2010 D-League Dunk Contest
by: Jim Hlavac, Richard Walker
February 15, 2010
Friday night the NBA D-League held it's Slam Dunk Competition and DraftExpress was there filming every dunk with our exclusive slow-motion technology, lovingly dubbed DX-Mo. The players would be hard pressed to put on a better show than last year when James White went on a high flying, long jumping, dunking clinic, but these players gave it their best and provided some memorable moments.

Los Angeles’ Dar Tucker showed basketball fans that he, not the Lakers’ Shannon Brown, is the best dunker in the city of Angels. For his final dunk, Tucker leapt over 6'11" Brian Butch before throwing it down.

Austin’s Alonzo Gee was the runner-up, beating 2009 collegiate dunk champion Tony Danridge and former Memphis Grizzlies swingman Trey Gilder.

Gee was concise in his praise of Tucker, “He jumped high.” And then added, “I had a lot of fun and I’m glad I did it.”

Dar Tucker Dunk #4

Albuquerque's Tony Danridge started off the competition with a nice baseline dunk where he switched hands mid-flight and threw it down left-handed. It was a good conservative choice for a first dunk, but Danridge missed on his next turn and failed to advance to the finals.

Tony Danridge Dunk #1

Austin's Alonzo Gee was up next and went with a windmill.

Alonzo Gee Dunk #1

For his second dunk of the first round, Gee does a double clutch, 180 reverse jam.

Alonzo Gee Dunk #2

Tucker was up next and started with the big pass to himself from the three-point line and finished with a two-handed windmill.

Dar Tucker Dunk #1

For his second dunk of the first round, Tucker again started with a pass from the three-point line and then went between his legs before flushing it home for one of the best dunks of the night.

Dar Tucker Dunk #2

Maine’s Trey Gilder was the last contestant to dunk in the first round and began by placing two ball boys in front on the rim. He didn’t quite clear them, but the dunk went down.

Trey Gilder Dunk #1

Gilder followed that dunk up with a reverse slam off of a lob pass to himself from the three-point line.

Trey Gilder Dunk #2

Gee and Tucker advanced to the final round with Gee going first. Gee started off with a powerful reverse 180 windmill dunk.

Alonzo Gee Dunk #3

Dar Tucker countered Gee’s dunk with a lob from the three-point line and finished it with a two-handed reverse jam bring the ball down low towards his knees first.

Dar Tucker Dunk #3

For Gee’s final dunk, he went out to the three-point line, threw the lob to himself and stalled in midair as he caught it before throwing down a powerful jam.

Alonzo Gee Dunk #4

Tucker finished the night off by jumping over 6’11” Brian Butch of the Bakersfield Jam scoring 50 points in every one of his dunks for a perfect four dunk total of 200.

Dar Tucker Dunk #4

D-League All-Star Game

With nine former NBA players on the rosters, the MVP of the NBA D-League All-Star game went to Bakersfield’s Brian Butch. Butch, who was just named as a replacement player last week, scored 18 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in leading the West to a 98-81 victory.

“There are so many great players. I just came out here and tried to perform and do what I can do. I’m just thankful for the D-League to give me the opportunity”, said Butch.

The West’s bench outscored the East’s bench 54-20 and held a 55-40 advantage on the glass. Los Angeles’ Diamon Simpson, who like Butch was a replacement player, connected on 7-of-8 shots and was the second leading scorer for the West.

“I didn’t have any expectations. I tried to be as relaxed as I could and just perform,” said Simpson. “It was fun being around all this good talent. It’s definitely an experience I will remember.”

The East squad jumped out to an early 17-4 lead and it looked like the rout was on. However, the West squad shortly responded with a 23-4 run of its own and carried a seven point lead into halftime. According to the West team’s Assistant Coach Paul Mokeski, the game went as he and Head Coach Chris Finch had planned.

“That’s been our strategy. And it’s pretty much gone well for us at RGV [Rio Grande Valley] this year. We let the team feel comfortable, get a good lead, and then we come back, and we play a lot harder, and we play a lot smarter, and we take over the game.”

The East squad was led by Earl Barron and Reggie Williams who had 20 and 17 points respectively. Mokeski was quick to point out the success of the big men in the game.

“Brian and Barron both played well. It’s interesting the way basketball is starting to go where seven footers can spread the floor. Brian’s probably more of a three-point threat but Earl can get out and hit the 18-20 footer.”

As for whether Brian Butch is now a call-up candidate, he wasn’t too concerned. “I don’t pay attention to it. It’s up to everybody else to worry about all those other things. I just go and play.”

In other news, the three point competition came down to a duel between defending champion Blake Ahearn of Bakersfield and Utah’s Andre Ingram. Ingram got out to a fast start in the final round and outscored Ahearn 21-18 to win the title.

“He [Ingram] started off really hot and my first two racks were a struggle,” said Ahearn. “It’s hard to play catch up when you only have a certain number of shots. He shot the ball well tonight and he deserved it,”

Ingram wasn’t worried about winning, he was just happy to be in the competition. “It felt great. I was just focused and hoped that things went well. I’m very fortunate to be here first of all and just thankful.”

Feedback for this article may be sent to jim.hlavac@draftexpress.com richard.walker@draftexpress.com

D-League Showcase Interviews: Jonathan Givony, Daniele Baiesi
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Jim Hlavac, Richard Walker
January 11, 2010
Keep scrolling down the D-League blog to read and watch all of our extensive Showcase content.

Jonathan Givony Recaps the 2010 D-League Showcase

An interview with Jonathan Givony discussing who stood out at the NBA Development League Showcase, how the league can improve it's level of talent, and the future of high school players looking to skip out on playing college basketball.

Daniele Baiesi Provides a European Perspective

Italian league executive Daniele Baiesi gives his take on the D-League, sheds insight into the process European league teams go through in evaluating American talent, talks about some of his favorite players from Boise, and talks about some of the most famous players to go through teams he's worked with--Jonas Jerebko and Thabo Sefolosha.

Part One:

Part Two:

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com jim.hlavac@draftexpress.com richard.walker@draftexpress.com

D-League Showcase Scouting Reports
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations, Joseph Treutlein - Director of Scouting/Analytics
January 9, 2010
Following the four days of action we observed in Boise, we present scouting reports of some of the top NBA prospects in attendance.

-Alade Aminu came back to earth after his outstanding first Showcase game, scoring just 11 points on 5-10 shooting while grabbing an unimpressive 2 rebounds in 23 minutes. Aminu was also in foul trouble, finishing the game with 5 fouls, and this game definitely shed some light on his unimpressive averages (10 points, 5 rebounds) throughout the season.

Aminu's biggest problems right now lie in his inconsistency on defense and the glass, as he doesn't always rebound the way he's capable of, and he tends to get lost at times on defense. He had quite a few instances today where he was indecisive defending pick-and-rolls, leading to openings for the opposition or putting him in a position where he was forced to foul. The encouraging thing is at times Aminu looks great in these situations, as he clearly has the tools to be a versatile defender with his mobility and length.

Offensively, Aminu also has some problems, as his post game is not very reliable as of yet, even though he shows nice flashes. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Aminu is scoring just 0.75 points per possessions on post-ups, which make up the largest portion of his offensive usage. In watching him play, it's clear he's a bit lacking in instincts here, and can tend to force the issue at times. That said, his hook shot looks very good at times, as he gets great separation and his touch isn't bad.

Aminu is at his best finishing off cuts and pick-and-rolls, two situations he probably isn't used in as often as he should be. If he focused on those two aspects alone, while also developing a bit more consistency with his mid-range jumper (which is already respectable), he could be a nice role playing big in the NBA, assuming he improves his defense and rebounding.

Possibly the player with the most upside of any player in the D-League, Aminu should be getting looks for call-ups soon, as he's a low-risk option to stash on a roster and develop. That said, with the economic constraints placed on many teams (there's a reason many teams are opting to use only 13 of 15 potential roster spots), his list of potential suitors is definitely smaller than it would be normally, so it's no guarantee he finds a home before the season ends, especially because it's questionable if he could immediately contribute if forced into action.

-A draft-eligible prospect who spent three seasons lighting up Conference USA at Southern Miss before tossing his name into the draft and subsequently deciding to stay in the pro ranks, Jeremy Wise had a solid showing in the D-League showcase playing for a very weak Bakersfield Jam squad.

Standing 6’2 with a skinny frame, Wise is a severely undersized two guard with outstanding speed and quickness. An excellent transition player, he did bring the ball up the floor occasionally, but is clearly looking to score when he has the ball in his hands.

Offensively, Wise is very aggressive looking for his shot, especially off the dribble. Displaying the ability to turn the corner on the pick and roll and draw contact at the rim, he proves to be a very solid finisher on this level and gets to the line at a solid rate. Wise went to the line 11 times in the first Showcase game, taking a number of pretty bad falls in the process, but putting his athleticism on full display. Despite his lack of physical strength, Wise shows no shortage of toughness at the basket.

From the perimeter, Wise displays aggressive shot selection, taking and making some very difficult shots. He prefers to put the ball on the floor to create his shot over catching and shooter, but yields solid results doing both. Not terribly consistent from three point range, Wise tends to drift on some of his shots, and will need to improve his 30.8% shooting from three to improve his chances of receiving any NBA draft attention.

Defensively, Wise shows a passable effort level and the ability to spark the break, but doesn’t project as a good defender in the NBA. His size limits his upside, and his scoring mentality takes away from his ability to run the point –which is a key to his development as a prospect. As it stands, Wise isn’t likely to be considered a great NBA draft prospect, but the fact remains that he will end up with a full year of very important experience playing against grown men in a challenging environment, which will only improve his pro prospects moving forward.

-Rob Kurz had a great first game here, doing everything you'd expect him to do, but sat out the second game. A very smart and efficient scorer, Kurz has a deadly jump shot with three point range, while he's also been doing a great job crashing the boards in D-League action this season.

Kurz is a role player with a clearly defined skill-set and a very good understanding of the game. Since he already spent the majority of last season in the NBA, it wouldn't be unlikely to see him called up at some point. For a team looking for a combination of frontcourt depth, smarts and outside shooting, there probably isn't a better option in the D-League. As long as the team is content with his defensive limitations and not expecting a huge amount of upside, Kurz would be a solid option for a minimum contract.

-One of the top scorers in the NBADL in each of his two seasons of action, Carlos Powell scored a total of 45 points in his two games in Boise and only reinforced many of the things we wrote about him two seasons ago. After spending last year in Korea and training camp with the Warriors, Powell has been lighting up the scoreboard for Albuquerque all season long.

An incredibly assertive scorer, Powell can put the ball in the basket from virtually everywhere on the floor. Displaying a wide array of scoring moves around the rim, solid touch on his jumper, and a willingness to attack defenders off the dribble, he is one of the most talented and complete offensive players the D-League has to offer, despite the fact that he is not the most explosive athlete you’ll find.

While 52.2% shooting and 8.9 free throw attempts each game certainly warrant a lot of possessions, Powell often stalls Albuquerque’s offense when he looks to score. Getting a large portion of his offense in one-on-one situations, Powell still uses his physical strength rather than great quickness or explosiveness to bully defenders on this level, but he’s improved his range to some extent since his last stint in the NBADL and still dishes out a respectable number of assists thanks to his ability to consistently draw the attention of his teammates’ defenders.

Defensively, Powell remains limited from an NBA by his average lateral quickness, though his willingness to get physical allows him to produce some steals. He’s shown an improved energy level at times this season, which is something he needs to show consistently to improve his stock. Only an average rebounder, Powell can score in bunches on this level, and while he isn’t an ideal role-player, he is player who could receive call-up considerations considering his ability to immediately produce.

-One of the more intriguing players here from a pure potential standpoint, Dar Tucker was fairly up and down in his two games at the Showcase, showing many of the problems that led to him being undrafted (by the NBA) this past summer. A super long and athletic undersized shooting guard, Tucker just doesn't have a reliable jump shot, but plays as if he does. His numbers on the season (37% FG, 16% 3PT, 63% FT) show you just how big a toll his poor outside shooting takes on his efficiency.

On the bright side, Tucker does have some good scoring instincts and can be a terror attacking the basket, which led to some nice finishes here. He also shows a lot of potential defensively, and will make use of it on occasion.

Tucker still appears to be a ways away from contributing at the NBA level, and there's a reason he's coming off the bench and averaging just 21 minutes per game for a D-League team. As has been repeated many times, Tucker will need to become a more effective outside shooter and decision maker before he takes the next step as a player, but if he does, he could likely find himself a niche in the NBA.

-Rarely a three-point shooter in college, Anthony Tolliver has become somewhat of a specialist in his time between the NBA and NBADL the past two seasons. A very long PF/C without great height and with just decent athleticism, Tolliver provides his worth by being an efficient scorer, good rebounder, and a very smart player, having good passing skills and fundamentals for a big man.

After a very strong first game here in Boise, Tolliver didn't have the greatest of second games, shooting 5-of-18 from the field, but still managing to post 19 points and 14 rebounds. On the season, Tolliver is taking about half of his attempts from behind the three-point arc, where he is a very reliable spot-up shooter and can even pull up a bit in space.

As for the rest of his offense, Tolliver shows flashes of post and face-up game, but he's not particularly consistent with either, and these aren't segments of his games that project to be very reliable in the NBA.

Defensively, Tolliver is pretty attentive, making most of the rotations, putting in the effort, and playing smart overall defense, but he doesn't appear suited to defend power forwards on the perimeter, being fairly slow-footed. He's a solid post defender and very good on the defensive boards, however.

Tolliver was already called up to the Portland Trail Blazers for a few days this season, and spent part of last season with the Spurs, so it won't be surprising to see him get another shot before this season is over, if not more than one. He has a pretty clearly defined skillset, providing value mainly through three-point shooting and the defensive glass, as well as by being an extremely high character individual, so if a team is looking for those attributes and is capable of masking some of his deficiencies, he could provide a good fit somewhere as a 12th man or even a little more if the team is battling injuries.

-One of the top players on our preliminary list of call-up candidates, Dwayne Jones was extremely solid in both of his contests in Boise and has consistently productive all season long. One of the few players here with multiple seasons of NBA experience under his belt, Jones possesses a blend of size, strength, and energy that allow him to make an impact on both ends of the floor with his hustle. A legitimate center, Jones is arguably the best big available for teams in a pinch that need a quick-fix at the five spot.

In his two games here, Jones tallied 20 points and 35 rebounds. Banging bodies around the rim, crashing the glass, and providing an outlet to driving teammates when his defender stepped up to stop them, Jones shot a total of 9 free throws on 9 shot attempts. A capable finisher who isn’t afraid of contact, he translated his effort level into scoring chances and trips to the line. Jones still doesn’t possess a terribly high skill level, nor does he create his own shot. However, he sticks to what he’s good at to the tune of 61.4% shooting from the field. Despite seldom looking to force things or put the ball on the floor, Jones did struggle a bit with turnovers this weekend, posting four in both contests.

Though he’s averaged 17.2 points per game thus far this season, Jones’s bread and butter remains his outstanding rebounding ability. Using his length and strong frame to pursue the ball off the rim, Jones seemed bent on exceeding the 22 rebounds Joey Dorsey posted earlier in the day. Averaging an outstanding 14.6 rebounds per-game on the season, Jones does a lot of the things that NBA teams want from a short-term player: he pulls down an exceptional 5.9 offensive rebounds per game, he provides a defensive presence with his terrific strength, length and bulk, and he can bring energy off the bench. One of the most consistent players we’ve observed, Jones is a steady veteran who remains on the cusp of the NBA.

-Though Cartier Martin didn’t explode for a big performances like Alade Aminu did, he was solid all weekend and helped his team win both of their games—earning himself a call-up to the Golden State Warriors along the way. One of the top forwards in the D-League, Martin appears to have rounded back into form after returning to the Energy following a brief stint in Italy. Shooting the ball extremely well in his team’s first win, Martin had one of the stronger performances of day two and showed well again in day four.

Aggressively attacking the rim, Martin was very effective from the get go, scoring 12 points in his first frame in Boise and hitting all five of the free throws he created. A major threat to make shots from deep, Martin shows a solid first step, and never hesitated to initiate contact on his way to the rim. With his dribble drive established, Martin proceeded to knock down a catch and shoot three in transition, a spinning fade-away jumper from 18-feet, and a leaner in the lane after beating his man in a called isolation. In the second half, Martin played a total of six minutes, drawing a charge and getting to the line as the first man down the floor in transition. A solid athlete with a good understanding of Iowa’s half court sets, Martin looked extremely comfortable scoring today on his way to 18 points in his 21 minutes.

In the second game, Martin wasn’t nearly as productive, as a scrappy Bakersfield team nearly ousted the Energy, who currently own the best record in the D-League. A coachable player who is willing to put his body on the line, Martin still scored 17 points, but only shot 7-17 from the field. Despite the sub-par shooting performance, he still showed a high energy level on the defensive end. He’s not a shut down defender, but he plays within the team concept, shows active hands, and will put himself in harm’s way to draw charges. Couple those attributes with his offensively ability and tenure with the Bobcats last season, and it’s very obvious why Golden State opted to give him a 10-day contract as soon as Anthony Randolph went down with an injury.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com joe@draftexpress.com

D-League Showcase Interviews: Rod Benson,Mark Madsen, Mickell Gladness
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Jim Hlavac, Richard Walker
January 8, 2010
Checking In With the Boom Tho

Former DraftExpress blogger Rod Benson sits down with Jonathan Givony to discuss his basketball and writing career, his performance in the D-League showcase, the frustrations involved with being a fringe NBA player, and other topics.

Madsen Enjoying a New Line of Work

Utah Flash coach Mark Madsen sits down to discuss the transition he made from high paid NBA player to D-League assistant, the process of instilling the toughness and hustle he was known for in his own pupils, his thoughts on Dontell Jefferson, Anthony Tolliver and other players he's seen and worked with, and more.

Basketball from the Fringe: An Interview with Mickell Gladness

The NCAA's all-time leading shotblocker, Mickell Gladness, sits down to discuss a variety of issues, including what it's like to be a backup in the D-League, his team's extensive cooperation with the Houston Rockets, what it's like to realize that he's not an immediate NBA prospect, and much more.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com jim.hlavac@draftexpress.com richard.walker@draftexpress.com

D-League Showcase: Day Three
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Jim Hlavac, Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations, Joseph Treutlein - Director of Scouting/Analytics, Richard Walker
January 7, 2010
An Interview with Portland's Michael Born...Reggie Williams a Scoring Machine...Alade Aminu Explodes...Korolev Refects...Dorsey Rebounds...Gee Making Moves...More

Interview with Portland Trailblazers Scout Michael Born

Portland Trailblazers Director of NBA Scouting Michael Born discusses his thoughts on this year’s D-League Showcase, including players that have stood out, the talent evaluation process, his background in the minor leagues, and much more.

Reggie Williams – Sioux Fall’s Scoring Machine

One of the more intriguing stat-lines to emerge from this season’s early going are the monster scoring numbers that Reggie Williams has produced for Sioux Falls—25 points per game on 58% shooting from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. This might not come as that much of a surprise considering that Williams led the NCAA in scoring for two straight seasons, but many scouts were quick to write that off as being a product of playing for a ridiculous fast-paced VMI team that more often than not surpassed the 100 point per game mark.

Williams has one of the more unique styles of play that you’ll find at pretty much any level of basketball. Undersized, not overly strong, fast, or explosive, and with a body that looks like it could stand to shed a good 10-15 pounds—Williams surely doesn’t look the part of a scoring machine, but that’s exactly what he is. He has an amazing knack for finding buckets, be it with his off the ball movement, getting to the rim in transition, pulling up for awkward lefty jumpers in 10-15 feet, or drilling spot-up jumpers with his feet set from beyond the arc.

His coach Tony Fritz is clearly his biggest fan. “He amazes me all the time with the way he finds ways to score within the flow of the game. All of a sudden you look up at the scoreboard and see that he has 25 points, and you wonder, how the heck did he manage to do that?”

The biggest story to report about Williams’ development revolves around the improvement of his perimeter shot. Only a 28% 3-point shooter as a college senior, Williams made just 21% of his 3-point attempts as a rookie in France last season playing for Dijon. This year he’s upped that to a far more respectable 38%, despite the fact that he’s now shooting NBA 3-pointers (more than 3 feet further back). He has a fairly ugly flat-footed stroke, but finds a way to get the job done thanks to his consistent mechanics and excellent touch.

Williams continues to get to the free throw line at a very good rate, something he’s done throughout his career. Despite showing an average first step and less than incredible advanced ball-handling skills, Williams relies on his excellent timing and scoring instincts to attack unbalanced defenses and make his way to the rim. He does a great job initiating contact and finishing aggressively despite the fact that he’s not the most explosive player around, and is even better at finding spaces in the mid-range area to pull-up off the dribble and make crafty shots with his terrific touch.

Williams’ biggest weakness as an NBA prospect clearly revolves around his play on the defensive end. He lacks lateral quickness in a major way and struggles badly trying to stay in front of athletic slashers already at the D-League level. While his effort level is usually solid and his wingspan is above average, he can’t be described as anything more than a mediocre defender, something that is clearly holding him back.

Williams regardless is a guy that teams need to take a look at, as he has outstanding scoring instincts and is producing in a huge way in a very efficient manner. He might not be the top swingman prospect in the D-League, but he can’t be that far off.

Move Out of the Way Al-Farouq

Alade Aminu had arguably the best performance of any player in the Showcase thus far, putting up 30 points and 23 rebounds, flashing some serious upside along the way. We’ve clearly been much higher on him than pretty much anyone else since the first time we seriously evaluated him at Portsmouth last year, and he did nothing to dissuade us with his play today.

Aminu is intriguing thanks to his terrific size, length, hands and solid athleticism, and obviously has a great deal of upside to continue to tap into as well. With that said, most of the NBA scouts we talked to following this game sounded fairly skeptical about fully jumping on the Aminu bandwagon, citing his lack of productivity on the season (10 points, 5 rebounds per game) thus far. We’ll have to see if Aminu can manage to quell those doubts tomorrow with another strong showing. We’ve yet to see a better long-term NBA prospect in Boise thus far.

No Regrets for Korolev

Yaroslav Korolev sits down to talk about the differences between playing in Europe and the D-League, the career path that led him to Boise, why he decided to enter the NBA draft so early, and more.

Part One

Part Two

Dorsey Rebounds

After a very poor first outing, Joey Dorsey had an absolute monster performance in the second, scoring 27 points on 11-for-11 shooting and chipping in 22 rebounds, split evenly between offense and defense. He physically dominated everyone in the game on both ends of the court, and played with a non-stop motor and focus that was absent from his first game here this week, according to the reports we heard.

On the offensive end, Dorsey did most of his damage attacking the glass, finishing open lay-ups, and exploding off pick-and-rolls, but he also showed flashes of post moves, along with good body control and coordination on many of his finishes. He’s still a severely undersized (6-7 in shoes) center with little to no face-up game and major struggles even converting free throws (50%), not doing much to dispel the notion that he’s at best a Reggie Evans type player offensively. He ranks 3rd amongst all players in the D-League in turnovers per-40 pace adjusted, as he clearly seems to be trying to do too much at times with the ball in the post.

Dorsey had just as strong an impact on defense, owning the glass and contesting and blocking shots in the lane, using his physical prowess to intimidate the opposition.

As he showed here today, Dorsey is capable of being a dominant player in multiple aspects of the game when he feels like it, and it's clear he has the tools to be a very successful role player in the NBA. The problem with him, as it always has been, is a lack of consistency and focus, which will continue to hold him back if he doesn't bring it night in and night out. The interesting thing about Dorsey is he doesn't seem to have any misconceptions about who he is as a player, as when he is giving it 100% effort, he doesn't drift from his comfort zone inside the paint, sticking to his strengths for the most part and providing significant value for his team.

Gee Making a Move

Alonzo Gee was one of the players we were most intrigued with coming to Boise this week, and he did little to dispel that notion. Showing elite athleticism with a very well-built body, Gee made countless impact plays in his two games he played, mainly on dribble drives started from the mid-range area, where he took advantage of his long strides and explosive first step to get to the rim.

Gee still isn't the greatest in terms of advanced ball-handling, but he has done a good job figuring out the best ways to utilize his athleticism, relying on subtle changes of direction in combination with his very good body control. At the basket, Gee is capable of finishing over defenders and is extremely aggressive, never shying from contact.

Gee's jump shot is still a work in progress, but it appears to be improved from what we saw at Portsmouth eight months ago, as he looked smooth hitting some mid-range jumpers here, even pulling up on occasion. He lacks range on his shot in a major way, though, which is probably one of the biggest things holding him back from getting called up at this point, as he’s made just 2-7 attempts from beyond the arc on the season, and wasn’t a very prolific long-range shooter in college either.

On the defensive end, Gee has great physical tools and show flashes of effective defense, doing a good job hustling off the ball, but he's a bit inconsistent here, and his man-to-man stance leaves something to be desired. For him to find a spot in the league and stick, this is probably the biggest area he will need to work on, as it is definitely where most of his untapped potential lies.

If Gee continues the great play he's shown for the first 15 games of the D-League season, it wouldn't be surprising to see him called up by season's end. He’s been one of the first names mentioned in conversations we’ve had with NBA scouts this weeks.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com jim.hlavac@draftexpress.com matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com joe@draftexpress.com richard.walker@draftexpress.com

Interview with Chris Finch
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Jim Hlavac, Richard Walker
January 7, 2010
American Chris Finch is the head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the British National Team, which will compete in the 2012 Olympics in London. He was formerly the head coach of Dexia Mons, one of the top teams in Belgium, and played in Britian and collegiately in the US.

Part One

Chris Finch discusses his decision to leave Belgium for the sake of coaching in the D-League, the differences between European basketball and the NBADL, the relationship he enjoys with the Houston Rockets, and their cooperation with Rio Grande Valley.

Part Two

Finch discusses his role as the head coach of Luol Deng and the British National Team, his views on the progress Britian has made as a basketball team over the past few years, and his often contentious relationship with the British paparazzi.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com jim.hlavac@draftexpress.com richard.walker@draftexpress.com

D-League Showcase: Day Two
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Jim Hlavac, Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations, Joseph Treutlein - Director of Scouting/Analytics, Richard Walker
January 6, 2010
In addition to this article, we're also talking D-League Showcase all day on Twitter as well.

Dominant D.J. White

Second-year Oklahoma City Thunder allocation player D.J. White was one of the more impressive players we've seen in our two days here, and also one of the more intriguing from an NBA standpoint, showing us precisely why he was a first round pick. Clearly the strongest player in the game, White used his well-built body and solid athleticism to just out-pursue and out-muscle the opposition on the glass and in the post. He finished the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds on 8-13 shooting in 41 minutes of action.

White serves a great purpose here at this Showcase from our perspective, as he provides a clear barometer for what an NBA player actually looks like, and is an excellent measuring stick for which to evaluate other big men D-League prospects off of.

Offensively, White looked deadly from the 15-20 foot range, hitting quite a few shots on the game, including at least one contested fade-away. He also showed prowess in the post with a nice drop-step, as well as finishing with an explosive dunk on a pick-and-roll. Despite not being the quickest or most explosive athlete around, he covers long strides with his moves, and is capable of elevating around the rim and converting thanks to his terrific length when given time to gather himself.

Defensively, White is extremely vocal, makes all the rotations, and definitely still brings the defensive intensity he showed as a senior at Indiana. He's a bit lacking in terms of lateral quickness, which can lead to him getting beat in the post and on the perimeter by quicker foes, but he uses his length and strong base very well to be an effective overall defender.

White has already played rotation minutes in stretches with the Thunder the past two seasons, and might've been more of a regular there if not for various injuries he's suffered since being drafted. He's getting some good experience in this stint in the D-League, and definitely has the potential to break into the Thunder rotation as the season goes on, where he surely will be called back to the NBA at some point.

Morris Almond, the D-League’s top NBA Prospect

Another former first round pick, Morris Almond was one of the higher profile players at this Showcase, and he's certainly backed that up in the two games he's played here. A deadly scorer who does most of his damage with his jump shot, Almond has absolutely lit up the scoreboard, creating heavy speculation of him being called up to the NBA sometime soon.

On the offensive end, Almond is still a prolific shooter, and he's been among the league leaders in scoring efficiency (55% 2P, 44% 3P) in the D-League the past few seasons. He's equally deadly spotting up as he is pulling up in space, and he does a decent job of getting separation on the perimeter off one or two dribbles.

His dribble-drive game appears to have developed substantially since graduating from college, as he makes up for his lack of extensive advanced moves by using a solid first step and excellent footwork to make subtle changes of direction, weaving through the lane and even flashing the ability to finish with either hand. He also shows no hesitation to draw contact with his sturdy frame, getting to the line over 11 times per game (ranking 1st overall) in the D-League, which is an amazing rate anyway you look at it.

There are definitely concerns about Almond's volume shooting, but it'd be unfair to classify him as a chucker, as most of the shots he takes are ones that will provide his team with above average efficiency. His efficiency this week has been absolutely outstanding even on high usage, and despite his 15 or so shots per game, it's hard to look at any of his shots and say it was an ill-advised one. Considering how much smaller his role will be in the NBA (he leads the D-League in possessions used per game at 23.5), this will be a key factor in his transition to the next level.

Defense is still not among Almond's strengths, but he has put in adequate effort here, and his physical tools in terms of size, length, and lateral quickness are enough to get by at the shooting guard position.

The biggest concern about Almond from an NBA perspective is what he will be able to contribute when he's not scoring, as he ranks amongst the worst passers in the league, and watching him play, is clearly always looking for his own shot. Data from Synergy Sports Technology also suggests Almond isn't nearly as good of a scorer coming off screens as he is spotting up, and this could limit his effectiveness in a role as a 3-point shooter in the NBA.

Regardless, he clearly is an exceptionally talented shooter/scorer, and it's hard to believe he isn't worth a minimum contract for some team, given some of the ineffective players logging minutes on the wing around the league making 5-10 times the minimum salary. Almond has developed somewhat of a reputation for being a bit aloof at times and not always open to change, so it will be key for him to show that he has the intangibles to match his terrific talent.

Jeff Weltman Interview

Milwaukee Bucks Assistant GM Jeff Weltman discusses his thoughts on the D-League Showcase, the evaluation process of potential NBA prospects, his background as an NBA executive, and much more.

Sundiata Gaines Gets the Call-Up

As we discussed extensively on Twitter yesterday, the Utah Jazz decided to fill their backup point guard void via the D-League by calling up Sundiata Gaines on a 10-day contract. Gaines has been one of the most prolific players all season long on the fastest paced team in the league here in Idaho, and was ranked as our top prospect in the D-League before the draft in November. D-League coaches disagreed and allowed him to drop all the way to the 15th pick, but Gaines has shown to be a superior talent at this level and has given the D-League a big boost by earning a call-up during their Showcase.

Gaines is a reasonably athletic point guard who excels in transition and sports a chiseled frame that is substantially improved since his college days. He can create his own shot going left or right and gets to the free throw line at a high rate, excelling on the pick and roll in particular where he can get to the rim and finish (61% 2P) with an array of spin and pivot moves or find open teammates spotting up on the wing. He does a good job taking care of the ball despite the incredibly fast pace his team plays at, and appears to have strong fundamentals and a nice basketball IQ to help compensate for his lack of incredible physical tools.

The biggest question mark about Gaines (besides his average size) revolves around his perimeter shooting stroke, which has never been considered a strength throughout his career. He shot just 32% from beyond the arc this season and 30% as a NCAA senior, attempting quite a few shots which may indicate some shot-selection issues. With that said, he has a very strong mid-range game, being highly adept at creating space and knocking down shots pulling up off the dribble.

Gaines is a fairly tough and scrappy guy who plays good defense for the most part and is a very good rebounder for a point guard. He’s a bit inconsistent from game to game, something he needs to address, but should fit in well in Utah’s flex offense and is the type of player Jerry Sloan likes.

Allocated Ajinca

Any time Alexis Ajinca steps onto the floor, it is hard not to take notice. Towering above most D-League post players, Ajinca has packed on some weight to his upper-body, but remains very skinny, especially in his lower body. His tremendous wingspan allow him to block shots at a high rate, but his fundamentals down low leave a lot to be desired, and his lack of bulk allows more aggressive post players to push him beneath the rim and neutralize his size advantage.

Ajinca’s two contests in Boise were a very apt representation of many of his strengths and weaknesses,. Fouling out in just 20 minutes in the first game and committing five fouls in 19 minutes in his second, Ajinca showed how raw he remains on the defensive end. He’s appeared tentative at times in both of Maine’s games here, but still managed to block a total of 4 shots and alter a handful of short range attempts. His length affords him the opportunity to contest shots that many other players can’t, but he’s still honing that craft and learning how to cut down on his fouling.

Offensively, Ajinca flashed the talent that made him the 20th overall pick in 2008, but struggled at times as well. In his first game he finished with 5 turnovers and just 11 points, apparently playing through a minor illness. He came back strong a day later, finishing with 21 points on 9-14 from the field.

While the results of the second game were far more impressive, Ajinca made some impressive moves in both, including an essentially unblockable hook shot from the right block in the first and a pair of smooth face up drives in the second. Possessing excellent touch, Ajinca was able to overcome his lack of physical strength and toughness at times, but is still very much a work in progress as a player on both ends. The Bobcats will need to continue to foster Ajinca’s game, whether that be in Maine or Charlotte, to facilitate his development. We must keep in mind that he’s only 21 years old at this stage, and obviously still has a world of potential left to tap into.

Nick Nurse Interview

We had a chance to sit down with the winningest coach in the D-League, Nick Nurse of the Iowa Energy, after his team’s convincing victory yesterday over the Austin Toros.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com jim.hlavac@draftexpress.com matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com joe@draftexpress.com richard.walker@draftexpress.com

D-League Showcase, Day One
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Jim Hlavac, Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations, Joseph Treutlein - Director of Scouting/Analytics, Richard Walker
January 5, 2010

In addition to this article, we're also talking D-League Showcase all day on Twitter as well.

Strong Turnout for Scouts, Media

Something the D-League has to be encouraged by is the very strong turnout we saw in day one from the media and NBA teams.

30 media members—including the likes of the New York Times, Yahoo, CBS Sportsline and ESPN.com—are credentialed for the event, which is a massive increase from years past. Four years ago in Sioux Falls (our first Showcase) we were practically the only non-local media in attendance—this year you can find wall to wall coverage in places like Ridiculous Upside, D-League Digest, D-League Daily and others. While the demand may not have caught up with the supply just yet, this has to be seen as a great sign for D-League.

More notably for the players trying to earn future paychecks, 65-70 NBA people have also been credentialed, ranging from General Managers such as Danny Ainge (Boston), Daryl Morey (Houston), R.C. Buford (San Antonio), Maurizio Gherardini (Toronto), Sam Presti (Oklahoma City), Mark Warkentein (Denver), Donnie Nelson (Dallas) and Larry Riley (Golden State) to high-level executives like Jeff Weltman (Milwaukee), Kenny Williamson (Memphis), Michael Borne (Portland), Keith Grant (Dallas), Misho Ostarcevic (New York), Masai Ujiri (Toronto), Dennis Lindsey (San Antonio), Dell Demps (San Antonio), David Griffin (Phoenix), Neil Olshey (LA Clippers) and many others.

15-20 International team representatives are also in the building, mainly from Spain, Italy and Korea. Countries like Greece, France, Germany, Belgium, Turkey and Russia rarely do any scouting it seems, which helps explain the huge turnover we see year after year in those countries.

Self Starters Needed

Despite the strong turnout on the part of scouts and media, the fact remains that this arena holds 5700 people at full capacity. No more than a few hundred people were present at any point, meaning that the atmosphere was severely lacking for all four games of day one.

While this is not a surprise considering the circumstances (a weekday, in a small town, featuring teams that are not really of interest to anyone in particular, played on the same day of a BCS championship [Boise State-TCU] of huge significance to the local population), it creates a difficult atmosphere for players to compete in.

Most of the first three games were plagued by a distinct lack of energy on the part of many of the players, leading many scouts to shake their heads and wonder what needs to happen for the likes of Gabe Pruitt (almost invisible), Alexis Ajinca, Joey Dorsey (“worst body language of any player in this league,” according to one NBA scout) and others to actually play hard and act like they want to be here. You would think that the players here would be spitting blood at any opportunity to show their skills to the many influential talent evaluators in attendance, but that wasn’t always the case.

Those that stood out were the self-starting hustlers amongst the bunch—particularly ex-Cal State Fullerton product Frank Robinson and St. Mary’s alum Diamon Simpson as well as D-League veterans like Billy Thomas and Maurice Baker.

This is not a problem that is unique to the D-League—we believe that many players in this year’s draft class for example would have similar issues getting up in this type of atmosphere. It’s after all a lot easier to play in front of 15,000 people at Madison Square Garden than it is in front of 250 in Boise, but with their professional careers on the line—be it in the NBA or overseas—players must find a way to motivate to the fullest and try to leave as strong an impression as possible on the numerous talent evaluators that are in attendance.

Day One Top Performers

Note: We were not present for the first game of the Showcase, which reportedly featured very strong showings from the likes of Carlos Powell and Garrett Temple.

-Morris Almond- Almond was clearly the best NBA prospect seen in Boise in day one, finishing with 31 points and 8 rebounds, and is very likely on his way to a call-up (possibly to Denver according to rumors here) very soon. We’ll be back with a full report on his strengths and weaknesses after his next game.

-Frank Robinson- One of the most pleasant surprises of day one was the performance of lefty wing player Frank Robinson, who just joined the team about two weeks ago. Robinson came in off the bench and immediately stood out with his energy and terrific athleticism, playing outstanding defense with his superb length, strength and lateral quickness, and doing a great job getting to the basket and making plays at the rim. While other players were concerned with hunting their own shots, Robinson was giving the ball up unselfishly in transition and executing his team’s half-court sets.

Robinson’s biggest weakness remains his perimeter shot, which is very flat and not consistent at all. If he can find a way to improve this part of his game, he could develop into an interesting prospect for teams to look at. Although he’s not incredibly big, Robinson’s length and chiseled frame helps in that area.

-Russell Robinson- Robinson came out with guns a blazing in the third game of the day, knocking down a barrage of shots to finish the first quarter with 16 points, and eventually ending up with 34 points. He showed the strengths he brings to the table, mainly his fundamentals, smarts and ability to run a team effectively—although you can tell that the chemistry he enjoys with Desmon Farmer is not great and his turnovers are up substantially this season.

He’s also a physical guy who plays tough defense—his 6-8 wingspan helps quite a bit-- and is very solid on this end as you would expect from a former Bill Self point guard. He’s not the quickest or most explosive player you’ll find, particularly in his ability to finish plays around the rim (he makes just 44% of his 2-point attempts), but the fact that his perimeter shooting has improved substantially-- both from what we saw today and in the fact that he’s shooting 40% from beyond the NBA 3-point line—helps his cause substantially. He did a good job in training camp with the Cavs this past October, and will likely get more looks as the season moves on.

-Anthony Tolliver- Had a strong showing with 24 points and 9 rebounds, showing his potential as a pick and pop threat with a number of good looking shots from beyond the arc. He’ll be evaluated after his next game as well.

-Billy Thomas- As we discussed on our Twitter feed, Thomas had an excellent showing, making 7-9 3-pointers from beyond the arc and looking extremely smart and unselfish making plays on both ends of the floor. He doesn’t have the athleticism or upside at age 34 to be the most attractive call-up candidate, but is a huge asset (in the Randy Livingston mold) for the D-League to have regardless.

-Diamon Simpson set himself apart today with a strong showing in the Showcase’s second game. In a narrow loss to the Maine Red Claws, Simpson was often the best players on the floor for the L.A. Defenders. Displaying a good motor and a knack for being in the right place at the right time on both ends, he finished the game with 22 points and 14 boards.

An undersized big man who can put the ball on the floor to attack the rim, Simpson isn’t an elite athlete, but he is willing to initiate contact, uses his narrow frame well, and has a nice wingspan. Assertive and decisive when attacking the rim, he’s a capable finisher despite lacking a degree of vertical explosiveness. Showing good timing when ducking underneath when his teammates get into the lane, Simpson’s off-ball movement and dribble drives afforded him a number of easy scoring chances today. Though he didn’t appear as active defensively, where he seems content to stay at home and deny penetration, his length and instincts on the glass were apparent. Likely lacking the size and strength to translate his productivity to the NBA level, Simpson is certainly one of the more effective big men in the NBADL.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com jim.hlavac@draftexpress.com matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com joe@draftexpress.com richard.walker@draftexpress.com

2010 NBA D-League Showcase: Preview
by: Jonathan Givony - President
January 4, 2010
We’re back in Boise for the second time in three years for yet another exciting D-League Showcase. DraftExpress is here in full force with a staff of five expert talent evaluators watching every forced shot, turnover, blown defensive assignment and unbelievably athletic play, all of which we expect quite a few of in the next few days.

We’ll be covering some of the most interesting storylines of the Showcase both here and on our Twitter page, breaking down the top NBA prospects on each and every roster, so check back and feel free to interact with us over the course of the week.

Plenty more information can be found on the D-League's official website, nba.com/dleague.

Increasing the importance of the event is the fact that NBA teams may begin signing players to 10-day contracts starting on Tuesday. At that point we may see more call-ups than the three (Mike Harris to Houston, Chris Hunter to Golden State, and Anthony Tolliver very briefly to Portland) that already happened.

The Showcase will feature 16 games, as all 16 teams will play twice, with seven of those games being broadcasted live in high definition by NBATV. Those games that won’t be broadcasted can be viewed live, online, for free on NBA Futurecast at nba.com/dleague.

The TV schedule is as follow:

MON., JAN. 4
1 P.M., Rio Grande Valley Vipers vs. Albuquerque T-Birds
3:45 P.M., Los Angeles D-Fenders vs. Maine Red Claws

1 P.M., Maine Red Claws vs. Sioux Falls Skyforce

WED., JAN. 6
1 P.M., Reno Bighorns vs. Erie BayHawks
3:45 P.M., Bakersfield Jam vs. Rio Grande Valley Vipers

1 P.M., Albuquerque T-Birds vs. Tulsa 66ers
3:45 P.M., Erie BayHawks vs. Los Angeles D-Fenders

Top Prospects, or Top Call-Up Candidates?

While we aren’t totally ready to release our latest “Top D-League Call-Up Candidates” rankings, we are ready to give that list a more appropriate name. From now on it will be known as the “Top D-League Prospects" rankings, as we realize that there are too many variables (positional issues, injuries, familiarity, etc) involved in every individual call-up to try and predict who will be pegged next.

Instead, we will just try and give our personal opinion on who the top overall NBA prospects are in the D-League at the moment, which will become a lot more relevant once we’ve seen everyone at the conclusion of the Showcase. To clarify, this is a subjective list looking more at NBA upside than the way the player is producing in the D-League, although that obviously can go hand in hand at times.

In the meantime, here’s a rough draft of what our list might look like based on our preconceived notions going into the Showcase.

1. Morris Almond
2. Carlos Powell
3. Dwayne Jones
4. Cartier Martin
5. Zabian Dowdell
6. Alade Aminu
7. Sundiata Gaines
8. Anthony Tolliver
9. Alonzo Gee
10. Greg Stiemsma
11. Rob Kurz
12. Joe Crawford
13. Antonio Anderson
14. Mustafa Shakur
15. Will Conroy
16. Keith McLeod
17. Curtis Jerrells
18. Garrett Temple
19. Amara Sy
20. Rod Benson
21. Jared Reiner
22. Russell Robinson
23. Trey Gilder
24. Gabe Pruitt
25. John Bryant

For comparison, here is Matthew Breenan of the official D-League website’s personal take.

In addition to the 25 listed above, there are a few other players we need to take a look at to get a better read on how they are putting up the stats they are.

Wait and see:

Reggie Williams- Averaging 25 points, shooting 62% inside the arc and 42% outside it, similar to the way he did in college. He had an awful season in France last year, though, so which one is closer to the truth?

Ron Howard- After a strong showing in training camp with the New York Knicks, Howard has been on a tear ever since, in this, his third season in the D-League. He was 1-17 in 95 D-League games from 3-point range going into the year, but is now 26-54 (48%) in 14 games in 2009-2010. Did Mike D’Antonio teach him how to shoot, and if so, why can’t he do the same for Jared Jeffries?

Desmon Farmer- Purely on his stat totals (26 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), Farmer is a D-League all-star, if not the best swingman player in the league. There is zero buzz about him getting a call-up, though, likely due to the manner in which he gets his numbers and the reputation he’s earned. We’ll take a look with our own eyes and come to our own conclusions.

Other things to look for

NBA Draft Eligible Prospects:

In addition to the veteran call-up candidates, we also have two players who could have been in college this year, but are instead trying to earn a spot in this year’s NBA draft through the Development League. Latavious Williams of Tulsa and Jeremy Wise of Bakersfield are both NBA draft eligible, and both will get extended looks from us over the course of the week.

NBA Allocation Watch:

Four players who have been allocated by NBA teams to their D-League affiliates are here in Boise. They are: Alexis Ajinca (Maine/Charlotte Bobcats), Taylor Griffin (Iowa/Phoenix Suns), D.J. White (Tulsa/Oklahoma City Thunder) and Joey Dorsey (Rio Grande Valley/Houston Rockets).

As always, it will be interesting to see how the allocated NBA players look compared with their D-League counterparts, and especially how they are able to interact and coexist in such an important week of their careers.

Black Hole of the Day Award

It’s always fun to watch a player coming into the Showcase thinking he needs to shoot the ball every time he touches it in order to earn that elusive NBA call-up. That’s just the nature of the beast and how poorly some players understand precisely what NBA teams are looking for in a 10-day contract. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the best chuckers around and try to narrow down the field to a single candidate every day. The winner will be named DraftExpress’ “black hole of the day.”

Anything else? Let us know.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com

2009-2010 D-League Preview / Power Rankings (Part Two)
by: Jim Hlavac
November 29, 2009
With the NBA D-League getting ready to tip-off it’s season on Friday, we offer a quick primer on who is playing in the league this season. Each team capsule includes a projected starting lineup, as well as a look at who might get called up to the NBA and who might get assigned to the D-League from the NBA.

There are still plenty of very good players hanging around on the free agent market, some of whom have their rights owned by D-League teams, and some who will get picked up as the season moves on, so consider this only a preliminary look at the talent available.

For more detailed analysis on the players mentioned, click on the links and read their profiles here on DraftExpress. Teams are sorted by overall power ranking.

*Call Up Candidates are marked with an asterisk.

2009-2010 D-League Preview / Power Rankings Part One

9. Austin Toros

Starting Lineup:

Curtis Jerrells*
Russell Carter/ Lewis Clinch
Alonzo Gee*
Justin Bowen
Dwayne Jones*

The Spurs are high on rookie point guard Curtis Jerrells. Jerrells was with the Spurs for training camp and summer league, and now is starting on their D-League team. Jerrels was a four-year starter at Baylor where he averaged 16.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 4.9 apg his senior season. His biggest weaknesses are defense and perimeter shooting, and the D-League will provide a good test for him in both departments.

Alonzo Gee needs to shoot like a small forward if he is going to make the NBA. He had nice numbers at Alabama last year, but at 6’6”, with a great frame and wingspan, he will be well served to show the type of urgency and focus teams expect from a role-player on the defensive end. He has the body and athleticism to play the three, but the 62% he shot from the free-throw line and limited three-point attempts he took last year tell the story.

Dwayne Jones averaged 15.5 pts and 11.9 rebounds for the Toros last year, but has yet to show anything like those numbers in the NBA. Still, he’s a big lively body with good athleticism, which could earn him a call-up just to fill a gap for practices, even if his hands, offensive skill level and basketball IQ leave a lot to be desired.

The Toros are owned by the Spurs who really only have one player who might be assigned – Malik Hairston. He knows this league in and out by now and would be a big addition to the roster. It’s a shame that Ian Mahinmi is no longer eligible to play here, since an assignment would have been beneficial to him, the Spurs and especially the Toros. Their talent level is a bit down this year, but GM Dell Demps will surely be active looking to make them better.

10. Bakersfield Jam

Starting Lineup:

Anthony Goods
Reece Gaines
Jared Newson
Amara Sy*/Justin Hawkins
Robert Swift*

Bakersfield has a pretty strong roster full of experienced players with solid European resumes. That could be either a positive or a negative from what we’ve seen in the past, as veteran players tend to get antsy and lose motivation a lot faster than rookies do. Despite the chemistry concerns, you can’t ignore the talent that the Jam has managed to assemble relative to the competition in the D-League.

Former first round pick Reece Gaines is coming off an average season in Italy and will be the key to how Bakersfield performs. His overall versatility, particularly his perimeter shooting and ability to create his own shot could be major assets, but he’s known as a moody guy who could quickly lose interest in the D-League and start looking for his own numbers if he isn’t kept on track.

Anthony Goods played shooting guard for Stanford, but right now he looks like Bakersfield’s best option at the point unless Reece Gaines gets the nod there. He could emerge as a very valuable asset for this team based off what we saw in college. Jared Newson brings the team big-time athleticism, while Justin Hawkins is a skilled combo forward who can put points up on the board from the perimeter.

Along with Latavious Williams, one of the more interesting story lines in the D-League season involves Bakersfield’s Amara Sy. Sy is a native Frenchman who, at 27 years old, has come to the United States to take a shot at playing in the NBA. Unfortunately, Sy is injured and will miss the first couple of weeks. It will be interesting to see how well he plays and also if he is in it for the long haul here. His athleticism and ability to make big plays on both ends of the floor could be huge for this team.

Along with Sy, everyone will be watching to see how former lottery pick Robert Swift plays. It’s hard to imagine that he is only 23 years old, but he could still have a long career ahead of him if his knees hold up. In his lone preseason game, Swift was only 3-of-13 from the field so he has his work cut out for him in terms of shaking off the rust.

The Jam are affiliated with the Warriors and Clippers and neither team has any players that are likely for assignment. The exception would be if Golden State decides to sign former Erie BayHawk Chris Hunter for the season. Like many teams, depth is an issue here to start off the year.

11. Erie BayHawks

Starting Lineup:

Donell Taylor*/Cedric Jackson
Jackie Manuel/ Martin Zeno
Ivan Harris
Alade Aminu*
John Bryant*

Erie has one of the better frontcourts in the D-League, at least on paper. They seem to have a nice mix of scoring and role-players, although there is no true point guard to be found on this roster.

In their lone preseason game, Erie’s leading scorers were Oliver Lafayette and Rodrick Wilmont. The two combined for 37 points on 8-for-15 shooting. So naturally, they were both promptly cut.

Donell Taylor was surprisingly picked 2nd overall by Erie in the D-League draft, and he will likely be asked to carry a significant amount of offensive responsibility. Taylor is an athletic slasher who can create for himself and others, but has been unable to garner much success in Europe due to his inability to make perimeter shots and a potentially questionable attitude off the court. Still, he’s an extremely talented guy who could be extremely productive in this setting, particularly if he takes things seriously.

Alade Aminu might be the top overall prospect in the D-League, especially from a long-term perspective. The team went out and acquired him via trade, and may be able to develop him into a dominant Courtney Sims type presence as the season moves on. Aminu has NBA size, length and athleticism, even if he needs to add some bulk to his frame. He shows nice potential facing the basket and is a very intelligent guy off the court reportedly. He’s definitely a name to keep in mind.

Alongside Aminu we find the top rebounder in college basketball last season, Santa Clara’s John Bryant. Certainly not the quickest or most skilled big man you’ll find, Bryant could still have a major impact in this league as a sheer hustler and inside presence with his terrific hands and timing. It will be very interesting to see how outstanding his college production at the WCC level translates to this far more athletic setting.

Combo forward Ivan Harris had a surprisingly excellent rookie season in the D-League, and is now back for more of the same. He was known as mostly a 3-point shooter at Ohio State but showed some flashes of being able to do more for Erie last year. Martin Zeno and Jackie Manuel are both scrappy lockdown defenders on the wing with limited offensive skills.

Erie’s two NBA affiliates are the Toronto Raptors and the Cavaliers. While Toronto doesn’t have any likely assignees, Cleveland has a few – Danny Green, Darnell Jackson, Coby Karl and Jawad Williams. This team lacks a significant amount of size on the interior and perimeter shooting on the wing. Any scraps the Cavs can send them would surely be greatly appreciated.

12. Idaho Stampede

Starting Lineup:

Sundiata Gaines*
Mike Gansey
Roberto Bergersen
Anthony Tolliver*
Jeff Graves

Idaho will be down this year after making the playoffs the past three seasons. Idaho replaced their head coach Bryan Gates, who is now with the Sacramento Kings, with Bob MacKinnon, who won the D-League championship in Colorado last year.

Things will likely start and end with the play of Sundiata Gaines, a 2nd year point guard out of Georgia who lit up the Italian league in his rookie season and is now hoping to earn a call-up to the NBA. Gaines is a tough and very heady scoring point guard with average physical tools. He must improve the consistency of his perimeter shot and show that he can effectively run a team from the point guard position.

The extremely intelligent but somewhat physically limited Anthony Tolliver will get plenty of opportunities to score points and prove he belongs in the NBA. He’s one of the best perimeter shooters you’ll find in the D-League, particularly from the power forward position.

Idaho could see some key assigned players from Portland as they have an abundance of eligible players who aren’t seeing too many minutes with the Blazers – Dante Cunningham, Jerryd Bayless, Patrick Mills and Jeff Pendergraph.

13. Albuquerque Thunderbirds

Starting Lineup:

Keith McLeod
Antoine Agudio
Carlos Powell*/ Yaroslav Korolev
Kevin Pittsnogle
Cory Underwood

Carlos Powell was the first pick in this year’s D-League draft and could be one of the first players called up to the NBA. He was the last player cut from the Phoenix Suns’ training camp this year after spending last year in Korea. He’s a phenomenal scorer who can create his own shot at will at this level and is liable to drop 25+ points on any given night. NBA teams will want to see him make shots from beyond the arc at a consistent rate and show better dedication to the defensive side of the ball if he’s to earn a call-up this season.

The backcourt features two combo guards who played together last year and seemingly complement each other fairly well. The primary ball-handler, Keith McLeod has significant NBA experience and was always known for his slashing ability and defensive prowess. His age might be catching up with him at this point, though, as his efficiency numbers were pretty poor last season. Antoine Agudio is a guy we’ve always liked, and he’s not only an efficient scorer and a very mistake-free guy, but he’s also one of the better shooters you’ll find in the D-League.

Yaroslav Korolev needs to show something this season or he is going to be part of the talk as the worst lottery pick of all time. After teaching middle school for the past year, . Kevin Pittsnogle has decided to make a comeback and probably won’t be in the best shape in the world. He certainly wasn’t before he retired. Cory Underwood might be the team’s best big man, which isn’t saying much.

Albuquerque could use some serious interior help, but neither of their two affiliates (Dallas and New Orleans) have any players that figure to be assigned. The front office will have to work some magic on the trade front or as new players become available.

14. Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Starting Lineup:

Brandon Cotton
Kyle McAlarney
Ron Howard
Ryan Ayers
Rob Kurz*

The Mad Ants took a big hit when the Golden State Warriors called up center Chris Hunter last week. This created a big hole in their frontcourt and will likely force them to play small and very perimeter oriented.

Point guard duties will likely be split between sharp-shooting Notre Dame product Kyle McAlarney and former top high school recruit Brandon Cotton, who earned a spot via local tryouts. The two have complementary skill-sets and might even be able to play together in the same backcourt.

Without Hunter, the best chance for a call-up is Rob Kurz who, ironically, played for the Warriors last season. Kurz is an outstanding shooter and solid rebounder who plays with intensity and is extremely intelligent. He garnered more playing time in the NBA last year than likely any other player in the D-League.

The Mad Ants have three NBA affiliates and all of them could send a player to Fort Wayne. The Pistons could send DaJuan Summers or Austin Daye, though Daye isn’t very likely. While the Pacers could send A.J. Price and the Bucks could send Roko Ukic. Based on what we’re seeing from their roster so far, they could use all the help they can get.

15. Sioux Falls Skyforce

Starting Lineup:

David Bailey/Leemire Goldwire
Michael Joiner
Reggie Williams/ Keith Brumbaugh
Joe Krabbenhoft/Raymond Sikes
Greg Stiemsma*

Sioux Falls seems to be pretty down compared to years past, as they don’t have any serious call-up candidates, but don’t have much in the ways of returning talent either. Their frontcourt lacks any kind of depth and it appears that this team will struggle to score on a consistent basis, meaning they will have to play great defense.

Two-time NCAA scoring champion Reggie Williams is back after a year playing in France. Not the greatest athlete around, Williams will need to show improvement on defense and more range on his shot if he is to make the NBA. Highly experienced but tiny David Bailey will likely carry much of the shot-creating and ultimately scoring duties for the team. He’s an experienced guy who knows how to get the job done at this level. Wisconsin Badger fans will be delighted to see that Joe Krabbenhoft and Greg Stiemsma are reunited once again. Their team will need them to score consistently—typically not their forte--if they are to have any chance at winning games.

Stiemsma might be interesting for some teams to look at due to the very that he's a very long and mobile big man who can block shots and run the floor, even if he's very raw offensively.

Sioux Falls is unlikely to see any assigned players this year as they are affiliated with the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. Miami could only send Michael Beasley or Mario Chalmers, but they are both starting for the Heat. Wayne Ellington and Nathan Jawai would be the two most likely players to come from the Timberwolves, but they are both getting 13+ minutes per game.

16. Springfield Armor

Starting Lineup:

JamesOn Curry*/Craig Austrie
Adam Harrington
Perrin Johnson
Dante Milligan
Kentrell Gransberry

The expansion Armor are led by former Celtic Dee Brown who has his work cut out for him this season. None of their players participated in an NBA Training Camp this year or were on a Summer League roster. JamesOn Curry should get plenty of opportunities to fill up the box score for Springfield and will probably put up some huge scoring lines, but his off-court issues may hurt him from getting a good look from the NBA. He was cut very quickly from the team he played for in France last season.

Adam Harrington is one of the league’s best shooters and brings plenty of experience to the table as well. Him and Curry will carry much of the scoring load. Kentrell Gransberry was a terrific performer in the Big East a few years back for South Florida, but conditioning issues have limited him from having much success at the pro level just yet. Brown will need to get something out of him as he has very little talent in the frontcourt.

The Armor could desperately use an assignment from one of its three NBA affiliates with the possible players including Marcus Landry and Jordan Hill from the Knicks.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jim.hlavac@draftexpress.com