Summer Rewind: Top 10 NBA Assignee Performers of 2013-14
Sometimes all it takes for a young NBA player to break out is an opportunity. For a list of players that grows every year -- from Larry Sanders and Eric Bledsoe to Terrence Jones and Reggie Jackson -- that opportunity has come in the NBA D-League.
NBA D-League assignments often offer the first glance at a player's potential when he's fully unleashed. Sixty-two different NBA players were assigned to the NBA D-League a total of 187 times during the 2013-14 season.
Here are NBADLeague.com's top 10 who impressed the most, developed the most and/or flashed the most potential:
Whether in Golden State or Santa Cruz, you won't find Kuzmic shooting sky-hooks or putting on up-and-under clinics. But what the 7-footer lacks in offensive polish he made up for by being a flat-out beast on the glass. Kuzmic rebounded at a higher rate than any player who appeared in at least five NBA D-League games this season, while also making strides as a rim protector. Those two ingredients can be enough to make an NBA role player.
(Apologies to: Ricky Ledo, Dallas Mavericks/Texas Legends; Ray McCallum, Sacramento Kings/Reno Bighorns; Glen Rice Jr., Washington Wizards/Iowa Energy; Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks/Bakersfield Jam.)
Nedovic made a splash with an absolute gem of a debut in Santa Cruz -- 30 points on 9/12 FG, 4/4 3FG, 9/11 FT -- followed by another an almost equally impressive second game a month later. When he's cooking, it's easy to see why the 23-year-old Serb entered the league as the "European Derrick Rose." But then he lost his jump shot and battled injuries, two problems that are still holding him back from making the leap to the next level.
Six months before he starred at Summer League, Gobert was a towering presence in eight NBA D-League games. He posted six double-doubles, averaged 11.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in just 27.0 minutes, and shot 74% from the field and 71% form the line. Big Rudy's run culminated in a 23-point, 14-board outing at the NBA D-League Showcase in January.
Kelly's five-game stint with the D-Fenders wasn't just a warm-up; it was a de facto audition for the Lakers. And it proved to be a rousing success: Kelly, a polished offensive weapon, was miles ahead of his competition, averaging 25.2 points (including 8.6 free throws), 7.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks. By the end of December, the second-round pick had earned a big-league rotation spot.
A surprise first-round pick, Roberson arrived in the NBA D-League as the same stat sheet stuffer he was at Colorado. He was a monster on the glass for a wing (11.0 rebounds per 36 minutes) and an equally tenacious ball hawk on the perimeter (2.8 steals/36). But all he really showed was that his skills could translate to the pro level, especially in an uptempo system; refining his jump shot remains his ticket to the NBA.
It was just four games, but they're four games Muhammad can file in his memory bank when thinking about his potential as a basketball player. The former high school prodigy looked the part in his return to his home state of Nevada for the NBA D-League Showcase, scoring 24 points in 26 minutes in a scintillating debut. Three more 20-point games gave Muhammad, who was ultra-active inside, a dose of confidence amid a quiet rookie year.
Franklin had some rookie kinks to work out with the Mad Ants, but he was an absolute terror when he got going. That included a six-game stretch from late-February to mid-March in which he led Fort Wayne to five wins and posted the following stat line: 22.8 points (52%/41%/88%), 7.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.3 threes. The former San Diego State standout may be the "Most Likely to Succeed" among this group.
At 19 years old, Goodwin was a boy among men when he joined the Jam for five games in January-February. But over that two-week stretch, he looked like the can't-miss prospect Kentucky had recruited just two years earlier. For a player who shot 5-for-36 from three during his rookie NBA season, hitting 10-of-26 from distance in game action was a positive step. And Goodwin left a highlight to remember in his dunk over former Laker Devin Ebanks.
Though he signed with the Rockets just weeks after the NBA Draft, Covington made for the perfect Viper: fast, athletic and another sniper from beyond the arc. His dynamic talent as a stretch-4 was the key to RGV's high-octane, bombs-away offense, and he earned Rookie of the Year honors for his monster season (23.2 points, 3.2 threes, 9.2 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 1.4 blocks). That's taken him from undrafted free agent to one of the NBA D-League's most intriguing talents.
Flanked by NBA-caliber teammates Covington, Troy Daniels, and Chris and James Johnson, Canaan had the RGV offense humming at absurd levels while playing his first 12 games in the NBA D-League. He played like a Moreyball robot, taking 96% of his shots from either in the paint or beyond the arc, and brought a swagger to the team that led to a 9-0 start. After averaging 34.5 points in four playoff NBA D-League games and turning heads at the NBA Summer League, Canaan is ready to hit Houston.