D-League All-Star Candidates: Guards
by Matthew Brennan, D-League.com with D-League Dir. of Basketball Operations Shawn Respert
December 18, 2007: Voting for the second annual D-League All-Star Game is now 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, 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 each position at the guard position, as well as some comments one ach player by D-League Director of Basketball Operations and NBA veteran Shawn Respert. Look out for the top candidates at forward sometime next week, followed by centers.
Shawn Respert on Almond: "A tremendous offensive talent who I had the pleasure of coaching while at Rice University. He can put points up on the board from a variety of places and in a variety of ways. Morris truly embraces the opportunity the D-League provides for his NBA development, while on assignment from the Utah Jazz."
Andre Barrett, Bakersfield Jam - Barrett joined the Jam about a week into the season and quickly established himself as one of the league's best point guards. He is ranked second in the league with 10.0 assists per game, and also ranks second on the Jam with 18.5 points. Barrett, who starred in the BIG EAST at Seton Hall, played in the D-League in 2005-06 and received a GATORADE Call-Up to the Chicago Bulls. He spent all of last season in the NBA with Chicago.
Respert: "A solid floor leader that possesses enough offensive firepower to lead his team on any given night. He has the kind of game that can spell good minutes for someone looking for a solid back-up point guard who knows how to manage the floor. He has made the Bakersfield Jam a team to be reckoned with since his acquisition in early December."
Brian Chase, Los Angeles D-Fenders - Chase is one of several players on the ballot who played in last year's All-Star Game. A returning All-D-League honorable mention player, Chase is averaging 15.6 points while primarily coming off the bench for Los Angeles. Prior to this season he played for the Miami Heat in training camp. He also started the 2006-07 season with the Utah Jazz before joining the D-Fenders.
Respert: "Brian brings a rare blend of outside shooting, court savvy, and a defensive prowess that is seldom seen in today's scoring point guards. He is a veteran of the D-League and continuing to impress NBA scouts with his abilities, despite his size. He should get a real chance to show that he belongs in the NBA this season."
Guillermo Diaz, Anaheim Arsenal - Diaz ranks second on the Arsenal with 17.0 points, while adding 4.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists. A 6-2 guard from Miami, he is one of several former Hurricanes (Darius Rice, Robert Hite) to enjoy success in the D-League over the past few seasons. Diaz is in his second professional season and has spent time in training camp with the Arsenal's NBA affiliate, the Los Angeles Clippers.
Respert: "Guillermo has been electrifying at times in the early going of the '07-'08 season. He has a knack of getting to the basket with explosive moves, and then displays the grace and poise to score with an array of leaners and floaters in the lane. He definitely posseses NBA caliber athletic ability and will be getting some good looks from scouts."
Coby Karl, Los Angeles D-Fenders - The Lakers made Karl their first assignment of the 2007-08 season and he has been a standout, averaging 19.3 points for the first-place D-Fenders. A 6-5 shooting guard from Boise State, Karl is tied for fourth in the league with 21 three-point field goals on 48 total attempts. He also averages 5.4 rebounds and a team-leading 4.5 assists. for the D-Fenders.
Respert: "One of the best shooters to come to the D-League, Coby is building a great reputation as a player that can shoot with range and provide a team with another dependable ball-handler on the floor. He has a tremendous basketball I.Q. (thanks to dad and current Nugget head coach George Karl) and seems to improve every game that he has played with the Los Angeles D-Fenders."
Keith Langford, Austin Toros - The former Kansas standout is off to an outstanding start with the 7-1 Austin Toros. Langford is averaging 24.9 points, sixth in the league and third among non-assigned players. He also contributes 6.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.8 steals for the Toros, who have won seven straight games. Langford spent time with the San Antonio Spurs this preseason and turned down lucrative offers from overseas to play in the D-League as he seeks his shot at the NBA.
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
Randy Livingston, Idaho Stampede - The 2006-07 D-League MVP, Livingston was named to the All-Star team last year but missed the game due to an injury. He should be a major candidate to appear in this year's game, as he currently leads the league with 10.1 assists while also adding 17.0 points and 1.8 steals per game. Livingston and Barrett are the only two players in the D-League who are averaging double-figures in assists. Last season, Livingston tied for the league lead with 10.6 assists and received a GATORADE Call-Up to the Seattle Supersonics.
Respert: "Randy is the consummate veteran that seems to age like fine wine. His natural basketball instincts give him a clear advantage over any point guard that faces him in the D-League. He is the league leader in assists for the past couple of years, as well as vital part of a championship contender because of his unquestioned leadership."
Dwayne Mitchell, Iowa Energy - Mitchell, the 14th overall pick in this year's D-League Draft, has paid off for the Energy as he leads the team with 22.5 points. A model of consistency, Mitchell has scored 15 or more points in every game this season while leading Iowa to first place in the Central Division. With JamesOn Curry's returnd to the Chicago Bulls, expect Mitchell's numbers to grow as he will likely shoulder even more of an offensive load. The former Louisiana-Lafayette star is also a solid rebounder for a guard, pulling down 6.5 boards per game.
Respert: "Dwayne probably comes as a surprise to most, but he certainly sneaks up on no one who has scouted talent the last couple of years. He is a well-built scoring machine that brings a perfect blend of inside-outside scoring ability for the big guard position."
Ramon Sessions, Tulsa 66ers - Sessions has been on assignment from the Bucks for the entire D-League season and ranks seventh in the D-League with 22.7 points per game. He is one of the league's best all-around players as he also contributes 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists for Tulsa. A college star at Nevada, Sessions was the 56th overall pick by Milwaukee in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Respert: "Not a flashy type, Ramon has had one of the most successful NBA assignment transitions in recent years. His strong play has given Coach Joey Meyers (Tulsa) a reason to smile this season. An underrated playmaker who seems to take and make big shots when called on, Ramon reminds the Milwaukee Bucks of a younger Charlie Bell, who has made many of the Bucks' front office personnel smile with his play the past couple seasons."
CJ Watson, Rio Grande Valley Vipers - Watson is off to a spectacular start in his first D-League season, averaging 23.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists for the expansion Vipers. The fifth overall pick in the D-League Draft, Watson has scored 20 or more points in eight of ten games this season and has been deadly accurate from the field, connecting on .531 (71-133) of his field goal attempts. His percentage places him sixth in field-goal percentage among players with at least 100 shot attempts. He also leads the D-League with 82 made free throws. After playing in Tennessee, Watson played for several clubs in Europe last year and was in training camp with the Charlotte Bobcats before he was drafted by the Vipers.
Respert: "One of my favorite guards in the D-League, C.J. has provided Rio Grande Valley and Coach Bob Hoffman with the biggest surprise of the season (leading the Vipers to the league's second best record). C.J. has a toughness that enables him to make basketball plays while under pressure. Another solid all-around guard that seems to play his best against the better talent in the league."