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Preseason Power Rankings: November 13, 2009

by Matthew Brennan,

November 13, 2009: The NBA D-League Draft is over and training camp rosters are set, so now is a better time than ever for some preseason Power Rankings. Obviously, take these with a grain of salt as these groups of players have never played together before and will be coming together for the first time as training camp begins this weekend. Also, the NBA D-League is like no other in that NBA assignments as well as other players that join the league can change the face of a team drastically. Some teams that look strong now may not be as strong around the end of the season due to GATORADE Call-Ups and player defections, while a team that might not have had the strongest draft can get better via NBA assignments or picking up a top free agent. The next edition of the Power Rankings will take place shortly after the season begins on Friday, November 27.

1 Utah 32-18 I think that the Flash should be one of the strongest teams to enter 2009-10. They return leading scorer Dontell Jefferson as well as several key role players like James Lang, Andre Ingram, and Bennet Davis, from last season's team that won the West Division and reached the Finals. They also have a strong group coming in from the draft and allocation including center prospects Garret Siler and Luke Nevill, NBA veteran Orien Greene, and local college star Lee Cummard. Combine that with some of the annual assignments from the Utah Jazz and the Flash should be a force to be reckoned with this season.
2 Dakota 27-23 The Wizards always seem to have a solid group returning and this year is no exception, with all-time leading scorer Maurice Baker, former Defensive Player of the Year Renaldo Major, and Romel Beck among the returnees from last year's playoff team. First-round pick Curtis Withers was an outstanding college player and intriguing prospect but has yet to test the NBA D-League waters, while second-rounder Doug Thomas gives the team some more experience after playing for Iowa in the 2007-08 season. The Wizards may not see a lot of help in the form of assigned players from Memphis and Washington, but they may not need it with an experienced core already in place.
3 Maine N/A The Red Claws enter their first season with a few players who are proven at the NBA D-League level. Billy Thomas is one of the best guards to ever play in the league, while Will Blalock excelled on assignment in Sioux Falls back in the 2006-07 season. Draft choice Scooter McFadgon was also a high-volume scorer during his last league appearance with Bakersfield during the 2006-07 campaign. Anthony Terrell, Tony Bobbitt, Gary Ervin, and Noel Felix also are no strangers to the NBA D-League, giving Maine one of the more experienced teams to begin the 2009-10 season. The team also picked up former Syracuse star Paul Harris in the draft and he should play a big role right off the bat. The team's cause is also helped by their affiliation with Boston and Charlotte, two teams with a proven track record in assigning players to the NBA D-League.
4 Erie 27-23 The BayHawks made the playoffs in their first season and they bring back a few key performers from last year's team, led by former Ohio State star Ivan Harris, along with Oliver Lafayette, Jackie Manuel, and Jarvis Gunter. The team dealt allocated player Rob Kurz to Fort Wayne for Alade Aminu, who joins NBA veteran Donell Taylor in giving Erie two of the top ten choices from last week's draft. Guard Martin Zeno (Texas Tech) and center John Bryant (Santa Clara) are both college stars who can also make an impact for the BayHawks this season. 2008-2009 BayHawks call-up Quincy Douby was just waived by Toronto on Thursday and will be one of the top perimeter scorers in the league if he finds his way back to Erie.
5 Iowa 28-22 The Energy have a luxury of riches with two NBA-experienced centers in camp in the form of Earl Barron and Darryl Watkins. They also bring back veteran point guard Curtis Stinson, one of the league leaders in assists last season, as well as NBA veteran guard Jeff Trepagnier. Draft picks Rashad Anderson, a former UConn star, and three-point specialist Pat Carroll give Nick Nurse's team a variety of offensive options as Iowa seeks a second straight playoff appearance. Nick Nurse's team will miss 2008-09 MVP Courtney Sims and Rookie of the Year Othyus Jeffers, but the Energy have some pieces in place for another winning season.
6 Reno 25-25 The Bighorns return one of the league's top all-time rebounders in Rod Benson and drafted one of the league's all-time top scorers in Desmon Farmer. They join improving young point guard Russell Robinson and athletic forward prospect Marcus Hubbard as Reno shoots for their first playoff appearance in their second NBA D-League season. A key will be avoiding a start similiar to last season, where the Bighorns dropped 12 of their first 13 games before bouncing back to finish with a .500 record.
7 Fort Wayne 19-31 The Mad Ants return top scorer Ron Howard and All-D-League center Chris Hunter from last year's team, which had a lot of players with guady numbers but never really seemed to mesh as they finished with a 19-31 record. The team also brings in some former Notre Dame standouts, with NBA veteran forward Rob Kurz joining three-points marksman Kyle McAlarney and forward Ryan Ayers. The Mad Ants will be looking for their first playoff berth as NBA D-League veteran coach Joey Meyer takes over on the bench.
8 Austin 32-18 The Toros have been a top team over the last two seasons, but they start 2009-10 without key players from last season like Marcus Williams, DeMarcus Nelson, and Malik Hairston. They do return one of the league's top centers in Dwayne Jones as well as veteran guard Carldell Johnson. Former Dakota Wizard Quemont Greer could be a draft-night steal if he returns to his 2006-07 form, where he played in the NBA D-League All-Star game. First-round pick Alonzo Gee and Spurs training camp cut Curtis Jerrells are young prospects who could move the Toros up these rankings quickly if they become impact players. An assignment stint for Hairston also makes the Toros a much tougher out for any opponent.
9 Bakersfield 26-24 The Jam broke out and made the playoffs last season, but virtually the entire roster as well as head coach Scott Roth will not return for the 2009-10 campaign. The team used the fourth overall pick in the draft on veteran French forward Amara Sy, who should be the focal point in coach Will Voigt's first season. Bakersfield native Robert Swift gives the Jam a center with NBA experience while swingman Reece Gaines is also a former NBA first-rounder who played in Italy last season. If a few other players come out of camp and develop into contributors then the Jam will have a shot at make a second consecutive playoff appearance after turning over their entire roster.
10 Los Angeles 19-31 The D-Fenders return top scorer Joe Crawford and promising swingman Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who join former Boston Celtic Gabe Pruitt and first round pick Deron Washington on a team that should have no trouble scoring points. Despite the talent at guard and small forward, their front-court situation is a bit of a mystery with a crowd of players looking to earn a spot in training camp. The Lakers do not have any players eligible for assignment so it doesn't appear that players of the quality of Jordan Farmar or Coby Karl will be suiting up for the D-Fenders this season.
11 Albuquerque 24-26 The Thunderbirds will be able to score some points with first overall pick Carlos Powell and returning NBA veteran Keith McLeod in town, but the rest of their lineup looks to be up in the air at this point. They do look like they will be an excellent shot-blocking team with 7-3 Shagari Alleyne and former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Erek Hansen on the roster. Guard Antoine Aguido had a solid first season in Albuquerque and should be ready for a bigger role after Will Conroy's departure overseas. Three-point gunner and former NCAA tournament hero Kevin Pittsnogle is also back with the Thunderbirds after a year out of basketball.
12 Rio Grande Valley 21-29 The Vipers have had their struggles in their first two seasons, but open a new era with the basketball side under control of the Houston Rockets and new head coach Chris Finch. Former Rocket and former NBA D-League first-round draft pick Mike Harris should be the go-to guy while Julian Sensley and Stanley Asumnu are both returning double-digit scorers from last season. The Vipers could be one of the league's best defensive teams, as 2008-09 blocks leader Kurt Looby returns and is joined by first-round draft pick Antonio Anderson, the 2008-09 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year at Memphis. In addition to the training camp roster, Rockets center Joey Dorsey was assigned as this was being written. Dorsey dominated the NBA Summer League and will look for a better experience than his assignment last season when the Vipers went 2-5 with him in the lineup.
13 Idaho 31-19 The Stampede have been one of the best teams in the NBA D-League over the past three seasons, but head coach Bryan Gates and standouts like Lance Allred, Luke Jackson, and Brent Petway have all moved on. Bob MacKinnon takes over after winning the NBA D-League title last season with Colorado and will have a few veterans to work with, including returning guards Lanny Smith and Roberto Bergersen as well as former Albuquerque star T.J. Cummings. The team also acquired center Anthony Tolliver in a trade last week, giving them one of the league's top big men and a call-up candidate, although Tolliver has been prone to leaving the NBA D-League to play overseas over the past two years. First-round pick Sundiata Gaines had a solid season as a rookie in Italy's Serie A last year and should be ready to start from day one at either guard spot.
14 Springfield N/A The Armor enter the NBA D-League for their first season and will have a proven scorer in guard JamesOn Curry, a former member of the Chicago Bulls. They also picked up some key players in the draft in the form of UConn point guard Craig Austrie and former NBA player Adam Harrington, who was a top three-point shooter when he played for Tulsa during the 2007-08 season. An interesting player to watch will be expansion draft pickup Kentrell Gransberry, who put up good numbers in limited playing time with a stacked Colorado team last season. Gransberry could be ready to break out if he finds his way in the starting lineup for the Armor.
15 Tulsa 15-35 The 66ers tied for the league's worst record last season and will be looking for improvement under new head coach Nate Tibbetts. First-round pick Latavious Williams would have been a top college recruit this fall, but time will tell if he will have the same sort of impact in the NBA D-League against older, more experienced players. He went with the last pick in the first round right before Mustafa Shakur, who gives Tulsa someone to plug in right away at the point guard spot. The top returning players are former Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Hill and forward Keith Clark. Clark emerged as an impact player after moving into the starting lineup in late-January and could push towards becoming an All-Star caliber player in 2009-10. Hill was limited by injuries last season but gives the 66ers a big defensive presence in the middle now that he is at 100%. Tulsa should be one of the most improved teams in the league if Williams adjusts to the pro game and the team isnt devastated by injuries like in 2008-09.
16 Sioux Falls 25-25 The Skyforce missed the playoffs for the first time in their NBA D-League history last season and and will need to replace key players like Kasib Powell, Frank Williams, and Bobby Jones from last year's team. Veteran David Bailey is the leading returning scorer, while the team will look for more production from forward Keith Brumbaugh after he spent time in preseason training camp with the Denver Nuggets. Rookies Raymond Sykes, Pete Campbell, and Reggie Williams lead a group of newcomers who will have every chance to earn a spot in the rotation. The Skyforce have a winning tradition and one of the best home-court advantages in the league, so don't count them out despite their ranking here.