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by Matthew Brennan, D-League.com

November 8, 2010: The NBA D-League Draft is over and training camps are in full swing, so now is as good a time as ever to take stock of who has the strongest roster going into the season. Obviously once the season starts these rankings will change dramatically once games are played and player movement changes the rosters. The first in-season edition of the Power Rankings should come out shortly after the season begins on November 18.


TEAM REC. (09-10) BREAKDOWN
37-13 The Energy has the strongest group of returning players in the league, with several proven performers from last season's Eastern Conference regular season champs in veteran point guard Curtis Stinson, Jazz call-up Othyus Jeffers, and former NBA D-League MVP and GATORADE Call-Up Courtney Sims. The team also brings in another NBA veteran in guard Kyle Weaver, while first-round pick Chris Lofton gives the team a stellar outside shooter to add to the offensive attack. The Energy had one of the most talented teams in the league in 2009-10 before they were hamstrung by losing three players to GATORADE Call-Ups, and this season looks to be more of the same as NBA teams will be watching Iowa games closely to start the season.
27-23 The 66ers reached the Finals last season and are poised for another strong year with several key returning players and talented newcomers. Veteran forward Larry Owens was the heart and soul of last year's team, and he returns in addition to NBA Draft pick Latavious Williams, NBA veteran center Steven Hill, and talented guard Zabian Dowdell. First-round pick Robert Vaden was acquired in a trade and should be one of the league's top scorers, while Tweety Carter and Jerome Dyson are rookie guards who join the team out of Thunder training camp. Coach Nate Tibbetts' biggest challenge early in the year could be narrowing the roster down to ten players and finding enough minutes for all of the talent in Tulsa.
Maine 27-23 The Red Claws will look to bounce back from missing out on the playoffs in their first season, and it looks like they will have a very talented roster to begin season number two. NBA veteran guard Mario West returns after earning a GATORADE Call-Up to Atlanta last season, and he will be joined by last year's first-rounder Paul Harris after Harris missed all of last season with an injury. The Celtics are sending several rookies to Maine from their training camp cuts, including guard Jamar Smith and massive forward Tiny Gallon. Big man Magnum Rolle went third overall in the draft after being a second-round pick in June's NBA Draft. The Red Claws have some questions such as finding a starting point guard and how Harris recovers from a year out of action, but it looks like they will have the weapons to earn a playoff berth in 2010-11.
28-22 The Flash will be one of the most experienced teams in the league with several veterans returning to Orem, Utah in hopes of a third straight playoff berth. Guard Dontell Jefferson should be one of the league's top players if recovered from last year's injury problems, while Kevin Kruger is a steady hand at the point guard spot. NBA veteran Orien Greene and three-point specialist Andre Ingram are also among the returning players from last year's team. Utah and first-year head coach Kevin Young also will mix in two NBA training camp players in power forward Evan Brock and guard Ryan Thompson, along with first-round pick Brandon Costner. The Flash should be one of the deepest and most athletic teams in the NBA D-League to begin the season.
N/A The Legends have a host of big names in training camp, but also a good deal of of questions marks. Both Rashad McCants and Antonio Daniels are former first-round NBA Draft picks, but neither played basketball last season. Sean Williams, another former first-round pick, can be one of the league's best centers if he can avoid foul trouble, while trade pick-up Reece Gaines and former D-Fenders Keith Clark and Dar Tucker give the team a core of players with previous NBA D-League experience. First-round pick Matt Rogers was in camp with the Bobcats and will be leaned on early while the NBA veterans get up to speed. With Williams, Rogers, and 7-4 Moussa Seck, the Legends should be one of the league's best shot-blocking teams.
22-28 The Mad Ants are still looking for their first taste of postseason play, but this could be their best team yet with former NBA D-League assists king Walker Russell and NBA veteran center Chris Hunter leading the way. if Hunter does not make a return to the NBA, he should give Fort Wayne one of the league's best centers. The Mad Ants will also bring in three players from Bucks training camp led by former Purdue star Chris Kramer. The draft picks are mostly unproven, but first-rounder Obi Muonelo was All-Big 12 at Oklahoma State and should be a valuable part of the rotation.
21-29 The BayHawks had a disappointing year in 2009-10, but should get off to a good start this season with one of the league's best backcourts. Cedric Jackson earned three GATORADE Call-Ups last season, while scorer Maureece Rice returns after a year overseas. First-round pick Ivan Johnson gives the team more proven NBA D-League experience, while second-rounder Kyle Spain and Cavaliers training camp player Tas Mitchell join the team after impressive college careers. The big question for Erie early on will be who can fill in the departed John Bryant in the middle. 2009-10 reserves Jarvis Gunter and Kyle Goldcamp and sixth-round pick Jared Carter are the only players over 6-8 on the training camp roster.
34-16 The Vipers enter the new year in flux with most of the top players from the 2009-10 championship squad not on the roster. The team did pick up a key building block via trade by acquiring Mustafa Shakur, who was one of the league's top point guards last season in Tulsa. First-round pick Robert Vaden was traded for Shakur, but the rest of the class looks strong with Marquis Gilstrap, Mohamed Faye, and Richard Roby all playing in the NBA Summer League. Rockets training camp players Jordan Eglesder, Jerel McNeal, and Patrick Sullivan are all also heading to Rio Grande Valley. It may take a bit for second-year head coach Chris Finch to put the pieces together, but the Vipers can be a solid team in 2010-11 once the roster is sorted out.
28-22 The Bighorns are bringing in some big names in first overall pick Nick Fazekas and a returning Patrick Ewing Jr, but both have struggled with injuries over the last season. Fazekas missed most of last season but should be one of the NBA D-League's best forwards if he returns to his 2007-08 Tulsa form, while Ewing missed all of last season with an injury suffered in Reno during 2008-09. Veteran Aaron Miles should hold down the point guard spot while Doug Thomas and Mo Charlo give first-year head coach Eric Musselman some NBA D-League experience at the forward spots. Kings training camp player Marcus Landry played sparingly in the NBA last year with New York and Boston, while All-Big 12 guard Donald Sloan should challenge for a starting role.
32-18 The Toros have some talent returning, but the core of last year's team such as Curtis Jerrells, Dwayne Jones, and Marcus Williams have all moved on, although reigning Rookie of the Year Alonzo Gee can potentially be assigned by San Antonio. Gritty guard Squeaky Johnson is back for another year along with shooter Lewis Clinch and the well-traveled Cory Underwood. Former Hawks guard Thomas Gardner and rookies Marcus Cousin and Kevin Palmer join the team out of Spurs camp. After taking rookies in the first two rounds of the draft in Dominique Archie and Lance Thomas, new head coach Brad Jones went for some experience with the final four picks having already played in the NBA D-League experience. The Toros have a lot of new faces to work into the system but don't be surprised if they end up contending once again in 2010-11.
17-33 The Jam struggled last season, but will be looking to turn the page with some returning talent as well as some new blood in head coach Will Voigt's second season. Returning call-up Trey Johnson gives the Jam one of the best guards in the league over the past two seasons, while Jeremy Wise also displayed a lot of potential last year as a rookie. The Jam also picked up two players with NBA ties in the draft in Marqus Blakely and Brandon Wallace. Blakely is one of the league's more intriguing young prospects after a spectacular college career at Vermont. Wallace was a member of the Boston Celtics in early 2007-08 and gives the Jam a power forward/center with plenty of NBA D-League and overseas experience.
7-43 The Armor look to bounce back from a rough first season and should be able to put a lot of points on the board with first-round pick Scottie Reynolds (acquired via trade) and a returning JamesOn Curry. Reynolds will be only the seventh AP First-Team All-American to play in the NBA D-League. The rest of the roster is a question mark, but Springfield looks like it has one of the stronger draft classes with shot-blocking center Vernon Goodridge, rugged guard L.D. Williams, and another talented rookie post player in Michael Washington. The Armor and head coach Dee Brown will be looking for more affiliate support this year after not getting any players on assignment in 2009-10.
32-18 The Skyforce do not bring back a lot of talent from last year's playoff team, with only swingman Chris McCray and sixth man Leemire Goldwire coming back. First-round pick Cheikh Samb is a great shot-blocker, but might need to contribute more on the offensive end to justify his high draft selection. Some of the other draft picks have NBA D-League experience, including Wink Adams, who can challenge for the starting job at point guard spot after being stuck on the bench last year in Tulsa. The team also gets rookie Anthony Mason Jr. from Heat training camp. Mason, who had an injury-prone college career, should push to start on a wide-open Skyforce roster.
25-25 The Stampede will have to hope that their draft class pans out as only reserve guard Lance Hurdle returns from 2009-10. The team will also have two training camp players in former Nugget Eric Boateng and Trail Blazer rookie Seth Tarver. New head coach Randy Livingston went the veteran route in the draft with former NBA guard Salim Stoudamire, who has been out of basketball since training camp last season but should emerge as one of the league's top shooters. Second-round pick Walter Sharpe is another NBA veteran who has a lot of potential but also missed the 2009-10 season after getting waived by the Bucks last summer.
18-32 The Thunderbirds have new coach in Darvin Ham and a new arena, but they selected a familiar face to NBA D-League fans by taking Alan Anderson with the second overall pick. Anderson should step in as one of the league's best shooting guards/small forwards, but they will have a lot of questions surrounding him. Forward Shane Edwards returns after playing for Denver in the preseason, but New Mexico did not get any affiliate players and the other returnees, Jason Horton and Tony Danridge, were primarily reserves last year. Out of the rest of the draft haul, Anthony Richardson gives the team another experienced forward to team with Edwards, while guard Dominique Coleman can be a steal if he returns to his 2008-09 NBA D-League form.
29-21 The Wizards return franchise mainstay Renaldo Major as well as reserves James Jackson and Darren Cooper, but they lack a proven big-time scorer or a big man with NBA D-League experience and they also did not receive any players from their NBA affliate teams. First-round pick Chris Johnson is an intriguing prospect at center, but some of the other draft picks will have to step up for the Wizards to make yet another return to the playoffs.