NBA D-League Showcase, Day Three

NBA D-League Showcase, Day Three
Jan 17, 2008, 12:29 pm
Ian Mahinmi, 27 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, 11/14FG

Mike Schmidt

In a league devoid of great big men, Mahinmi stood out in a big way today for the Austin Toros. The 21 year-old not only has the perfect body to play in the NBA, but showed off a number of skills that should make him a valuable big for the next 12 years.

Mahinmi has everything it takes physically to play in the NBA, from his strong frame and long arms to his excellent vertical leaping ability. On the low block, the rookie can score using a right handed jump hook with consistency, and he also looked comfortable knocking down the open 12 footer. He has made much progress with his footwork since joining Austin as he displayed on a post move late in the fourth quarter. The big man faked to his right shoulder towards the basket and took a quick drop-step to his left should which gave him plenty of space to complete the play.

There are a few areas Mahinmi needs to work on before he can be called a rotation player in the NBA. He must become a better rebounder, and rely less on his physical tools in this area. The rookie has the leaping ability and length to become a very good NBA rebounder, but is not near physical enough when it comes to boxing out and fighting for boards. Mahinmi’s length and leaping ability allow him to change a lot of shots, but he must learn proper help defense rotations to be effective in this area. With his offensive game and physical tools, Mahinmi looks to be a lock to become at least a decent player in the NBA.

Justin Reed, 6’8”, Power Forward, Austin Toros
10 points, 2-11, 7 rebounds

Richard Walker

Justin was a 2nd round pick, 40th overall, by the Boston Celtics in the 2004 draft. He was subsequently traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and eventually the Houston Rockets who waived him freeing him up to join the Austin Toros in the D-League.

Reed has a good base and strong upper body which allows him to get and maintain position well on defense. He moves well laterally and rotates quickly to help teammates. On one play he got caught and trapped after dribbling across the half court line and threw the ball away only to run back hard in transition and block the layup attempt. It’s a small thing, but it demonstrates the effort that he plays with night in and night out.

Offensively he can bang inside, but he struggled tonight missing several easy buckets around the rim, and shot only 2 of 11 for the game. He again used his upper body strength to absorb contact and still manage to get the ball towards the rim. Strength does not equate to athleticism, however, and Reed doesn’t quite get up as much as you would expect. He got blocked repeatedly by Chris Alexander and once was badly stuffed by Kasib Powell. He doesn’t always go up as strongly as he should and in the second half did a much better job of being aggressive on his way to the hole.

Justin Reed is an intriguing roleplayer in the NBA because of his strength, lock down defense, and work ethic. However, he needs to work on being more offensively consistent if teams are going to think about bringing him back into the league.

Mike Hall, 6-8, SF/PF, Tulsa 66ers
20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, 6-10 FG, 1-3 3P, 7-9 FT

Jonathan Givony

The best player on the floor today in the Tulsa-Albuquerque game was clearly their combo forward Mike Hall. He ran the floor, knocked down shots, got out in transition, hit the glass, passed the ball, and put in an extraordinary amount of effort.

Hall is a unique player. He’s an average athlete, but is extremely smart and versatile to compensate for that. He can knock down shots with range out to the 3-point line, is a solid rebounder, understands the game extremely well, and really knows how to maximize himself to his team’s benefit. He can go into the post a bit and do some work with his back to the basket (usually in the form of simple step-throughs and turnaround jumpers), but is somewhat limited with his ball-handling skills, not possessing the first step to blow by players. He knows his weaknesses, though, and doesn’t try to force the issue too much (somewhat relative considering the chaos we often find here), which is a testament to his basketball IQ.

Hall already got a callup last year from the Wizards, mostly because of the reasons outlined above. He’s not having as good a season as he did last year so far, but today was a nice step in the right direction for him. If things don’t work out for the NBA, he should be able to make a very nice living playing overseas. Several European teams indicated to us that they love the way he plays.

DerMarr Johnson, 6-9, Forward, Austin Toros
8 points, 7 rebounds (1 offensive), 3-11 FG, 1-4 3PTFG 1-2 FT, 2 steals, 23 minutes

Jim Hlavac

DerMarr Johnson has had a nice season thus far for the Austin Toros averaging 17 points on 45% shooting and 40% from the 3-point line, but it was not evident today. Johnson struggled today for the Austin Toros, hitting just 3 of 11 shots in 23 minutes off the bench. He was only 1-for-4 from the 3-point line but was equally inefficient inside as he blew a layup early in the game. He made a couple of nice passes, but then would counter that with a couple of bad turnovers including a lazy lob pass and a badly forced entry pass. Johnson did rebound the ball well, grabbing 7 boards in only 23 minutes of action.

On the defensive side, Johnson came up with a couple of steals by anticipating the pass and filling the passing lanes. He also showed some active hands as he deflected a couple of balls as well. While his instincts and defensive positioning were good, his movement was not as good - he was beaten off the dribble and showed poor lateral movement. With his NBA experience, he could remain a call-up candidate, but character questions from the past could keep him in the D-League the rest of the season.

Carlos Powell, 6-7, Small Forward, Dakota Wizards
First Game:24 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, 5 steals, 8-17 FG, 1-3 3P, 7-8 FT, 38 minutes
Second Game:

Jonathan Givony

If Carlos Powell made it a point these last few days to prove that he’s a go-to guy at this level, then he surely did a good job of that. Powell was incredibly aggressive every time he touched the ball, taking the ball strong to the basket time after time and showing outstanding scoring instincts putting the ball in the hoop in a variety of ways. He posted up, hit pull-up jumpers, turnarounds, spot-up mid-range jumpers, runners, floaters and simple layups at the rim, as well as a lone NBA 3-pointer. He’s got an excellent first step, the ability to score with either hand, is extremely tough and physical, and really has outstanding instincts.

The downside to this was that his team’s ball-movement seemed to stop too often when the ball got to him. He’s a guy that needs the ball in his hands to be effective, as he’s not a great 3-point shooter and doesn’t get many points moving off the ball. He looks wild and completely out of control all the time seemingly, displaying poor shot selection and very little recognition for what the defense is giving him. He’s also not much of a passer as you can probably imagine, lowering his head and bulldozing his way to the basket showing little to no court vision.

Defensively, he came up with some steals, but wasn’t incredibly impressive in this area either, as his lateral quickness appears to be just average, even if his activity level can sometimes be high. His awareness if pretty poor, and he has a tendency to gamble too much looking to get his team in transition. If a team is looking for a sparkplug to bring off the bench for a lot of energy and scoring, Powell could be a solid option. Some might be looking for him to show off more of an all-around game, though.

Rod Benson, 9 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block

Mike Schmidt

The league’s leading rebounder had another strong showing here on Wednesday, and has clearly established himself as one of the better upside guys in the league. He grabbed his 12 rebounds in just 30 minutes of playing time today, and played a very team oriented game overall. Benson didn’t force anything on the offense end, and seemed quite content with grabbing rebounds, rotating on defense, and setting picks on the offensive end.

The second year big man shows the ability to get up and down the floor like a guard, and has solid leaping ability as well. His long arms allow him to rebound the ball effectively, and he positions himself well whenever a shot goes up. Offensively, he appears comfortable catching the ball and finishing, and he has solid footwork on the low block. To improve in this area, Benson must focus on becoming a more effective spot-up shooter and finishing with better touch inside against contact.

At the age of 23, Benson has the upside to evolve into an NBA-caliber big man. His rebounding ability is a unique asset in this league, and the fact that he is content with being a role player helps him as well.

Nick Fazekas, 6-10, Forward, Tulsa 66ers (Dallas Mavericks Assignee)
17 points, 12 rebounds (3 offensive), 8-18 FG, 1-2 FT, 33 minutes

Jim Hlavac

. Nick Fazekas had a typical game for him today with 17 points and 12 rebounds. The game didn’t start off well for Fazekas as he was just 2-for-8 in the first half, but he picked up the production in the second half going 6-for-10 from the field. The majority of his points were scored on mid-range jumpers with a couple of nice short jumpers off the dribble thrown in for good measure. He probably should’ve looked for his shot more often as he was defended by Kevin Pittsnogle for a good portion of the game. His offensive game has changed little since his collegiate days as he is still too weak to go inside and has yet to develop three point range. Though he doesn’t bang inside, he has good instincts and strong hands allowing him to grab quite a few rebounds.

Defensively, Fazekas is a definite liability due to his lack of foot-speed. Kevin Pittsnogle, who is even slower than Fazekas, went for 21 points against him on 8-for-12 shooting. Knowing that Pittsnogle doesn’t put the ball on the ground, Fazekas should have been able to contain him better.

Fazekas will need to improve his 3-point shooting and strength if he wants to be able to contribute at the NBA level.

Ramon Sessions, 6’3”, Point Guard, Tulsa 66ers
15 points, 5 of 14 shooting, 9 rebounds, 10 assists

Richard Walker

Sessions almost notched a triple-double today despite a disastrous 1 of 7 first half, but finished strong and lead his team to a 94-79 victory over the Albuquerque Thunderbirds.

Ramon dribbles effectively with both hands and can go either direction. Combine that with his quickness and you have a player who can get to the rim on just about any possession. In the fourth quarter he dribbled right into the paint and then did a quick change of direction and actually crossed a guy over and layed it in only a few feet from the basket – not an easy feat. He does a good job of setting up his teammates and threw a pretty no-look pass to Nick Fazekas in transition that just barely got tipped or would have lead to an easy basket.

Defensively he does a good job keeping his hands up and chasing his man around. He rotates well and was excellent when it came to cutting his man off from driving and funneling him towards the bigs, showing that his quickness translates well to lateral movement as well.

Ramon Sessions is currently on assignment from the Milwaukee Bucks and is certainly capable of competing with Royal Ivey for the third point guard spot in the rotation.

Glen McGowan, 6’9”, Power Forward, Tulsa 66ers
20 points, 7 of 12, 6 rebounds

Richard Walker

Glen McGowan is a freak athlete. Despite a nagging knee injury, McGowan gets up quickly and he plays hard and aggressively, which showed up in several thunderous dunks today.

The knee injury seems to have limited his ability to create off the dribble. He really only made two legitimate moves, one of which was a light crossover on the baseline that freed him up for takeoff, and the other was a catch underneath the basket where instead of immediately going up, he took a couple steps quickly past the defender to lay it in.

McGowan certainly has the athleticism to play in the NBA, and even to be a dominate defender with time, but as it stands now his outside shot is poor and his lateral quickness has suffered due to his injury. It will be interesting to see how he progresses though and a lot of teams might take a closer look if that shot starts dropping consistently.

Dontell Jefferson, 6-4, Point Guard, Dakota Wizards

Jonathan Givony

This was a much better all-around performance for Dontell Jefferson, looking much more aggressive than he did in the first game, and therefore much more effective.

We already talked about how much we like Jeffrson’s upside last year, and it really seems like he’s translating that potential into production this year. He’s scoring the ball much better, is looking much more creative offensively, and still the same excellent defender he’s always been.

Jefferson is a 6-4 point guard with long arms and outstanding athleticism, although he didn’t get to show as much of his playmaking skills as we may have hoped here, sharing the ball with the very dominant Maurice Baker, one of the top players seen at the Showcase. He regardless showcased a very nice first step and the ability to create his own shot very effectively, and basic passing skills on the drive and dish. He needs to improve his decision making in the half-court, but gives off the impression that he’s clearly a point guard rather than a combo. He can also pull-up off the dribble, which he did nicely on a couple of occasions. His 3-point stroke looks better than it did last year (albeit with a slow release), but the results weren’t as good as they’ve been all season long. If a shorter man is on him (which is often the case) he can take him down to the post a little bit and score with his back to the basket.

Defensively is where Jefferson is at his best, as he has terrific tools to get the job done (size, length, athleticism), and is fully committed to the task, getting right into his man’s face in a fundamental stance and being extremely disruptive, particularly in the passing lanes. He needs to get stronger, but is very effective here.

People are quietly talking about Jefferson as one of the more intriguing long-term prospects here in Boise. He’s nowhere near reaching his full potential at this point, but seems to have quite a future ahead of him. It could be in the NBA, or it could be in Europe.

Cheyne Gadson, 6’3”, Point Guard, Austin Toros
10 points, 6 assists, 6 turnovers

Richard Walker

After a successful stint last season with the Tulsa 66ers they traded him to the Austin Toros for Scott Merritt where he was a strong presence for their team. This year the Toros are under new management in the San Antonio Spurs, and their roster is stacked, making it hard for Gadson make an impact early in the season with players like Darius Washington and Keith Langford on the floor. Cheyne has a lot of talent, however, and has asserted himself into a real contributor on arguably the best team in the D-League.

A little out of control at times, Cheyne is one of the better ball handlers in the league, and when he gets in rhythm, can be an explosive force. At the same time, and much like many players in the NBADL, he has problems with focus and consistency, frequently making a brilliant play on one possession only to botch another one all together. Gadson might just be the best post entry passing guards in the D-League, which is an underrated and often overlooked skill. He has a good sense of when the player is in the best position to receive the ball and isn’t too quick to just pass it into the post and cut like a lot of guards do. He fed Ian Mahinmi several times tonight, and always put him in a position to score.

He uses his quickness well, not only in getting to the hoop, but in faking out defenders once he gets there. He drove baseline at one point and jerked upwards in a pump fake causing two defenders to jump in the air before quickly snapping it in between their bodies to a cutting Marcus Williams for a dunk attempt. In one sequence he was running out and the outlet pass was behind him and he managed to tip the ball around the defender running along side of him and then catch it and shuffle pass it one handed to Justin Bowen for a dunk. It was a very athletic and skilled maneuver that not many players would even have the ability to attempt.

Watching a game with Cheyne Gadson playing is a little like riding a rollercoaster; there’s many highs, but also a lot of lows. He often appears indifferent to bad plays and you find yourself wondering if he actually is as indifferent as he seems. His talent is often on display during a game, but if he’s going to make an NBA roster he needs to be aggressively consistent and play a cleaner brand of basketball.

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