The window for 10-day NBA contracts is now open. Who's going up for a test drive (or longer lease) next?
Springfield's JamesOn Curry's turned into the most complete point guard in the NBA D-League, and a top option for a 10-day deal.
Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images
You might not have noticed it.
Over the Let’s Go Giants chants, the soft sobs of Patriots fans and FlipCam videos of former supermodels breaking down the nuances of NFL offenses, you’d be excused if you missed the news this morning. But make no mistake: the floodgates are open.
When the New Orleans Hornets called-up Austin Toros forward Lance Thomas on Monday, Thomas – who’d been with the Hornets earlier this year – became the first player signed to a 10-day contract this year, after the window to do so opened on Monday.
Sixty percent of NBA D-League call-ups happen after All-Star Weekend, thanks largely to the flexibility of the 10-day contract. Whether NBA teams need to plug a hole, light a fire, get a look or call dibs on a guy potentially worthy of a longer deal, the non-committal, 10-day can provide it all.
And with a deluge on the horizon, here are our best bets for the next 10 to follow Thomas – each with a short, non-committal, 10-word bio.
No. 1 MANNY HARRIS
Guard, Canton Charge (Michigan)
10 for 10: Would have landed with Cavs; injury’s history; possible NBA starter.
It took a while – longer than optimists expected and far shorter than it could have – for Harris to get back to full speed (and strength/quickness/agility/accuracy/playmakerosity) after coming back from a foot injury that held him out of NBA training camp. But after back-to-back 21-point performances against the top team in the NBA D-League last week – including one that featured 14 rebounds (the other saw him bring down 7) – while logging more than 36 minutes in both, Harris looks to have answered all the remaining questions.
No. 2: BEN UZOH
Guard, Rio Grande Valley (Tulsa)
10 for 10: Physical specimen; can defend nearly anyone; proved himself last year.
When Uzoh joined the Nets as an undrafted free agent in 2010-11, he spent the season proving that he can run with anybody in the NBA. That doesn’t mean score, mind you – but it does mean most everything else, especially defense. He’s been all over the court for the Vipers this year, filling up the box score in points, rebounds, assists and steals, and although he’s not a great shooter, he’s absolutely perfect in terms of a prospect. Count on him to come up and keep up with all but the very best point guards across the league.
No. 3 ANDRE EMMETT
Forward, Reno Bighorns (Texas Tech)
10 for 10: Electric; scoring never in question; defense sometimes not an option.
The Bighorns’ swingman has played like a player on assignment all year long. With the ball in his hands, he looks like an NBA player. He’ll need to ratchet up the intensity on the defensive end, but it’s been much-improved this year over seasons past.
No. 4: MARCUS LEWIS
Forward, Tulsa 66ers (Oral Roberts)
10 for 10: Nose for the ball; unparalleled rebounder, extremely hard worker; dogged.
Lewis’ rebounding numbers (13.2 per game, which is about 30 percent higher than anybody else in the league) would drop against the best athletes in the world, but he attacks the boards like they’re his ticket to a better life. Because, well, they are. In an NBA that’s gotten smaller and more athletic, Lewis would punish people on the inside, especially if he only had to do it for 10-15 minutes a night.
No. 5: JUSTIN DENTMON
Guard, Austin Toros (Washington)
10 for 10: Like kitchen, always brings heat. Like bakery, too many turnovers.
Dentmon limited his turnover totals last week, with only eight across three games (compared to 12 assists), while still pouring in the points (20.67 average). He still struggles to be a true point guard, but nobody’s been able to stop him from getting looks – or a clean line to the hoop – at this level, and his quickness makes him a legitimate prospect to kickstart a lineup in need of some spice at the point.
No. 6: BLAKE AHEARN
Guard, Reno Bighorns (Missouri State)
10 for 10: Fighting through misconceptions; clean with ball, filthy from outside, line.
About 90 percent of our words last week were devoted to Ahearn, whose consecutive free throw streak ended at 110 on Wednesday. Now free of that streak, we can re-focus on what’s kept him from the NBA (a perceived inability to keep an offense running smoothly; difficulty defending athletic point guards) and what could be his ticket up (his shooting ability; historic foul-shooting skills; pervasive calm; status as, arguably, the best player in the NBA D-League).
No. 7: EDWIN UBILES
Forward, Dakota Wizards (Siena)
10 for 10: Textbook injury case; proven he’s healthy; plays much like Thomas.
Ubiles’ hot hand from 3-point land lately (6 of his last 12 from behind the arc) is promising, after a slow start to the year, but his poise, size and quickness make him attractive even without touch from outside. With a long reach and solid fundamentals, he can defend inside and outside, and has shown a tenacity on the inside when forced to play in there (though he prefers the wing). Smart with the ball, with good vision, he rarely gives it up.
No. 8: ELIJAH MILLSAP
Forward, Los Angeles D-Fenders (Alabama-Birmingham)
10 for 10: Paul’s little brother; overcame midseason slump; built, rangy, athletic, ready.
Millsap’s versatility keeps him ahead of teammate (and former NBA player/Slam Dunk Contest champ) Gerald Green in these rankings – although Green’s been scorching nets all across the country of late – and a 14-point, nine-rebound affair in just 25 minutes against Erie showed the impact he can make on a game when he commits himself to playing on the inside. He’s becoming a better shooter, making him more dangerous from around the floor, too.
No. 9: MIKE JAMES
Guard, Erie BayHawks (Duquesne)
10 for 10: Former NBA fixture, already called up once this year; steady.
James impressed enough in his NBA D-League debut at Showcase to convince the Bulls to call him up in a reserve role, while Derrick Rose nursed an injury. Now, as long as he can hold onto the ball and create offense the way he showed himself capable of, some team in need of veteran leadership could come calling soon.
No. 10 JAMESON CURRY
Guard, Springfield Armor (Oklahoma State)
10 for 10: Mature for his age; smart ballhandler; offensive engine, widely beloved.
Curry’s taken a long road to get here. Now, he looks more ready than ever. Under the tutelage of the great Bob MacKinnon in Springfield, he’s blossomed into the league’s most complete point guard on both ends of the floor (more athletic than Ahearn, though his shot isn’t as sharp; better ballhandler than Dentmon, though less explosive; better vision than Uzoh, but not as athletic/suffocating on defense).
The Next 10
Each with a unique skill set, these guys are instant lineup spackle
Guards: Morris Almond, Maine Red Claws; Courtney Fortson, L.A. D-Fenders; Donald Sloan, Erie BayHawks; Jerome Dyson, Tulsa 66ers;
Forwards: Gerald Green, L.A. D-Fenders; Larry Owens, Tulsa 66ers; Darnell Lazare, Fort Wayne; Brandon Costner, L.A. D-Fenders; Dennis Horner, Springfield Armor
Centers: Greg Smith, Rio Grande Valley