With a prospect scene characterized by additions and subtractions, rising and falling, the NBA D-League's like one big menu.
Ben Uzoh, seen here with the Nets in 2010-11, could very soon be wearing NBA threads again.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
If the NBA Development League Showcase is a buffet – a chance for scouts and execs to stuff their notebooks, morning through night, on an ever-rotating feast – the regular season is more like a professional kitchen.
There are the standard dishes: the guys who’ve become familiar in both the league and the scouting world alike, and who could fly off the serving shelf at any moment. There are the specials, the guys that have slowly developed a following and now could find themselves on the regular menu.
As the year goes on, there are additions, as new dishes hit the burners. Subtractions, too, as some fall off completely. And all the while, everything’s cooking simultaneously, battling for the chance to make it out onto the floor.
So today, with Ben Uzoh leading a pack of three recent NBA D-League imports into an already talent-rich prospect pool, let’s take a look inside the crucible.
The guys who were recently sprinkled into the league, and who could fit on virtually any NBA team’s plate.
Guard, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Uzoh’s first game at Showcase looked a lot like reigning NBA D-League Curtis Stinson’s: like he’d just leapt nine time zones, thrown on the whatever jersey fit and introduced himself to his teammates about a half hour before the game.
Since then, the reigning NBA Performer of the Week faired a little better than Stinson. Not to mention virtually every other person currently on an NBA D-League roster. The 6-3, 205-pound guard, who played most of 2010-11 with the Nets (and became one of the team’s best defenders), got himself in world-class shape before coming to RGV, and has done pretty much whatever he’s wanted to over the past week. On a night he scored 31 points (a win over Reno Saturday), he also had 10 assists. When he only had 13 a night prior (because of foul trouble), he added eight assists and five boards, which came three nights after scoring 23, grabbing 12 rebounds and adding seven assists.
Forward, Springfield Armor
Horner, who went from NBA D-League Open Tryouts to the Nets out of training camp, looked sharp in his first two games back with Springfield. He played only 21.5 minutes per game last week, as Bob MacKinnon worked him back in the rotation, but if you expand his 14.5-ppg, 7-rpg line across 35 minutes, he’s posting 23.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.
Forward, Maine Red Claws
Almond played parts of two seasons in the NBA, spending 2007-08 and 2008-09 with the Utah Jazz before playing in the top leagues in Spain and Italy. Now, he very well could find himself in the top league in the world soon, having posted an average of 26 points and 10.5 rebounds in his last two games.
COMIN' RIGHT UP
The players set to pop
Forward, Los Angeles D-Fenders
It’s tough to say that Millsap made much of a jump this week in terms of our rankings, because we already had him as the No. 2 Prospect. But let’s throw those numbers aside and look at…some other numbers…as the D-Fenders’ swingman just put together his most dominant and complete week of the season. Not only did Millsap average 22.3 points per game over his past three games, he also tossed in nine rebounds and 6.3 assists per game in that stretch – which included a huge 26-point, 14-rebound, 10-assist triple-double against Bakersfield on Friday night. Millsap’s grown into one of the league’s top playmakers, and if he can keep asserting himself on the inside, he’s the best swingman available.
Guard/Forward, Dakota Wizards
To read more about Ubiles, how he played on a stress fracture for a year and a half, finally got surgery, fell out of the 2010 NBA Draft and then had to sit out the entirety of what could have been his first NBA season, click here
. For now, just suffice to say that in a four-day, three-game span last week, Ubiles was just average…which is to say he scored a combined 68 points (an average of 22.3 a game) and shot better than 53 percent from the field. His best game saw him go 28-7-6 against Springfield.
Forward, Tulsa 66ers
The league’s leading rebounder must have felt that his 12.6 rebounds-per-game average in January wasn’t quite enough. Soooo he came out last week and pulled down a combined 49 rebounds in three Tulsa games, which comes out to 16.3 per contest. Meanwhile, he’s logging 40 minutes a game, which would mean he’s absorbing 40 minutes of pounding – if he weren’t the one delivering it. Keep on the lookout for any NBA teams that could use a big man. Because they’ll be looking at Lewis.
Forward, Austin Toros
Thomas’ status as a top prospect stayed pretty stationary last week, as the Toros flex forward spent the past three games fighting through some minor injuries. But even with Thomas less than full-strength, he still managed a 15-point, 11-rebound effort against some big bodies on the Idaho Stampede. Thomas just needs to find a team in need of a guy who can defend anyone from a shooting guard to a power forward, and he’ll have a fit. In other words, look for a call-up soon.
Guard, Springfield Armor
With the ‘character issues’ long behind him, Curry’s having the best year of his NBA D-League career. He had two (rare) shaky shooting nights last week, but when he was on, he blew out for 23 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds against Dakota on Saturday.
Guard, Canton Charge
A poor shooting performance (1-for-12 against the Legends on Jan. 21) and foul trouble (five in that same game) made for a sour end to McLeod’s week, but he remains what he’s been all year: a steady, veteran force at point guard who’ll pace an offense with ease while still creating for himself.
Guard, Reno Bighorns
The waiting game continues for Ahearn, who broke the NBA D-League and NBA’s all-time consecutive free throw records on Sunday when he hit his 99th straight shot from the foul line. It’s the same old story for Ahearn, who’s also the best free throw shooter in NCAA history, but the record’s also a bittersweet thing: for years, all he’s done is excel in the NBA D-League – he just hasn’t gotten a true look. The league’s leading scorer and soul of the Reno Bighorns has improved his defense and honed his passing and rebounding abilities, and is now just waiting until a point guard spot opens.
The guys who need a little bit of seasoning before completion
Guard, Tulsa 66ers
Nobody defends like Dyson. The only problem with his game is that he tends to make his defender look a lot better. Lately, his offensive game is catching up, bit-by-bit, with the other side of the court (he shot 50 percent from the floor last week, after hanging below 40 percent for a good part of the year), but he still struggles with decision-making: in his two games on Saturday and Sunday, he had eight assists and 14 turnovers, and barely has an assist-turnover ratio above 1.0 this year.
Forward, Los Angeles D-Fenders
Somebody woke up Gerald Green. The former NBA player (and NBA Slam Dunk champ) opened some eyes with a 34-point showing at Showcase, then quickly lulled them back to sleep with back-to-back 11-point nights that also featured an impressive amount of posing with his hand in the air. But this week, he transformed. Not only did he score 55 points in two games, he also ripped down 10 boards with three assists in the first game against Bakersfield, then had a steal and two blocks in the second.
Forward, Los Angeles D-Fenders
Costner rebounded a little better last week than he did the week before, although his shooting numbers took a hit. Firing at only 38 percent from the field, Costner showed the risk that comes with calling him up: when he’s hot, he’s hard to stop at any level; when he’s cold, though, he doesn’t do much else to balance it out.
ON THE BACK BURNER
Guys who, because of injury, inexperience or some other factor, could use
a little more time simmering in the minors
Guard, Canton Charge
Harris didn’t have a bad week, by any means. He’s still struggling to find his touch from the field, but he’s shown more and more evidence that he’s regaining the first step that an injured foot took away from him earlier this year. Take Friday night: shooting only 2-for-7 from the floor, he forced his way to the line all night long, earning 15 free throws and burying 13 of them. For Harris, the variable is time: his minutes are trending upwards (to an average somewhere just below 30 a night), and with that, the Charge assume, will come consistency.
Center, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
The Vipers’ huge center could easily find himself in the NBA soon. But he could just as easily find himself behind the play, out of position, getting blocked by guards and hacking at arms as his opponent blows by him. Smith’s been dominant at times in the NBA D-League, but at 20, he’s still got a lot of growing to do – and an extremely bright future to grow into.
NOW ON THE MENU
Players who’ve gone from specials to nightly standards on NBA D-League menus –
and could eventually do the same in the NBA
Forward, Canton Charge
Hassell, who led the Portsmouth Invitational in rebounding, has done more of the same lately in the NBA D-League. His minutes have risen, and so have his board totals, as the 6-8 forward out of ODU averaged 10 rebounds a game in three Canton contests last week.
Forward, Iowa Energy
Drevo, who shoots better than 40 percent from 3-point range, also throws himself around the lane like a beach ball when the ball’s in the air. He’s posted eight or more rebounds in six of his last seven games and nearly notched a triple-double on Jan. 19.