays at Albuquerque Friday night and hosts Tulsa on Saturday.

Dakota Wizards, 19-15

Dakota has dropped 7 of their last 10 games and their division lead has dropped to just half a game over Sioux Falls. The loss of Maurice Baker to Europe has hurt the team, despite the emergence of Blake Ahearn. The best pure shooter in the D-League, Ahearn has averaged over 27 points per game in the month of February. Carlos Powell remains one of the top players in the league, and led his team to a road victory over Iowa with a triple double of 25 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. Powell has displayed surprising passing ability lately and looks prepared to stick it out until he receives a call-up. Kevin Lyde has struggled since early in the season, and his presence inside would really help Dakota get back on track.
The Wizards host Sioux Falls in an important Wednesday game before playing Bakersfield on Sunday.

Tulsa 66ers, 18-15

Tulsa dropped a game to Utah last week, before bouncing back for a blowout victory over Bakersfield. They have a great chance to grab a playoff spot before the end of the season, but they need consistent play from their frontcourt to maintain their current position. Mike Hall struggled at the start of the season but has emerged as one of the elite small forwards in the D-League recently. His three point percentage is now creeping into the high 30s, and he also shows good activity on the defensive end. Adam Harrington’s shooting has also been a big factor for Tulsa, and his three point shooting percentage has remained around 50% throughout the season. Improved play from Scott Merritt would be huge for the 66ers down the stretch.

Tulsa plays at Albuquerque Thursday night before traveling to Colorado for a Saturday contest.

Sioux Falls Skyforce, 19-16

Sioux Falls has the second longest active winning streak at 4 games, thanks in part to the play of forward Kasib Powell. Up front, Chris Alexander has established himself as one of the top rebounders in the league. The 7-footer needs to improve his body and explosion to have a shot at the NBA, but his size is a big factor for Sioux Falls. 5’9” scoring guard Elton Nesbitt has played very well lately, and currently averages 15.9 points per game on the season while shooting 40% from three. Michael Joiner’s ability to space the floor also compliments the slashing ability of many of his teammates.
Sioux Falls plays Wednesday night in Bismarck against the Wizards before hosting Bakersfield on Saturday.

Utah Flash, 17-17

The Flash have struggled lately, dropping 6 of their last 10 games and most recently losing a road game in Fort Wayne. Kevin Kruger has struggled with his long range shot as of late, though he continues to run the team fairly well. The long season is starting to catch up to James Lang, who needs to work on his conditioning. Lang still scores with consistency, but his rebounding numbers have dropped off and he runs the court very poorly. Curtis Stinson can score the ball very effectively at times, but his turnovers have hurt the team as well. With Morris Almond on board, the Flash still have a chance to make a push to the playoffs between now and April.
Utah plays at home Friday against Anaheim in their only game this week.

Iowa Energy, 15-19

The Energy looked like they could get back into the division race, but they dropped a pair of key divisional home games to Sioux Falls and Dakota. The losses were sandwiched around a key road win at Austin, and now they have a tough month of March with 9 of 11 games on the road. Mike Efevberha has played well in the absence of Dwayne Mitchell and scored 41 points in the win in Austin. Jeff Horner also played well in that game, finish with 19 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds, and 8 steals. Darryl Watkins has as much potential as any center in the league, but needs to work on staying out of foul trouble while trying to block shots.
Iowa gets a few days of rest before traveling out west to take on Albuquerque Sunday.

Albuquerque Thunderbirds, 13-18

Albuquerque has lost 6 of their last 10 games, most recently splitting a pair of games against Rio Grande Valley at home. Josh Gross has remained a steady scorer for Albuquerque after not doing much of anything in the D-League over the past couple seasons. He is averaging 15.2 points per game while shooting 42% from behind the three point line. The Thunderbirds will miss point guard Daniel Horton (departed for France) who was shooting the ball quite well this season. The veteran presence of Darvin Ham also helps the team, but it appears unlikely that Albuquerque will put a playoff run together between now and the end of the season.
The Thunderbirds host Thursday and Friday games against Tulsa and Colorado respectively before playing a Sunday home game against Iowa.

Anaheim Arsenal, 13-19

The Arsenal have played much better after their last couple of player personnel moves, and are now just 6 games below .500. Mo Charlo has played quite well since he was acquired from Colorado, averaging 12.4 points per game. Ivan Johnson’s strong inside play on the offensive end has also been a key factor for the Arsenal. Johnson needs to improve defensively, but his skills will get him a look from an NBA team this summer. Will Blalock remains inconsistent but has distributed the ball more efficiently as of late. Inside, Marcus Campbell’s size has provided Anaheim with something they lacked throughout last year.
Anaheim plays Tuesday night in Los Angeles before traveling to Austin for a Saturday game.

Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 12-19

Fort Wayne put a pair of wins together over Utah and Bakersfield, but they have still dropped 7 out of 10. Earl Calloway can score the ball as well as any point guard in the D-League, and should receive some high level interest from Europe next season. The rookie currently averages 17.1 points and 5.4 assists per game on the season. Corey Minnifield can shoot the ball very effectively, and currently averages 16.6 points per game. At the age of 26, he must mature mentally and work on improving his body language on the court. Fort Wayne now has the first pick in the waiver pool until March 1st when the order of teams will reset based on record. It would take a long winning streak for the Mad Ants to make the playoffs, but they can start to develop players for next season.
Fort Wayne plays in Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday and in Austin Friday night. They head back home Sunday for a game against Sioux Falls.

Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 13-23

The Vipers have endured a pair of long winning streaks this season, but they defeated Los Angeles recently and split a pair of games with Albuquerque. Trent Strickland has quietly had an impressive season, averaging 13.7 points per game. Desmon Farmer’s play has been streaky but he brings a consistent effort defensively and can shoot the ball with accuracy at times. The biggest problem for the Vipers has been finding a point guard to replace C.J. Watson. Quannas White has struggled in the lead guard role, and the Vipers will certainly look to the player pool to try and finally replace Watson.
The Vipers host Fort Wayne on Tuesday in their only game this week.

Bakersfield Jam, 6-29

Bakersfield has dropped their past 5 games and made a couple moves today to try and get things back on track. Replacing Andre Barrett with Mateen Cleaves probably doesn’t help them all that much, and they cut a fairly decent forward in James Peters because he was reportedly not on the same page as head coach Scott Roth. Michael Cuffee remains a bright spot for Bakersfield. The talented guard struggles with consistency and outside shooting, but has an NBA body and will certainly have a chance to be an NBA player with another year in this league. Justin Reed’s defense should be valuable, but he has really struggled offensive this season and seems to lack confidence. The Jam are out of the playoff race, and it will likely take Cleaves and Reed some time to build chemistry with their new teammates.
Bakersfield heads to the Dakotas this weekend for a Saturday game in Sioux Falls and a Sunday contest in Bismarck.

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