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Prospect Watch: The All-Prospect Team
Of the 16 players heading to Orlando, which ones have the best shot at getting to the NBA soon?
Springfield's Jerry Smith has burst onto the Prospect scene of late -- and you can watch him live on NBA TV in the All-Star Game.
Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images
They're falling fast.
Of the 20 guys selected to the 6th annual NBA Development League All-Star Game (presented by 26 Seconds), two of them had already cracked into the NBA by the time the team was selected. Later that day, Greg Smith's call-up to the Houston Rockets made it three. Then, when Reno Bighorns star Andre Emmett got the nod to come up to the Nets on Tuesday, taking away the second-leading scorer in the NBA D-League, another spot opened up on the roster, leaving 16 of the original 20 still set to hit the court in Orlando on Saturday, Feb. 25 (live on NBA TV).
And at the pace things have been going, there could be (many) more call-ups to come between now and then. Of course, a call-up doesn't mean a player can't play in the NBA D-League All-Star Game -- although he has to be assigned (even temporarily, even for that day) to the D-League to do so -- it just means that chances are he'll spend All-Star Weekend elsewhere.
So, let's take a look at the 16 guys who (as of now) we'll see on the court at Jam Session, with an eye to how they rank as NBA Prospects.
No. 1 GERALD GREEN
Guard, L.A. D-FENDERS
Green is playing like a guy on assignment, which is just another way of saying that he looks like an NBA player. It's been a long journey for the former NBA Slam Dunk champ, who went straight from high school to the NBA in 2005, spent four seasons bouncing around the league like a beach ball at a Skrillex show and eventually flushed out of the league entirely after the 2008-09 season. Since then, he re-focused his game around the things he wasn't doing in the NBA (which includes pretty much everything except for taking bad shots, which was his specialty for a while), and his numbers are off the charts lately. The reigning Performer of the Week just finished up a four-game stretch that saw him average 27.3 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the floor. More, he grabbed seven or more rebounds in four of his last five and six of his last 10 and even picked up five steals (to go along with 31 points) on Feb. 8. The athleticism was never a question with Green; the head was. He's never looked more focused.
No. 2: JUSTIN DENTMON
Guard, Austin Toros (Washington)
Dentmon, chronically prone to turnovers, has been a lot more sure-handed lately, with three or fewer turnovers in five of his last six games. He's been a little less spectacular (after scoring 20 or more in 11 straight games, he's fallen short of 20 three times in his last six), but that's OK. NBA scouts -- along with virtually everybody he's ever played against in the NBA D-League -- know that he can score at will. What they'll be looking to see is that he can run an offense and make plays for just one team -- instead of sending his opponents off to the races by coughing up the ball. To his credit, he's making strides. And in a year that's placed a premium on point guards, Dentmon could crack a lineup for good.
No. 3: EDWIN UBILES
Forward, Dakota Wizards (Siena)
Ubiles showed just why he's so high on the charts on Feb. 7, when he went off for 32 points (on 14-of-22 shooting) with 10 rebounds against Sioux Falls. He's built like an NBA player, and although he's not as quick as somebody like Millsap, he moves efficiently and intelligently around the floor, and has the poise of a guy who's been playing the pro game a lot longer than he actually has. Fully healed from a leg injury that kept him from being a probable NBA Draft pick in 2011, he's turned into one of the league's most well-rounded prospects, and fits perfectly with a team in need of a sizable swingman.
No. 4: MARCUS LEWIS
Forward, Tulsa 66ers (Oral Roberts)
If an NBA team goes looking for somebody who can rebound the ball, there's really no other choice.
No. 5 JAMESON CURRY
Guard, Springfield Armor (Oklahoma State)
The Bulls liked Mike James so much that they called him up twice to bolster a point guard corps depleted by Derrick Rose's injuries. If James were unavailable, Curry could have slid pretty well into his place. While he doesn't have the NBA seasoning of James, Curry's turned himself into the most well-balanced point guard in the NBA D-League. He trades flash for ball security, but he's still good for about 15 points and six assists per game. He's got great court vision, and has the athleticism to defend at the NBA level.
No. 6: ELIJAH MILLSAP
Forward, Los Angeles D-Fenders (Alabama-Birmingham)
The consistency that Millsap showed earlier this year has taken a hit lately, with the one-time wrecking ball (and 20-plus ppg guarantee) struggling to put points on the board and, more importantly, to assert himself in other phases of the game. The man who pulled down 14 boards against Bakersfield on Jan. 20 has only pulled down 14 over his last four games (3.5 a game), and a negligible assist clip. Gerald Green's devouring a lot of his numbers, but Millsap is capable of more -- and teams know that.
No. 7: KEITH McLEOD
Guard, Canton Charge (Bowling Green)
The former NBA point guard doesn't have quite the agility or quickness that he once had, but with Walker Russell gone, he's become the premier passer in the NBA D-League. According to Erie coach Jay Larranaga, McLeod was brought to Erie via trade after Jeremy Lin left because the BayHawks realized how important a great point guard is to their offensive set (the some one the Knicks run). We get the feeling an NBA team might fall for McLeod the way the Pistons have fallen for Russell.
No. 8: BLAKE AHEARN
Guard, Reno Bighorns (Missouri State)
There's not much more to say about Ahearn -- the most prolific scorer in NBA D-League history and one of the best foul shooters in basketball history. Now, he just needs somebody to take a chance on him. Oh yeah, he also just went 37-5-5 against the best team in the NBA D-League in a loss to the D-Fenders on Feb. 11.
No. 9 DARNELL LAZARE
Forward, Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Louisiana State)
The springy Lazare -- who saw some quality minutes for the Pistons during training camp -- has been active on both ends of the floor lately, putting up 19 points a game over his last five, including a 31-point, 11-rebond outpouring over Maine on Feb. 2. He's quick for his size (6-8, 240) and could help spell some NBA big men in need of a breather.
No. 10: JERRY SMITH
Guard, Springfield Armor (Louisville)
The 24-year-old out of Louisville has erupted over the past two weeks. In addition to his dunk over 7-foot-5 Will Foster, he's done some other things that won't crack a highlight reel -- but could open a hole for him into the NBA. Namely, rebounding. Smith's 6-foot-2, but the recent Performer of the Week has hit the boards like a guy a foot taller, pulling down 11 in back-to-back games against Sioux Falls and another six against Texas last week. Meanwhile, he's distributing the ball as well as his teammate Curry, and scoring a ton (and, efficiently). Smith's success has gone largely under the radar this year, but if he keeps this up, he'll be tough for anyone to ignore.
No. 11: JEROME DYSON
Guard, Tulsa 66ers (Connecticut)
The best defender at the guard position in the NBA D-League, Dyson's working to prove that he can be trusted on the offensive end. He's still far from a great shooter (40.9 percent on the season; 42.5 percent for his career), but he's learning how to channel his nearly unrivaled speed and athleticism into a positive force. He's slowing his game down a bit and making far better decisions with the ball. After a three-game, 19-turnover stretch from Jan. 21-27, he's hasn't had more than four in any of his past eight games.
No. 12: MARQUS BLAKELY
Forward, Sioux Falls Skyforce (Vermont)
The Skyforce's 6-5 forward, who finished his career at Vermont as one of the best (if not the best) in Catamounts history, looks like an NBA player. He's got great size, can play anywhere from 2 to 4, and plays defense with the best of the NBA D-League's swingmen. He's averaging less than 28 minutes a night this year -- numbers that should go up with his new team -- so his numbers are a little deflated, but he's a dangerous scorer when he's feeling it (like when he went 10-for-10 against the Skyforce on Jan. 6, while playing for the Energy).
No. 13: JEFF FOOTE
Center, Springfield Armor (Cornell)
All of a sudden, thanks to player movement and Greg Smith's call-up to the Houston Rockets (and subsequent assignment back to RGV), Foote finds himself as one of the top centers in the NBA D-League. He's built like Celtics center and former D-Leaguer Greg Stiemsma, although he doesn't have the hops or defensive acumen, but he's still good for a block or two a game, which means he could do a formidable job clogging the middle for an NBA club. He's got work to do and strength to gain, but if a big league team needs a big man, Foote fits the bill.
No. 14: TYRELL BIGGS
Forward, Canton Charge (Pittsburgh)
The big-bodied Biggs has performed steadily for the Charge this year, with some great peaks (13 blocks on Jan. 14, 26 points on Jan. 6), although he'll need to improve his footwork and anticipation to get a true NBA look.
No. 15: BRANDON COSTNER
Forward, L.A. D-Fenders (North Carolina State)
Costner's scoring clip (which saw him lead the league in scoring as of a month ago), has fallen off a bit, as Gerald Green's lit up the scoreboard, but he's shown a knack for creating scoring opportunities lately. He scored with ease during Showcase, but at All-Star, he'll need to show that he can move with the rest of the guys on the court to turn heads.
No. 16: CHARLES GARCIA
Forward, Sioux Falls Skyforce (Seattle)
The raw material's there. Of NBA D-League big men, Garcia has by far the most sheer athleticism, and possibly potential. But after a great start to his season, a recent suspension due to a drug policy violation has stirred up the demons around Garcia.
The NBA D-League's Top 10 Prospects
Not all of the league's best NBA bets will be in Orlando
No. 1: Manny Harris, G, Canton Charge
No. 2: Gerald Green, G, L.A. D-Fenders
No. 3: Justin Dentmon, G, Austin Toros
No. 4: Edwin Ubiles, F, Dakota Wizards
No. 5: Morris Almond, G, Maine Red Claws
No. 6: Marcus Lewis, F, Tulsa 66ers
No. 7: JamesOn Curry, G, Springfield Armor
No. 8: Elijah Millsap, F, L.A. D-Fenders
No. 9: Alando Tucker, F, Texas Legends
No. 10: Dennis Horner, F, Springfield Armor