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A Team-by-Team Analysis of the 2011 D-League Draft

Bakersfield Jam
Overall outlook: With a trio of first round selections, the Bakersfield Jam had the draft real estate necessary to give their squad a talent infusion heading into the 2011-12 season. Wisely, the Jam diversified these three selections bring in a guard (Mustapha Farrakhan – Virginia), swingman (Edwin Ubiles – Siena) and PF/C (Mac Koshwal – DePaul). However, they weren’t done there as they sent Ubiles to the Dakota Wizards for D-League veteran Renaldo Major.

Best Pick: Mac Koshwal – Koshwal is not particularly skilled or athletic but his tremendous size (6-foot-10) and active hands made him a formidable rebounder throughout his college career at DePaul. Offensively, he is most comfortable at the high post, electing to take his man off the dribble and he possesses surprising mobility and fluidity for his size. Koshwal possesses the physical gifts to develop into a dominant rebounder and defensive force for the Jam this season.
Canton Charge
Overall outlook: As the new guys on the block, the Charge opted to maximize versatility in this year’s draft, selecting swingmen with four of their six selections. But there’s two sides to that decision – the Charge did not draft any PF/C, which could end up haunting them in the future as depth in the front court is essential for success.

Best Pick: Harry Marshall – Despite being drafted in the 7th round, Marshall possesses the skill and personality traits to be an impact player for the Charge. Having walked on Indiana State’s basketball team as a freshman, Marshall employed a tireless work ethic to evolve into one of the program’s all-time top performers. He is an efficient scorer, a vocal leader and a solid perimeter defender who will provide strong leadership for Canton’s blossoming squad.
Dakota Wizards
Overall outlook: In need of backcourt depth, the Dakota Wizards obliged by dedicating six of their eight selections to guards, headlined by Iowa State’s Darion Anderson and Illinois State’s Osiris Eldridge (the latter of whom Dakota then traded to Bakersfield, along with veteran forward Renaldo Major) .

Best Pick: Osiris Eldridge – Eldridge is slightly undersized for a wing player but compensates with tremendous athleticism and explosiveness. He’s fantastic in the open floor and has developed solid shooting mechanics over his college career. If he can improve his shot selection and decision-making and focus on taking the ball aggressively into the lane, he should wreak havoc on opposing defenses all season long.
Erie BayHawks
Overall outlook: With two selections in the first 10 picks, the BayHawks were positioned to bring in a haul of serious talent in the draft. Their selections of Cory Higgins and Chris Daniels were on the “safer” end of the spectrum, although I was not particularly fond of Higgins being selected seventh overall, considering his lack of size, athleticism and the quickness requisite for a successful swingman. Daniels, on the other hand, should provide fantastic size and strength in the interior.

Best Pick: Chris Daniels – A wise man once said “you can’t teach size” and it is for precisely this reason that I am thrilled with the selection of Chris Daniels ninth overall. Although his post game could use development, Daniels’s enormous 7-foot, 265-pound frame and baby hook shot will be make him a force in the painted area. His affinity for contact and brute strength will surely make slashers think twice before taking the ball his way.
Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Overall outlook: The Mad Ants only had 6 selections in this year’s draft and chose to focus on backcourt depth and scoring. The trio of Brian Wanamaker, Cameron Jones and Anthony Johnson should accomplish just that.

Best Pick: Cameron Jones – Cameron Jones was a prolific scorer at Northern Arizona and finished as NAU’s all-time leading scorer. He has tremendous range that extends far beyond the arc and should immediately contribute offensively for the Mad Ants by spreading the floor with his dead-eye shooting.
Idaho Stampede
Overall outlook: Idaho had a remarkably balanced draft bolstering all positions throughout. They seemed to focus on high energy and effort players who typically compensate for any shortcomings in skill or physical attributes with a tireless work ethic. Eric Devendorf and Jason Ellis are the epitome of this style of game.

Best Pick: Jason Ellis – Ellis is one of my favorite players selected in this year’s draft. He’s the possessor of a tireless motor, whose supreme energy on both ends of the court make his teammates better. He is a fantastic athlete and hits the offensive and defensive glass hard on EVERY possession.
Iowa Energy
Overall outlook: Having lost the inside presence of Courtney Sims before the finals and with Curtis Stinson as a likely Gatorade Call-Up candidate, the defending champs had some work to do in this year’s draft. The selection of Jarrid Famous from USF should do wonders in the frontcourt as his 6-foot, 10-inch frame and explosive style of play should reinforce their interior defense and provide them with a strong scoring option in transition due to his incredible mobility for his size. Furthermore, their selections of three PGs should provide them insurance for the possibility of Stinson’s departure.

Best Pick: Jason Westrol – Westrol was a seventh round selection who flew under-the-radar after playing college ball at Division II Bentley College. Westrol was the 2010 Division II Player of the Year and boasts tremendous scoring ability, court vision and quick hands on the defensive end of the floor. He could develop into a significant contributor for the Energy.
Los Angeles D-Fenders
Overall outlook: The D-Fenders were in an advantaged position with the No .1 overall pick in the draft, and they made it count with the selection of Jamaal Tinsley, the veteran NBA point guard. Despite selecting a point guard first overall, the D-Fenders curiously elected to focus on the backcourt, dedicating all but one of their remaining picks to guards. That said, their selections of Anthony Gurley and Courntey Fortson should serve them well this season.

Best Pick: Jamaal Tinsley – Tinsley was a no-brainer to be selected first overall in this year’s draft given his 8 seasons of NBA experience. He is a strong ballhandler and passer and has developed into an efficient scorer in recent years. His tremendous lateral quickness and quick hands make him a very strong perimeter defender. His talent and experience should make him a leader on and off the floor this season for the D-Fenders.
Tulsa 66ers
Overall outlook: The 66ers gobbled up a number of talented swingmen in the draft which should provide them with athleticism and versatility on both ends of the floor. I commend them for focusing on drafting players who enjoyed success at some of the country’s top college programs: Dwight Buycks (Marquette), Gary Johnson (Texas), Brady Morningstar (Kansas) and Curtis Sumpter (Villanova). Their comfort level with top-tier competition should enable them to transition seamlessly into the elevated level of play in the NBA D-League.

Best Pick: Gary Johnson – Having played at a very strong Texas basketball program, Johnson is no stranger to high-quality basketball. Despite the fact that he is a bit short for a PF (at 6-foot-8), he is a tremendous rebounder who imposes his will on all who dare to bang with him in the paint.
Maine Red Claws
Overall outlook: To use a baseball analogy, the Maine Red Claws hit a walk-off grand slam in this year’s draft. Pulling in a haul that included two very capable 7-foot players (Chales Okwandu and Mike Tisdale), the supremely athletic and talented Chris Wright and Michigan State’s standout SG Durrell Summers, the Red Claws are fully loaded and ready to do damage this season.

Best Pick: Durrell Summer – Making this selection was extremely difficult based on the sheer volume of fantastic draft picks made by Maine, but perhaps no pick was better than Durrell Summers in the second round. Summers enjoyed a remarkably successful career at Michigan State as an incredible shooter, athlete and perimeter defender with a nose for the ball. He has been an integral part of numerous top teams which advanced deep into the NCAA tournament and brings a level of winning pedigree that should make him an immediate impact player on the Red Claws.
Reno Bighorns
Overall outlook: The Reno Bighorns did justice to the first part of their name and focused primarily on strengthening their frontcourt by dedicating five of eight picks to forwards. Donald Sims and Calvin Haynes make for intriguing backcourt selections who could provide them with much-needed guard depth.

Best Selection: Cedric Bozeman – Bozeman’s 6-foot, 6-inch frame will make him one of the largest PGs in the NBA D-League. Playing his college ball at UCLA, Bozeman is a talented scorer who bullies his way past smaller PG competition. Furthermore, he possesses above-average quickness for his size which makes him a very strong perimeter defender.
Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Overall outlook: Having lost numerous backcourt contributors to NBA squads last season, the RGV Vipers made drafting guards a priority this year. One of their more intriguing selections was Willie Veasley who was a member of Butler’s back-to-back NCAA runner-up teams who could provide some leadership and talent for the Vipers.

Best Pick: Tyren Johnson – Johnson is an extremely versatile player who has the ability to guard either forward position and accumulate blocks, steals and rebounds. He possesses tremendous court vision for his position and is a solid shooter whose range extends beyond the arc.
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Overall outlook: The Skyforce pulled in a guard-heavy draft haul this season headlined by West Virginia’s Casey Mitchell who led the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in scoring in 2011 and Gabe Pruitt, who was a member of the 2008 World Champion Boston Celtics squad. Both of these players should greatly improve the Skyforce offense this season and help them spread the floor with their expansive shooting range.

Best Pick: Casey Mitchell – Despite selecting a former NBA player in Gabe Pruitt, the Skyforce’s best work came in the 3rd round with their selection of Casey Mitchell, a former West Virginia standout guard. Mitchell is a tremendous shooter and prolific scorer who turned heads at the 2011 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament where he led all players in scoring. Although he does not possess particularly strong lateral quickness, he’s a smart defender and has quick hands which enable him to post gaudy steal totals.
Springfield Armor
Overall outlook: The Springfield Armor focused on players who would increase their size, strength and physicality this season. Their selections of Chris Taft, Dennis Horner and Jonathan Thomas should all contribute in that respect and bolster their frontcourt.

Best Pick: Chris Taft – The selection of Chris Taft 48th overall was one of the great thefts in this year’s D-League draft. At 6-foot-10, 265 pounds, Taft is a physical specimen who combines size and strength with athleticism. In fact, Taft was headed for a potential NBA career before injuries derailed him three years ago. With renewed health, Chris Taft could evolve into one of the NBA D-League’s most dominant big men.
Texas Legends
Overall outlook: After this year’s draft, the Texas Legends look to have one of the most menacing frontcourts in the league as they brought in Jamal Sampson, Josh Southern and Lawrence Hill. Furthermore, landing Alando Tucker with the second overall selection should provide them with an offensive boost.

Best Pick: Alando Tucker – Formerly drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2007 NBA draft, Tucker brings a medley of incredible talent, athleticism and leadership to the Legends. He is a powerful guard who is a great shooter and can be fierce in the lane. His explosiveness and athleticism make him a very strong perimeter defender as he is able to stay in front of and body up his opponent.
Austin Toros
Overall outlook: The Austin Toros come out of the 2011 with a myriad of question marks. Of course, they were not helped by the fact that their highest selection was the 30th overall pick, but they went risky, taking flyers on unproven guards from small college programs. Time will tell whether or not their decisions will ultimately pay off.

Best Pick: Tristan Thompson – Thompson played at North Texas and could end up being a very solid performer for the Toros. He is a strong scorer whose scoring averages rose year-over-year during his college career culminating in an impressive 18.0 ppg in his senior season. He is a consistent shooter and has incredible 3 point shooting range, consistently hitting more than 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
Big Winner of the 2011 NBA D-League Draft
Maine Red Claws
Notable picks: Durrell Summers, Chris Wright, Mike Tisdale