NBA D-League Semifinals: X-Factors for Each Team
The NBA D-League's final four teams are all led by at least one player who got a taste of the NBA this season, from Fort Wayne's Tony Mitchell and Sioux Falls' DeAndre Liggins to RGV's Darius Morris and Santa Cruz's Seth Curry. But while they will be leaned on heavily during the push for the title, as always it's the "other guys" who will swing the two series. Here are the top, under-the-radar potential difference-makers for each team:
X-Factor Profile: In a lineup full of "glue guys," Bouldin stands out as an unselfish combo guard who does the little things to make Fort Wayne's offense hum. Once a first-round NBA Draft prospect, he's long been known for his skills as a floor general, his shooting and his basketball IQ. But Mad Ants coach Conner Henry says it's his stout defense, at a deceptively strong 6'5, 215, that gets overlooked.
X-Factor Profile: Drew entered the league after proving himself as a top-notch pure point guard at UNC and UCLA and lived up to the billing during his rookie season. He also made huge strides as a shooter, making 53 threes (41%) after making just 79 (34%) during his college career. The Skyforce were lucky to survive despite his first-round struggles; they'll need him to get going to keep pace with Fort Wayne. Sioux Falls is 9-1 this season when Drew dishes out at least 9 assists.
X-Factor Profile: The Vipers played seven games while Hunt sat out with an ankle injury suffered in mid-March. They lost six of them, allowing 134.7 points per game. That's not to say Hunt is the only player that holds this RGV together, but it speaks to how desperately the team needs what he brings to the table. A strong rebounder with game-changing athleticism, the 6-9 big man will never be more needed than in this series against Santa Cruz's imposing front line.
X-Factor Profile: Goulbourne is the type of player that gives RGV fits -- the Kryptonite to their small-ball philosophy. He profiles as a combo forward as an NBA prospect, but in the NBA D-League he's a beast of a 4-man who's relentless on the glass and can get to the rim with a quick first step. Don't be surprised if Goulbourne carries the Warriors' offense for stretches during this series while Seth Curry and Cameron Jones get theirs on the perimeter.