After the D-League released the list of allocated, returning and tryout players, we take a look through the rosters and rank the teams 1-16 based off what they have going into the draft, analyzing the top players in the league in the process.
The draft will be broadcasted today, Friday the 7th, at 7 PM on NBATV. #1 Dakota WizardsBlake Ahearn Maurice Baker
Will Frisby Dontell Jefferson Quemont Greer Renaldo Major
Along with Austin, Dakota looks to be one of the two strongest teams in the D-League, and with a strong draft (with a likely focus on the interior) should be considered the tentative favorites for the league title. Their returning players are mostly all proven to be quality D-League producers, and they should have a good deal of chemistry right off the bat, which is more than most teams in the league will ever be able to say this season.
The backcourt looks especially strong, with combo guards Blake Ahearn
, Mo Baker and Dontell Jefferson
all capable of putting up big-time scoring numbers, as well as do other things.
Ahearn is one of the top shooters in the league, but is not just your typical suburban backyard shooter. He is a fairly good athlete, and is capable of putting the ball on the floor and getting to the free throw line (where he simply never misses), as he showed last season en-route to earning a call-up from the Miami Heat. The drawback here is that despite standing just 6-2 with an underwhelming frame, hes not much of a point guard, and thus is fairly limited defensively as well. It will be interesting to see how he develops this season, as he seems to be getting better all the time.
Maurice Mo Baker played all of 06-07 with Dakota and a large chunk of 07-08 as well before being bought out by Paris-Levallios in the French League. Hes a big-time scorer plain and simple, despite being fairly limited athletically and nothing more than an average perimeter shooter at best. Baker just has a terrific feel for putting the ball in the basket, not always terribly efficiently albeit, but still being capable of creating offense out of nothing, which is more than most players in this league can say. Hes a tough, experienced player with strong intangibles who brings a lot to the table in a league like this, and will even make teammates better on occasion, and surely help win games.
Similar to Baker, he played all of 06-07 with Dakota and part of 07-08 before being bought out by a European team (Barons Riga in Latvia). Jefferson is a very versatile 6-4 point guard, showing nice athleticism, the ability to lock-down multiple positions defensively, good court vision and an improving feel for putting the ball in the basket. He is the definition of a late-bloomer and improved by leaps and bounds in two seasons in the D-League. He passed up numerous overseas offers to give the NBA another shot, and it will be interesting to see how much he improves this season.
The Wizards have talent in the frontcourt as well, starting with lock-down defender Renaldo Major
(sat out for all of last season after undergoing heart surgery), Quemont Greer
(an excellent scorer who never met a shot he didnt like), and offensive-minded but foul prone Will Frisby. #2 Austin Toros
Carldell Johnson Marcus Williams Charles Gaines Malik Hairston
Austin looks to be the most top-heavy team in the D-League going into the draft already. They have two San Antonio Spurs second round picks in Malik Hairston
and Marcus Williams
, as well as a very athletic big man with an incredible amount of high-level European experience in Charles Gaines
could very well be the first player called up by an NBA team, as soon as one injury or another happens and the need for a versatile swingman arises. He has an NBA body already to go along with nice physical tools, an advanced skill-set, and excellent intangibles to boot. It was surprising to say the least to see San Antonio decide to keep Desmon Farmer
over him, but if Hairston can show improved ball-handling skills and the ability to defend both wing positions effectively, his stay in Austin should not be very long.
Many will scratch their head while reading this list and wonder what exactly Charles Gaines
is thinking passing up 50k per month offers or more in Europe to play in the D-League, but the Austin Toros surely wont mind. Were talking about one of the most athletic players in the league right off the bat, someone capable of making a significant impact inside the paint on both ends of the floor, as well as a strong rebounder in traffic and a terrific threat running the floor in transition. These are all very rare qualities to find in a big man in the D-League, particularly one as experienced as Gaines is. Gaines has always been deemed to lack the size, consistent jump-shot, steady free throw stroke and the on-court discipline needed to earn an NBA contract, but its possible that an up close and personal look from every NBA team, combined with some big-time production (a maybe a mid-season injury to a rotation player) could change their minds over the long D-League season.
Cardell Squeaky Johnson is a very steady point guard to have at the D-League level, while former LSU combo guard Tack Minor has all kinds of talent (especially as a scorer) but has fallen off the map in recent years due to off-court issues. #3 Idaho StampedeBrent Petway Jamaal Tatum
Ryan Appleby Coby Karl
Last years champions should be very competitive once again, even if they lack some of the experience and depth of their counterparts in Austin and Bismarck. Regardless, Idaho has one of the best coaching staffs in the league, starting with head coach Bryan Gates, now complimented by the huge amount of NBA and D-League experience that Randy Livingston
brings to the table, which means that they cant be ruled out.
Idaho should be led by the play of versatile Coby Karl
, recently cut by the LA Lakers. Karl can play three positions in the D-League and should shoulder a significant amount of the playmaking duties. He is a very aggressive and extremely intelligent player with a terrific stroke from beyond the arc and excellent court vision, and is aided tremendously by his terrific 7-foot wingspan. Not terribly athletic, particularly in the lateral quickness department, he will have to find the right fit in order to make it back to the NBA, and will also draw significant interest from high-level European teams.
There are a couple of other interesting players who should make a solid impact here, including the freakishly athletic Brent Petway
, the tough-nosed and extremely intelligent Jamaal Tatum
(forced to sit out all of last season with an ankle injury), and the athletic and versatile undersized power forward Reggie Leary, a rookie out of local Boise State.#4 Bakersfield JamMateen Cleaves Trey Johnson Nick Lewis
Derek Wright Jeff Trepagnier
Bakersfield has two veteran players at its disposal in Mateen Cleaves
and Jeff Trepagnier
, and some quality options alongside them, which should make them more competitive than theyve been recently. With a solid draft, they should be well along their way this season.
A former top-15 pick (Detroit Pistons, 2000) and NCAA champion, Cleaves knows the D-League well, having spent parts of four of the last five seasons here, always putting up huge scoring and assists numbers. He is a ball-dominant floor general who lacks great athleticism or a consistent perimeter shooting stroke, but brings great intangibles to the table, which could be appealing to an NBA team looking for a steady and reliable third point guard mid-way through the season.
Trepagnier is a former second round pick (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2001) and a big-time athlete who is getting close to hitting 30 years old. The trajectory of his career has been pointing downwards for the past few seasons after initially showing quite a bit of promise, and its likely that he is coming to try and get himself back on track in a feature scoring role here in Bakersfield. His shot-selection and all-around streakiness have always been considered his downfalls, but hes an excellent athlete who can make a real impact on both ends of the floor when hes truly dialed in.
7-footer Nick Lewis
gives the team a high skill-level and productive rebounder, and Trey Johnson
will try to regain the form that made him the #1 scorer in college basketball just two years ago. #5 Albuquerque ThunderbirdsWill Conroy
Ramon Dyer Cheyne Gadson
The most notable names here are Will Conroy
and Cheyne Gadson
, two players that give Albuquerque a very experienced backcourt from which to build around.
Conroy is going into his fourth D-League campaign after racking up over 100 D-League games of experience. He has very little to show for it in terms of NBA money earned, but will again try to turn double-digit assists averages, decent scoring, a high turnover rate and average perimeter shooting ability into a 10-day contract. At this level, you cant argue with the leadership he brings to the table.
Gadson is also coming off a very poor performance in Italy last season and also has a wealth of D-League experience to fall-back on. He is a talented scoring combo guard with solid athleticism but is unlikely to draw much NBA interest due to his lack of playmaking, perimeter shooting and decision making skills.
It will be interesting to see how the very ball-dominant Conroy, Gadson and Majic Dorsey are all able to coincide alongside each other. It does not look like a match made in heaven on paper. #6 Sioux Falls SkyforceChris Alexander
Milone Clark Carl Elliott
Michael Joiner Bobby Jones Frank Williams
Sioux Falls has two former NBA players (Bobby Jones
and Frank Williams
), a legit big man to do the dirty work (Chris Alexander
), and a prospect with nice upside in Carl Elliott
, which separates them a bit from the pack. Not enough to compete with the big-boys for a championship, they are regardless capable of beating almost any team on any given night, especially with a good draft.
Frank Williams#7 Tulsa 66ersRussell Carter Keith Closs
seems to have lost almost all the athleticism that made him a first round pick back in 2002 (New York Knicks, #25), and has become almost exclusively a perimeter shooter. He is not a very efficient player for that reason, and is fairly turnover for a point guard, but for as hard as it is for D-League teams to acquire point guards, hes not that bad of an option all things consideredsince he can defend, is experienced and brings good size and strength to the table.
Chris Ellis Jeremy Kelly Terrell Everett Ryan Humphrey
Tulsa is one of the more athletic teams youll find, and theyll be able to build to a pretty solid core after adding the #1 overall pick in the draft. They will probably be looking to improve their frontcourt, which is a bit weak compared to their backcourt.
may be a familiar name to college basketball fans, and he will likely become a familiar name to D-League fans this season as well. A big point guard with nice athleticism, good court vision and excellent overall talent, Everett is back in the States after spending the last two seasons primarily in France, where he was mostly up and down but always showed excellent sparks of potential. Everett is still an average perimeter shooter and decision maker, two of the things hell need to work on the most to draw NBA interest this upcoming season. Showing leadership skills and maturity both on and off the floor will be imperative.
Tulsa also returns an excellent shooter and solid athlete in Russell Carter
, who stumbled in his first season of professional play. He joins the versatile and defensive minded Jeremy Kelly
, a veteran D-League player at this point, and Chris Ellis, a strong and aggressive athlete and undersized power forward who makes up for his poor skill-set somewhat with the energy he brings to the floor. Ryan Humphrey
is a former first round draft pick (#19 in 2002, Utah Jazz) out of Notre Dame who is trying to return to the basketball courts after sitting out an extensive amount of time with injuries. If he has retained the athleticism that made him such a coveted prospect a few years back, he could be of huge service to Tulsa. #8 Anaheim ArsenalMario Boggan Mike Efevberha Noel Felix Cedric Bozeman
TJ Cummings Ayinde Ubaka
is likely the most interesting player here, thanks to his excellent size at the point guard position, combined with his strong defensive skills and ability to threaten for a triple-double on any given night with his versatile skill-set. Question marks about his consistency and all-around mental toughness have been holding his career back since graduating from UCLA, especially coming off a dreadful season in Poland.
Noel FelixMike Efevberha
is likely the only other NBA prospect on the roster, and even he would be considered a serious long-shot based off the lack of improvement hes shown over the past few seasons. He has an NBA body and athleticism, and is capable of making somewhat of an impact defensively and on the glass in a competition like the D-League, but he lacks the type of size or even marginal offensive skill-set to draw more than cursory interest from most NBA scouts.
will put up big scoring numbers on a huge amount of possessions, Mario Boggan
will hope to have a bounce-back season after playing for five different teams in Europe (and leaving pretty much everyone on bad terms) over the past year, and Ayinde Ubaka
has the talent to improve his resume and be a solid player in the D-League.#9 Iowa EnergyDwayne Mitchell
Aristide Sawadogo Courtney Sims Curtis Stinson
Iowa returns two important players in Dwayne Mitchell
and Courtney Sims
to their roster, but will need to have a good draft to have a chance at staying competitive.
Mitchell is one of the best athletes in the D-League, a chiseled 6-3 shooting guard with excellent defensive potential, albeit questionable range on his shot and improvable ball-handling skills. He was having a good season last year before being bought out of his contract by German team Bamberg.
Courtney Sims#10 Los Angeles D-Fenders
was one of the most productive per-minute performers in the D-League last season, doing an outstanding job of scoring and rebounding by taking advantage of his solid athleticism and above average skill-level. If he can improve defensively and continue to make strides with his all-around game, he could be a solid candidate for a 10-day to get a more in-depth look.
Darren Cooper Brandon Heath Joe Crawford
The LA D-Fenders have always been one of the best teams in the league since their inception, but they return precious little to their roster this season, besides their second round pick Joe Crawford
, who they cut in training camp.
Crawford has league-leading potential as a scorer, as hes blessed with an outstanding stroke from beyond the arc, a potent mid-range game, as well as the ability to put the ball on the floor and make his way to the basket. He wasnt always a consistent performer at Kentucky, as his focus and intensity level seemed to waver at times, but he managed to show enough at Portsmouth and the pre-draft camp to earn a selection in the late second round. He needs to improve his shot-selection and decision making skills and prove that he can defend his position at the next level, but youre looking for call-up candidates at the shooting guard position, this might not be a bad place to start.
Combo guard Brandon Heath
might be forced to man the point for this team, which will be an interesting experiment to say the least. Heath is a terrific scorer and streak-shooter who you never quite know what to expect from on any given night. He plays little defense and is not much of a playmaker, two things hell have to work long and hard on.#11 Erie BayHawksJackie Manuel Geary Claxton
Ivan Harris Maureece Rice
This is a very young team with some serious question marks, either injury or character related. Mike Cook and Geary Claxton
are two terrific college players who saw their seasons come to an end last year due to serious knee problems. Their health will play a major part in Eries success, along with whatever Maureece Rice
brings to the table.
The most interesting story here is probably Geary Claxton
, one of the top players in the Big Ten over the past few seasons. Claxton tore his ACL last January, which ended his incredibly productive college career with Penn State and erased any possibility of garnering NBA draft interest. A tough, smart and very versatile player who spent time at many different positions in college, Claxton is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on.
will probably put up big scoring numbers at this level, but it will be interesting to see if he do the other things needed to win games as well, something he wasnt really known for at George Washington. He has a great deal of talent and can really stroke the ball, but the question marks about his intangibles and background linger.
Mike Cook was denied another year of eligibility by the NCAA after tearing his ACL in Pitts 11th game last season, so he ended up here on the D-League. He is bound to be a solid player in the D-League if his knee is up for the task, as he is a tough guy who can shoot, score, pass and defend and comes from a terrific college program. Jackie Manuel
and Ivan Harris are two more players from big schools, Manuel from North Carolina and Harris from Ohio State. Manuel is a great defender who struggles shooting the ball from the perimeter, and Harris is a great shooter who struggles defending his position. #12 Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Stanley Asumnu Trent Strickland
Kendall Dartez Alton Ford
Things should be just slightly easier for Rio Grande Valley in their second D-League season, but they still lack the star power to compete with the better teams in the league. They will likely be led by the play of Trent Strickland
and Kendall Dartez.
Strickland is a superb athlete who can really defend on the perimeter, and is versatile enough to score with his back to the basket or taking players off the dribble. His shooting stroke has improved but still needs plenty of work. Hes not likely to get any NBA looks, but in the D-League he can be a productive piece.
Dartez missed all of last season with an injury after signing with Euroleague team Roanne, and it should be interesting to track his progress thanks to his physical tools. He is a superb athlete with an excellent body, but lacks a significant amount of polish offensively and doesnt have much experience to fall back on.Alton Ford
played in the NBA back in 2002-2003 with Phoenix, but has been out of basketball for the last 3-4 years. #13 Colorado 14ers
Eric Osmundson Josh Davis
#14 Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Colorado looks like one of the weaker squads around, and should be lead by the play of perimeter oriented power forward Josh Davis
, a veteran player with a little bit of NBA experience underneath his belt. Davis is an undersized four who plays primarily facing the basket, where he can really stroke the ball and is a nice option to run pick and pop plays for. Primarily a hustle-guy, he is ill suited for the type of feature role that the Colorado coaching staff probably expects from him, and should be considered a prime candidate to be bought out by an overseas team if he does not earn a call-up early in the season.
Anthony Kyle Walker Russell
There is not a whole lot to talk about here, besides possibly Fort Waynes returning point guard, Walker Russell
Jr. He was bought out of his contract last season by ACB squad Estudiantes after an excellent showing in the D-League showcase, but was unable to make much of an impact there. Hes a real floor general with a high basketball IQ and an excellent knack for running the pick and roll, but his lack of size and perimeter shooting skills dont leave much room for optimism regarding a hypothetical NBA future.
Chris Hunter is a serviceable D-League big man, and Ron Howard is a somewhat productive option on the wing. #15 Reno BighornsDamone Brown
Jesse Smith - returning player
Reno got virtually nothing out of the expansion draft, and in turn has one of the weakest rosters in the D-League Damone Brown
is surrounded by a group of anonymous players, which means they need to have a great draft and then hope for help from their NBA affiliates.
#16 Utah Flash
Shouldering much of the offensive load will be 6-9 combo forward Damone Brown
, a player who has spent five of the last six seasons in the D-League, and received a couple of 10-days for his effort. Brown is a very talented player who can put the ball on the floor or make a mid-range jumper. He does a lot of different things on both ends of the floor thanks to his length and athleticism, but his decision making, shot-selection and overall approach leaves a lot to be desired at times. On this team he should be a scoring machine, but whether he can do what it takes to help a team win remains to be seen.
Ryan Diggs Mike Hall
Utah returns virtually nothing from last years talented, cohesive squad, which will put a lot of pressure on their front office to have a great draft and hopefully pick up some NBA send-downs. Its a bit surprising not to see Kevin Kruger
or Brian Hamilton
on the roster, but its possible they get acquired later.