D-League All-Star Candidates: Forwards

by Matthew Brennan, D-League.com with D-League Dir. of Basketball Operations Shawn Respert

Fill out your All-Star Ballot

January 3, 2008: Voting for the second annual D-League All-Star Game is underway, so be sure to send out your ballots so that your favorite player can make it to New Orleans. On this year's ballot where you can vote once every 24 hours, you will select four guards, four forwards, and two centers. This year's game is scheduled for Saturday, February 16 during NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. Here are a list of some top candidates at the forward position, as well as some comments on each player by D-League Director of Basketball Operations and NBA veteran Shawn Respert.

Dakota's Rod Benson is the D-League's leading rebounder.
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Sean Banks, Los Angeles D-Fenders - The 6-9 Banks has been one of the best all-around players in the D-League this season, leading the D-Fenders in scoring and rebounding and ranking second on the team in assists. Banks and his 19.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists have been instrumental in the D-Fenders' 10-4 record, which is tied for best in the league. The former Conference USA Freshman of the Year at Memphis, Banks' numbers are up across the board from last season, when he averaged 17.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 37 D-League games.

Respert on Banks: "A scoring forward who possesses good athletic abilities and really takes advantage of his natural talents in an uptempo game. Sean is difficult to defend when out on the wing, but becomes even tougher when he is knocking down his perimeter shots. Sean seems to fit in a style that mirrors Phoenix or Golden State. He must continue to improve his ball-handling and make good decisions within the flow of the D-Fenders offense to prove to NBA scouts that he is ready.."

Rod Benson, Dakota Wizards - Quite simply, Benson has been the premier rebounder in the D-League in his second season with the Dakota Wizards. The 6-9 Benson is leading the league with 13.3 rebounds in 14 games. He also etched his named in the D-League history books when he pulled down a D-League record 28 boards on December 9 against Sioux Falls. The former California star also can hold his own on offense, averaging 14.4 points while shooting .549 (78-142) from the field. Benson played for the New Jersey Nets in training camp before returning to Dakota for the 2007-08 season.

Respert on Benson: "Rod has probably been the league's most improved player since last season. Though he is not the most physical rebounder, he leads the league this year because of his knack of understanding how to position himself using his length and quickness. Rod is one of the most well-rounded post players in the D-League displaying an ability to score, as well as find the open teammate when double-teamed."

Elton Brown, Colorado 14ers - A returning All-D-League First Team player, Elton Brown is enjoying another excellent season for the Colorado 14ers. The 6-9 Brown is averaging 21.5 points and 10.6 rebounds, and is tied with Rod Benson for the league lead with nine double-doubles in 15 games. He was the first overall selection by Colorado in the 2006 D-League Expansion Draft, and appeared in every game for the 14ers as they advanced to the D-League Championship Game. Brown has also played in the last two NBA preseasons, suiting up for the Knicks in 2006 and the Lakers before this season.

Respert: "Elton has done a tremendous job for Coach Joe Wolf the past couple of seasons leading the team to the D-League Finals a season ago. He has gotten in better shape this year and it shows with some of his breakout games in the early going. A tough, rugged rebounder who has a nice touch around the basket. Elton should be getting some really good looks as long as he stays healthy and in good shape."

Kaniel Dickens, Colorado 14ers - The former New Jersey Net is leading the Colorado 14ers with 22.1 points in 13 games and is one of the league's best three point-shooters, connecting on .474 (46-97) from beyond the arc. The 6-8 Dickens, who starred in college at Idaho, i sactually playing in his third D-League season. Dickens averaged 10.2 points for Fayatteville during the 2005-06 season and split the D-League's inaugural 2001-02 season between Mobile and Fayatteville.

Respert: "Kaniel is an athletic forward that shoots the ball well with range. He is one of the top 3-point shooters and teams with Elton Brown to form one of the top frontcourts in the D-League this season. Kaniel is a solid rebounder and has had some big games this year for the 14ers. He possess good skills and must continue to show more consistency to make NBA scouts take a chance with him."

Nick Fazekas, Tulsa 66ers - On assignment from the Dallas Mavericks, Fazekas was the 34th overall pick in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft. At 6-11, Fazekas has been getting it done for the Tulsa 66ers in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 16.3 points and 8.4 boards in 13 games while playing only 29.3 minutes per contest. He is coming off a career-high 31 points on 15-21 shooting in 34 minutes on December 30 against Austin. Fazekas is one of 22 NBA players who have been assigned to the D-League this season, and will be able to play in the All-Star Game if he is still on assignment to Tulsa on February 16.

Respert: "Nick has great size at the forward position and his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter allows him to spread the floor for drives to the basket and create even better scoring opportunities. Nick has to improve his strength to handle some of the physical play of the NBA game but his shooting is a great asset when teamed with a great pick and roll guard."

Josh Gross, Albuquerque Thunderbirds - Gross has been one of the league's most improved players this season for the Thunderbirds. The 6-6 Gross is averaging 19.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Thunderbirds, and leads the team in scoring among non-NBA assigned players. Gross' numbers have taken a big leap over last season, when he averaged 5.8 points in 14 D-League games for the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

Respert: "Josh is a very good athlete who has outstanding leaping ability and can finish as well as anyone in the open court. He still needs to improve his ball-handling and make better decisions when he makes plays but you cannot doubt his natural abilities. Josh may not get his share of looks from NBA early, but if he continues to develop he will make a strong push for a NBA roster postion."

Kasib Powell leads the Sioux Falls Skyforce in scoring and rebounding.
Dave Eggen/NBAE/Getty Images
Carlos Powell, Dakota Wizards - The second overall pick in the D-League Draft, Powell has lived up to his billing and filled stat sheets in the D-League on a nightly basis. He leads the Wizards with 23.9 points while adding 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Consistency has been a hallmark of his game, as Powell has scored 18 points or better in 13 of 14 games this season. After an excellent 2006-07 season overseas, Powell played for the Warriors in the preseason before heading to the D-League.

Respert: "Carlos has done a great job filling in for the offensive voids lost from last season after Darius Rice departure and loss of D-League All-Star Renaldo Major. Carlos has a nice balance in his game, displaying a good skill set when scoring , rebounding, and setting up his teammates. He has good athletic ability and plays strong around the basket.."

Kasib Powell, Sioux Falls Skyforce - Powell joined the Skyforce in early December and has taken over as their main offensive threat and top rebounder. The 6-7 Powell is averaging 20.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.6 steals in his first nine games while shooting .517 (74-143) from the field. The former Texas Tech standout is no stranger to the NBA, making appearances in the NBA summer league and preseason with the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats.

Respert: "Kasib has brought a veteran leadership to Sioux Falls with his NBA experience. A solid all-around player who rebounds the ball well and puts a lot of pressure on opposing teams when he gets the ball in the post. Kasib has very good strength and quickness around the basket and plays both ends of the floor. He has made an immediate impact since the Skyforce selected him."

Steven Smith, Anaheim Arsenal - Smith has established himself as the main frontcourt threat for the Arsenal after joining the team late last season. The 6-8 Smith is averaging 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 14 games for Anaheim. Smith played for a stint last season with the Philadelphia 76ers in the same city where he starred in college at LaSalle.

Respert: "Steven has been one of the bright spots for the Arsenal this year. When he comes to play, there are very few who can match his intensity and willingness to play with a reckless abandon. His game may not be pretty, but he gets the job done by just simply outworking most of his competitors. Steven has shown a great ability to score in the low post but surprised people with an equally effective game facing the basket."

Cory Violette, Idaho Stampede - You probably remember Violette from his college career with the Gonzaga Bulldogs, but the 6-9 forward is enjoying a fine debut season with the Idaho Stampede. Violette, who grew up in Boise and played overseas for the past three seasons, is averaging 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 15 games for the Stampede. Idaho, off to 10-5 record start to the season, has one of the league's top frontcourt tandems in Violette and center Lance Allred.

Devin Green, Los Angeles D-Fenders - The 6-7 Green is averaging 15.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in his second season with the D-Fenders. Green led Los Angeles in scoring last early last season before heading overseas, and then was a member of the Miami Heat during the preseason. He is an excellent three-point shooter, connecting on .417 (15-36) from downtown this year.

Respert: "Devin is the most talented ball-handler in this group of forwards. He should probably be listed as a guard-forward because he has tremendous court vision and does a very good job getting his teammates involved. (Green is listed as a guard on the All-Star Ballot) He finishes well around the basket well and has developed a perimeter shot that makes him even more dangerous when he is knocking it down. Devin should be a great asset for any NBA team looking for a player that is versatile and it doesn't surprise me that he is with the D-Fenders (we all know how Coach Phil Jackson loves his big guards).."