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NBA D-League Power Rankings: December 8, 2011

December 8, 2011: The Power Rankings are back! And just two weeks into the 2011-12 campaign, several squads -- particularly the L.A. D-Fenders, Austin Toros, Bakersfield Jam and Tulsa 66ers in the Western Conference -- have jumped out of the blocks quickly, earning early placement atop the Power Rankings ladder. The East is a little more tightly grouped at this point, so keep an eye on those clubs to find out which ones begin to separate themselves from the pack.


TEAM REC. BREAKDOWN
6-2
The D-Fenders lead the league with six wins after beating the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Thursday night. Former NBA point guard Jamaal Tinsley is the marquee name here, but the as-of-yet unheralded younger brother of a current NBA player may just be the biggest prospect on the L.A. roster, as Elijah Millsap (yes, Utah's Paul Millsap's younger brother) is averaging more than 23 points and seven rebounds per game for the D-Fenders.
3-1
The Toros topped Tulsa, 94-80, on Wednesday night, sparked by Justin Dentmon (27 points) and Terrence Woodbury (20 points) to push their early season record to 3-1. Woodbury, a 6-7 swingman out of Georgia, has been stellar off the bench for Austin, who face the Vipers on Friday night.
3-1
Sure, all three of the Jam's wins have been against the struggling Bighorns, but you have to win the games put in front of you and Bakersfield has done that, led by center Brian Butch and veteran D-League star Renaldo Major (not to mention a litany of other prospects). Butch is averaging over 19 points and 12 boards per game for the Jam, who face Idaho on Thursday night.
4-2
The 66ers have started so well this season that head coach Nate Tibbetts has been called up to the Big Show, joining Byron Scott's Cleveland Cavaliers staff as an assistant coach. Even without Tibbetts, the 66ers are sparked by one of the best offensive/defensive tandems in the league in Jerome Dyson and Marcus Lewis, two players able to make an impact on both sides of the floor.
2-1
Springfield's currently topping the standings in the East at 2-1, with 6-foot-2 guard Jerry Smith out of Louisville averaging a team-high 20 points per game for the New Jersey Nets' lone affiliate. JamesOn Curry leads the club in assists (5 apg) and minutes (37 ppg).
4-3
The Vipers had a terrific start the season, winning their first three games, but since then have dropped three of their last four, including two straight to current Power Rankings leader Los Angeles. But with six different players averaging double-figures in points per game, look for Rio Grande Valley to challenge every night. The Vipers play the first of three straight games against in-state rival Austin on Friday night.
3-3
Should the Energy move up in the Power Rankings this season, it will probably be fueled by the electrifying contributions of Jarrid Famous. The 6-11 South Florida product is averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds per game for Iowa, more or less dominating every game he's played. Teammate Moses Ehambe is also averaging over 20 points per game for the Energy, who host two straight games with Sioux Falls this weekend.
2-2
The Charge rallied back from a 14-point deficit to defeat the Mad Ants last night, pushing their record to 2-2 in their inaugural season in the D-League. Former Pitt star Tyrell Biggs is leading Canton, averaging over 20 points and five rebounds per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers' affiliate, which travels to face Erie on Friday night, before hosting Maine on Saturday.
2-2
The Mad Ants were on the wrong side of Wednesday night's tilt against Canton, dropping their record to 2-2, despite the presence of reigning NBA D-League Performer of the Week Walker Russell, Jr. Russell is averaging 20 points and over 11 assists per game for Fort Wayne, which also boasts the burgeoning talents of Darnell Lazare (19 points and eight rebounds per game). The Mad Ants face East rivals Springfield and Erie this weekend.
2-2
The Wizards round out the trio of 2-2 Eastern Conference squads and face a challenging road trip to Tulsa this weekend. Dakota is led by former Stanford star Anthony Goods, who is averaging over 19 points per game. Forward Edwin Ubiles, a rookie out of Siena, is player to watch for the Wizards, with his solid all-around game and impressive versatility.
2-3
Erie has a crucial stretch of six straight games against Eastern Conference foes beginning Friday night against Canton. Guard Donald Sloan has slotted nicely into the role formerly held by since-traded Blake Ahearn for the BayHawks, averaging over 24 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game. Forward Mychel Thompson, picked in the third round of this year's NBA D-League Draft, has been a revelation, averaging over 19 point per game in his rookie campaign.
1-3
Two of the Stampede's three losses this season have been against a tough Tulsa 66ers squad, and things don't get any easier as Idaho embarks on a tough two-game road trip to California, where they'll face the Jam tonight and the D-Fenders on Saturday. Seth Tarver (16ppg) and Tony Bobbit (14.3 ppg) have been getting the bulk of the Stampedes minutes and points thus far this season.
1-3
Texas hits the road for four straight games, starting at Reno on Friday night. The Legends will be looking to move up the rankings when center Jamal Sampson returns from an ankle injury suffered on Nov. 30. Sampson averaged 14 points and 15 boards in the two games prior to the injury. In the meantime, Dominique Johnson has picked up the slack for Texas, averaging 18 points per game.
1-3
Kenny Hayes sparked the Red Claws to their first win of the season, pouring in 32 points in a big home victory over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Maine travels to Springfield tonight and to Canton on Saturday before a big four-game homestand consisting of twe games each against Erie and Iowa. Center Chris Wright is averaging 17 points and over 12 boards per game for the Red Claws.
1-3
Two of the Skyforce's three losses have been to the L.A. D-Fenders, so a move up the ladder may be in store for Sioux Falls. Charles Garcia is averaging a team-high 24.8 points per game for the Skyforce, while former Boston Celtic Gabe Pruitt (17.8 ppg). and center Greg Stiemsma (10.8 rpg) give the squad a solid, experienced balance.
1-4
Reno is another team to whom the early-season schedule hasn't been kind, as the Bighorns have dropped four games to L.A. and Bakersfield, two of the top teams in the league in the early going. Newly-acquired Blake Ahearn has fit in well, averaging a league-high 25 points and seven assists per game for the Bighorns, while forward Nick Fazekas is averaging over 17 points and eight rebounds per match. Reno hosts the Texas Legends on Friday night.