Prospect Watch: Singles Event

White a swarm of new faces in the NBA D-League, which of the players who've yet to log double-digit appearances make the best NBA Prospects?

It's not over yet.

With 10 days left in the regular season – and potentially more than a month left until the end of NBA Development League Playoffs – the 2011-12 season has already shipped more players (31), more times (44 times overall) to the NBA than any season in league history. Much of the movement is, of course, from a compact NBA season that’s robbed the life out of legs and transformed deep benches from a luxury to a necessity.

But just as much comes from an NBA D-League that’s featured the best talent pool, from the start of the season through now, that it ever has. All season long, as players have gone up to the NBA, prospects have jumped right into their place. And with a month left until the start of NBA Playoffs, don’t expect the pace of Call-Ups to slow down anytime soon.

But with many of the familiar names – Edwin Ubiles, Courtney Fortson, Justin Dentmon (finally), to name a few – up in the Show, thanks to a flurry of Call-Ups after the Trade Deadline, the league’s picked up a new shipment of players over the past few weeks.

And while fixtures like Blake Ahearn, Andre Emmett and Elijah Millsap still hang near the top of our overall list of NBA Prospects, we thought it was time to meet the new guys. The transplants. The guys who’ve yet to log double-digit games in the NBA D-League this year, whether because of injury, overseas travel or just a late arrival (or invitation) to the party.

Some of them you may remember. But all of them, you’ll want to know.

1. JAMARIO MOON
Forward, L.A. D-Fenders (Meridian C.C.)

2011-12 Games Played: 6 (18.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 3.0 spg, 1.8 bpg)

As long as this keeps up, don’t get used to seeing Moon in D-Fenders colors. Unless, of course, he gets called up by the Lakers. The former NBA player – who took six years roaming America before getting to the Show the first time – looks to be at or near the front of the line for the next Call-Up, after logging six straight games of 17 points or more to open his 2011-12 NBA D-League run. Moon’s been down on the farm before, including a three-game stint with Fort Wayne in 2005-06, but he’s never looked like this.

Not only is he shooting 53.2 percent from the field, he’s also grabbing more than eight boards and chipping in with three steals and almost two blocks a game. The notion that NBA scouts aren’t looking for scorers in the NBA D-League goes out the window a little at this point in the season, with NBA teams just looking for players who can fill in without a hitch, and right now, Moon’s doing that and a whole lot more.

2. CARTIER MARTIN
Guard, Iowa Energy (Kansas St.)

2011-12 Games Played: 8 (16.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.1 apg)

Martin finished his eight-game run with the Energy with a one-point night in two minutes of action on Tuesday night. Turns out he was waiting for some big news. In those eight games this year, he showed the explosiveness and versatility that made him an NBA fixture between 2008 and 2011 (in addition to going in the first round of the 2008 NBA Development League Draft), scoring 17 points or more in five of his appearances with Iowa.

UPDATE: Martin became the 45th GATORADE Call-Up of the year when he signed with the Washington Wizards on Mar. 28.

3. JOEY GRAHAM
Forward, Erie Bayhawks (Oklahoma St.)

2011-12 Games Played: 4 (21.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.5 apg)

In six years in the NBA, Graham never had trouble making an impact. He never averaged more than 20 minutes in a season, but the former Oklahoma State star shot nearly 50 percent during his run in the Show, notching as many as 7.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for a full season (2008-09, with the Raptors). So it makes sense why nobody’s been able to stop him yet in the NBA D-League. Graham’s spent four games stuffing the scorecard, scoring 21.5 points, grabbing 6.8 boards (including 13 on Mar. 26 against Dakota) and throwing in 3.5 assists. He’s got some competition for a Call-Up at the swingman position, from people like Millsap and Graham’s own teammate, D.J. Kennedy, but few things have given Call-Ups an edge this year better than NBA experience.

4. LESTER HUDSON
Guard, Austin Toros (Tennessee-Martin)

2011-12 Games Played: 5 (17.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.4 spg)

With point guard/offensive pacemaker Justin Dentmon in the NBA now, the Toros need Hudson. Too bad they may not have him for long. The man who played 36 games for the Grizzlies, Celtics and Wizards between 2009 and 2011 – not to mention 20 games in the NBA D-League –has only played five games in Austin this year, but he hasn’t needed a whole lot of time to warm up. He’s averaging 17.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists through those five games, providing Austin with a much-needed spark in Dentmon’s stead and doing so with an efficiency (53.2 percent from the floor, 47 percent from behind the arc) far beyond what he’s ever put up.

5. BRIAN BUTCH
Center, Bakersfield Jam (Wisconsin)

2011-12 Games Played: 11* (17.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 42.6 3PT%)

*Alright, alright, so Butch has played 11 games. But we’ll make an exception in this case because the first four happened before the first week of December – before Butch got an invite to New Orleans Hornets training camp and before another knee injury nearly knocked him out for yet another full season. But he’s back. And while Butch doesn’t play like the usual 6-foot-11 guy – 48 percent of his field goals come from 3-point range, for example – he hits the boards (10.6 per game) and, as an added wrinkle, the threes, too (42.6 percent of them this year, to be exact). The 2010 All-Star Game MVP and 2012 Pan American Games team member has always presented matchup problems wherever he’s gone, and soon, he may have the chance to do the same in the NBA.

6. JERMAINE TAYLOR
Guard, Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Central Florida)

2011-12 Games Played: 10* (16.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.3 apg)

Ok, one more exception. But only because Taylor’s got some history. The former UCF star was the 32nd overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft (to the Wizards), and has 65 NBA games under his belt – 12 of them in the starting lineup – including 34 of them in the 2010-11 season. Now, playing in Nick Nurse’s hard-charging system, Taylor’s already put up nights of 31, 27 and 23 points in his first 10 games. He could still shoot better from long range (he’s at 45 percent from 3-point land this year), but his 6-foot-5 frame makes him a great fit at the No. 2 guard spot in any league, and as NBA teams take bigger beatings down the stretch, a player like Taylor will come in handy.

7. DAN GADZURIC
Center, Texas Legends (UCLA)

2011-12 Games Played: 7 (9.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg)

When Gadzuric signed with the Legends on Mar. 6, he immediately became one of the most accomplished players in the league, having played more than 500 games across nine seasons in the NBA. It’s been a long time since that 2004-05 season, when the 7-footer out of UCLA started 81 games for Milwaukee (where he spent his first eight years) and recorded 7.3 points and 8.1 rebounds a game while he was at it. But there’s clearly something left. His first game with Texas (a win over Austin on Mar. 11) saw him score 12 points with 13 rebounds in only 15 minutes of play, and since then, he’s recorded eight rebounds or more in five of six games – including pulling down 14 boards twice.

Gadzuric was never a 35-minute player, but an NBA team won’t need him to be, and right now, the 20 minutes he’s seeing a night are as good as any in the NBA D-League.

8. KAREEM RUSH
Guard, L.A. D-Fenders (Missouri)

2011-12 Games Played: 3 (6.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg)

Rush hasn’t played a full season in the NBA since 2009-10, but at his peak, he averaged around 25 minutes and 12 points per game. It’s been six years since he did so for Charlotte in 2004-05, but he’s shown that he’s still got some bounce in his legs in three games with the D-Fenders. He’s logged only 18.3 minutes a night so far, but he’s doing exactly what he should be doing to earn a Call-Up – namely, playing within the system for a coach (Eric Musselman) that’s already sent five players to the NBA this year.

Rush won’t be called on to score a whole lot, and he looks like he knows that. Thus far, he’s putting his 6-foot-5 frame to good use on the defensive end, blocking two shots and picking up two steals in only 15 minutes of play in LA’s most recent game, a win over the RGV Vipers.

9. DERRICK CARACTER
Foward, Idaho Stampede (UTEP)

2011-12 Games Played: (13.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg)

The former Lakers forward – not to mention one-time prep prodigy, near-flameout, redemption story and second-round pick in the 2010 NBA Draft – has never been short on talent. And on the nights when it’s working for him, like his 20-point, 16-rebound night against Austin on Mar. 14 while still a member of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, he looks like a player on assignment from an NBA team. Then there are nights like his 5-point game against Tulsa on Mar. 3, when he racked up four personal fouls in seven minutes of play.

Few players in either league have the ability to maneuver a 6-foot-9, 275-pound frame like Caracter can, but a proclivity for flattening people on both ends of the floor got him walking papers in RGV. Now, as a member of the Stampede (after getting picked up on Mar. 26), he’ll have the chance to learn from – and play off of – former NBA center Mikki Moore, potentially forming one of the most talented frontcourts in the league.

Overall Top 15 NBA D-League Prospects

No. 1: Andre Emmett, SG, Reno Bighorns

No. 2: JamesOn Curry, PG, Springfield Armor

No. 3: D.J. Kennedy, G/F, Erie BayHawks

No. 4: Jamario Moon, F, L.A. D-Fenders

No. 5: Morris Almond, G/F, Maine Red Claws

No. 6: Jeff Foote, C, Springfield Armor

No. 7: Eric Dawson, F, Austin Toros

No. 8: Marcus Lewis, F, Tulsa 66ers

No. 9: Marqus Blakely, F, Sioux Falls Skyforce

No. 10: Joey Graham, F, Erie Bayhawks

No. 11: Blake Ahearn, PG, Reno Bighorns

No. 12: Leo Lyons, F, Dakota Wizards

No. 13: Elijah Millsap, F, L.A. D-Fenders

No. 14: Dennis Horner, F, Springfield Armor

No. 15: Brian Butch, C, Bakersfield Jam