The Dev Report: Nov. 5, 2012

This time, in our weekly look at the top trends, stories and Prospects in the NBA D-League, we break down the strengths and weaknesses of the first-rounders, and the kind of situation that'd get them into the NBA.
There must be something wrong with them, according to the current logic, or else they’d be in the NBA. Like a few dozen players who ended up in the NBA D-League had been queued up at the door of the NBA and – wouldn’t you know it? – realized they forgot their ticket in their other pair of jeans.

Like there’s a guy with a big stamp, somewhere in the basketball ether (Red Auerbach?), with stamps marked YES or NO, and a big crane to dump you in either destination.

Never mind that that’s the current sort of bipolar, all-or-nothing, with-us-or-against-us thinking that poisons our politics. And never mind that, at one point or another, the prevailing logic was pretty certain of these things, too:
  • Computers would be so big that only the three richest men in the world would have them
  • McDonald’s is food
  • If you wanted to retire in comfort, just stock up on Beanie Babies
  • The world was a horrible flat thing around which the sun revolved and above which the stars were just little pin-prick holes through a giant black rug
  • Dragons

It’s just that, well, that line of thinking just misses the point.

It’s not that, as far as ability is concerned, there’s a curtain drawn between what makes an NBA bench player and what makes an outsider. The borderline is a place thick with fog and speculation – a contested ground fought over by agents and GMs – but what’s clear is that, for all the reasons players end up in the NBA D-League, they get out for two reasons: performance and timing. With a heavy emphasis on the latter.

And dem’s da breaks.

The 16 players selected in the first round of the NBA D-League Draft Live Via Cisco WebEx on Friday could each crack into the NBA at some point this year. Some have better chances than others, sure, but you’re virtually guaranteed to have about a third of them do it. Some before the NBA D-League season even starts (on Nov. 23). Some just before it comes to an end in April. Some for 10 days. Some for 20. Some for months and playoff runs.

But to get that shot, the refrain goes, they need to find the right “situation." You’ll hear it from coaches and talent evaluators and the players themselves over and over again: it’s all about finding the right “situation."

And for each of the 16 guys, here’s what it’ll take.
No. 1 JaJuan Johnson
What He Does Well: He moves well and has a ton of bounce for a 6-foot-10 guy – enough to completely obliterate Big TEN competition his senior year at Purdue, when he averaged 20.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks and earned Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and the Pete Newell National Big Man of the Year Award.

What He Needs to Do Better: Eat. Lift weights. Get a players card at Golden Corral. Anything to add heft to his body. At 225 pounds, he got pushed around too easily in the lane, and couldn’t make up for it with athleticism. Just as importantly, though, he needs to develop a decent rotation of post moves and show better abilities to direct a defense his position from around the hoop.

The Situation:
A team in need of an immediate defensive presence in the lane, especially off the bench, and the coaching staff/cap space in place to spend time developing a far-from-finished specimen.

No. 2 Andrew Goudelock
What He Does Well: If there were any doubts about the gunner’s ability to rack up points at the NBA level after scoring 23 a night his senior year at Charleston, Kobe Bryant himself put them to rest when he nicknamed Goudelock the Mini Mamba. Goudelock didn’t get to see the court a whole lot in his first year in the NBA – the Lakers’ rotation tends to get a little crowded – but when he did, he showed he can carve up an NBA defense, too.

What He Needs to Do Better: Distribute. Goudelock is not small, by any means – he’s 6-3, 200 – but as a modern 2-guard in the NBA, he could stand to gain a few inches. And in the event that he doesn’t hit a growth spurt at 23, he’ll need to develop a bit more of a point guard game to max out his value.

The Situation:
A depleted guard corps or a bench that has trouble keeping the offensive spark lit. Goudelock is ready for the NBA, and if he’d ended up with a team that wasn’t quite as well-stocked as the Lakers, he’d probably still be up there.

No. 3 Justin Harper
What He Does Well: From the arc on in, the 6-10 swingman can set the twine on fire. Few players of any height can shoot like he can. Coming into the NBA, he didn’t have the size to compete at the 4 position – in all fairness, he didn’t have the size to compete with an angry breeze – but he tacked on 15-20 pounds of muscle to improve his odds. Now, he’s a hard worker with the size and skill to slide into either forward spot in a pinch.

What He Needs to Do Better: Work in the flow of the game. Fit in a system. Put pressure on the lane. Handle the ball better and make decisions faster. Harper transitioned more toward the small forward position last year, but by the time training camp ended, it looked harder and harder for him to find real estate in the Magic lineup.

The Situation:
The Trail Blazers. One of the perks of a single-affiliation is the ability to install an NBA system on the NBA D-League level, so, for a player who’s struggled adjusting to the pace of NBA play, knowing exactly where to go within the offensive scheme will help. And as Portland looks to rebuild, Harper could get some serious run.

No. 4 Shelvin Mack
What He Does Well: With his quickness, size, strength and attack-first mentality, Mack’s a tough assignment on defense. Over the past three years – dating back to his senior year at Butler, when he drove the Bulldogs to their second straight national championship game – he’s gotten better and better at the pick and roll, which is now as crucial to an NBA game as the t-shirt toss.

What He Needs to Do Better: Know when to attack and when to hold back. NBA defenses looked a step faster than Mack in 2011-12, when he was backing up John Wall in Washington, though he still had a better than 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. In a vacuum, he’s probably better-suited for the 2-guard spot, but he’ll need to turn into a viable 1 to stay up in the NBA.

The Situation:
An older team with a good wing presence and an older point guard to mentor him. Mack can get to the hoop, and as he better realizes how far that ability will take him as a drive-in, kick-out point guard, he’ll have the most success when he can pass it out to players who can hit the 3. In other words , the Knicks.

No. 5 Mike Davis
What He Does Well: Rebound, rebound, rebound. Davis, who's got good length at 6-foot-9, grabs more boards than a carpenter. More misses than a beauty pageant. The second all-time rebounder in Fighting Illini history started every single game his senior year, shooting better than 50 percent from the field thanks to his ability to finish on the block. While he struggled with his jumper in school, he's reportedly improved on that part of his game, too.

What He Needs to Do Better: By his own admission, he gave in to frustration and took possessions off during his final year at Illinois, when the Illini fell short of most expectations in a dental procedure of a season. That sort of thing won't serve him too well in his future pursuits. He also needs to tack on more strength -- his athleticism and size carried him in college, but against bigger opponents, muscle's a mandate.

The Situation:
A team with a big center (someone playing the brawn to his bounce, so to say), but a deficit of quickness and agility in the post.

No. 6 Dominique Sutton
What He Does Well: Defensively, Sutton’s cast in the mold of Iman Shumpert, in that he can do a pretty effective job of matching up with anyone from the point to small forward and thoroughly ruin their night. He’s also a brutally efficient scorer, never shooting worse than 47.7 percent in any of his four college seasons (3 at Kansas State, 1 at North Carolina Central), including a 57.9 percent mark his senior year – good for 11th in the country. He’s also, as you can see here, an explosive athlete. Like a one-man San Diego fireworks.

What He Needs to Do Better: In the summer of 2010, Sutton transferred from Kansas State – a place where he’d started as junior, and looked to play a starring role as a senior – and ended up at NC Central, where he smacked around the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. It was D-I, and Sutton did make far more than half the shots he took, but the inferior competition hid the doubts in his game – such as how a 6-foot-5 player listed as a forward could play forward in a pro league. His defense is there, but he’ll need to consistently stick jumpers to be a true NBA value.

The Situation:
A transition-heavy team in need of a stopper on the perimeter and the wing. Sutton can make an offensive impact in the mid-range, so he'd benefit from big bodies inside, too.

No. 7 Chris Johnson
What He Does Well: At Dayton, basically everything. Not only can he rebound and defend – the two fastest ways to make the leap into the NBA – but he can shoot and, well, leap.

What He Needs to Do Better: A do-everything player can be a kiss of death in the NBA D-League, so, as RGV GM Gersson Rosas told the Rio Grande Valley Monitor, Johnson needs to show that he can still impact the game against pro-level competition.

The Situation:
Right now, Johnson’s a deep-rotation player. He projects to be quite a bit more after he spends more time in the NBA D-League, but he’d fit on any team that in search of an energy guy who’ll get paid in bruises.

No. 8 Christian Eyenga
What He Does Well: Eyenga’s a glossy athletic package, wrapped up in a 6-foot-7 frame. More of a specimen than a Basketball Player at this point, he’s as exciting as he is raw.

What He Needs to Do Better: The former Cavalier and Laker hasn’t ever really scored with efficiency, going 41 percent from the floor and 27 percent from 3-point range over 51 NBA games. His biggest area for improvement comes at the 3-point line, but he also needs to work on his ballhandling and passing to make him more than a threat to create for his teammates.

The Situation:
Eyenga, at 6-foot-7, brings about a full set of challenges on the defensive end. A team with a smaller guard corps in need of some height on the perimeter could use his services.

No. 9 Justin Hurtt
What He Does Well: Gets to the basket well – like this one particular time against Oklahoma State. Outstanding leaper, which makes up for a slightly below-average height (6-4) for an NBA 2-guard. But he can create for himself off the dribble at a very high level. Also, shoot better than 80 percent from the free-throw line his last three years of school.

What He Needs to Do Better: Hurtt shot 41.7 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from long range in his senior year at Tulsa (a year in which he scored 20 points a night) in 2010-11, then dropped below 40 percent overall while playing in Italy last year. So he’ll need to do better from the outside, especially in light of the fact that he also doesn’t rack up many assists, dishing out just 2.4 in more than 30 minutes a game (and coughing up 2.8 turnovers) that year.

The Situation:
A team looking for a player, like Goudelock, who can provide offensive punch off the bench. Hurtt’s always been a little streaky, which he’ll work on this year, but it’d be tough to find more instant offense in this Draft class.

No. 10 D’Aundray Brown
What He Does Well: Defends, defends, defends. Brown was eighth in the nation in steals per game last year (2.5), fleecing his opponents like they were tourists in Times Square. He can also hit from outside -- in some ways, his defense might have obscured: he shot 45.7 percent (and 36.7 from distance) last year.

What He Needs to Do Better: Weighing in at less than 200 pounds, he may want to hang out with Johnson at Golden Corral. They can get serious with endless meatloaf.

The Situation:
Byron Scott’s Cleveland Cavaliers. When the Cavaliers cut Brown from camp (after Scott said “we love the way he plays") they opted not to send him to Canton via the Affiliate Player Rule and to just take their chances drafting him. When he fell to Canton at No. 10, the Charge scooped him up, which should make him the odds-on favorite for Cleveland’s first Call-Up this year.

No. 11 Shan Foster
What He Does Well: In addition to the fact that Foster looks like an NBA shooting guard, at 6-foot-6, he also shoots like one, too. Vanderbilt’s all-time leading scorer can fire off the dribble, screens, off-the-façade-then-the-McDonald’s-arches-then-off-a-passing-plane-and-off-the-scoreboard-nothing-but-net, whatever. The guy can hit from anywhere.

What He Needs to Do Better: He’s had a tough time creating space for himself against the taller, quicker defenders he’s faced in professional hoops (he’s played in a few high-level European leagues since getting drafted by the Mavs in 2008), so teams will want to see better ability to penetrate and create off the dribble.

The Situation:
If Foster’s shooting better than 40-45 percent from 3-point range after the first few weeks of the season, he’ll have suitors across the league.

No. 12 Jack McClinton
What He Does Well: The guy who averaged nearly 18 points per game over three years at Miami – against ACC competition, mind you – got a lot of that from the 3-point line, where he set an ACC all-time record by shooting 44 percent from long range.

What He Needs to Do Better: McClinton, who was drafted by the Spurs in 2009 (but didn’t make it out of training camp), has long needed to turn himself into a combo guard. According to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, he’s done a pretty formidable job of doing that, too, but McClinton needs to be more than just a shooter if he’s going to make the leap – because although the Canes were happy to draw up plays for him, NBA teams may not be so charitable.

The Situation:
That said, his situation is similar to Foster’s. Keep tabs on both of these guys over the opening weeks of the season. Whoever performs better should be the first one to earn the plane ticket.

No. 13 Travis Leslie
What He Does Well: Dunks on people’s faces, mostly. Leslie made the Clippers – where he spent 2011-12 – out of training camp, but was waived shortly after. He’s a viable NBA talent, certainly. One who may have over-relied on his ability to leap small point guards in a single bound in his first go-round, but an NBA talent nonetheless.

What He Needs to Do Better: Living off his athleticism at Georgia, Leslie tried to do something along the same lines in the NBA. It’s tough to blame him. He had Blake Griffin on his team. Still, he’ll need to make himself more than highlight-bait – namely, he needs to get better ball and game control – if he’s going to make a living at the highest level.

The Situation:
A club that runs in search of some depth. Leslie’s a born finisher, and right now, he could give a team 10-15 minutes a night of spark. If he improves his entire offensive game, he could be in the NBA for good by season's end.

No. 14 Tim Ohlbrecht
What He Does Well: Like another tall German, Ohlbrecht possesses that great Teutonic combination of freakish height (6-11) and feathery touch. He can run. He can rebound. He can post up. He can hit from 3 and play the pick and roll. Exactly. Real Detlef Schrempf clone.

What He Needs to Do Better: Body up down low and scrap in the lane more. It’s the same sort of rap that clung to European big men forever – not tough enough, a little soft, etc etc – and now it’s up to Ohlbrecht to disprove it on American soil.

The Situation:
Ohlbrecht’s still young – he just turned 24 in August. So, he’s still got some developing to do as far as his pro career is concerned. But if an NBA team needs his help this year, it’s gonna be a team with the liberty to try out a player that’s equal parts risk and upside. Once the playoff races come together, he could be a prime spring Call-Up.

No. 15 Toure Murry
What He Does Well: Another guard capable of stopping an entire team’s offense before it gets going, Murry has the quickness and – just as importantly – length (6-foot-5) to do the same thing in the NBA. He tacked on more than 20 pounds of muscle in college, so the 195 he’s listed at could hit 205 by season’s end, too. He also played everywhere but the lane in school, running point, playing the wing and sliding down to small forward at times for Wichita State.

What He Needs to Do Better: Become a bigger threat on the offensive end, along the lines of what forward/defensive guru Marcus Dove did for Dakota last year. Take better care of the ball – Murry averaged 2.2 turnovers his senior year, and while he still had more assists than turnovers (3.3 apg), those numbers could flip in the pro ranks if he doesn’t improve on that front.

The Situation:
A team with offensive punch that needs a boost on the defensive front, especially one that's depleted by injuries. The fact that Murray can defend a number of positions and play at least two of them gives him some added value.

No. 16 Dairese Gary
What He Does Well: A First Team All-Mountain West and All-Mountain West Defensive Teamer in his junior and senior years, Gary looked well on his way toward a second-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft until he tore his ACL in the MWC tourney. He’s got combo guard tools and high-level defensive chops. And maybe above all, Gary can run a team. He had a big junior year at New Mexico, surrounded by a historically talented supporting cast that included Bucks (and NBA D-League) swingman Darington Hobson. But in his senior year, when everybody else had pretty much left, he nearly singlehandedly carried his team, going for 14 points, 5.5 assists and 3.2 boards and shooting 47.6 percent from the field in 34 minutes a night.

What He Needs to Do Better: Show that he’s in basketball shape. Shoot better from behind the arc, where his 3-point percentage fell from 39 percent as a freshman to 33.7 percent as a senior. At 6-foot-1, he’ll have trouble finishing in the lane, so that mid-range game needs to turn into a long-range one.

The Situation:
Once Gary is fully healed, he’s the perfect candidate for a 10-day contract. He’s capable with the ball, a cornrowed migraine on defense and, if a point guard has to sit out for a week or so, he’s instant spackle over that void.

The Prospect Podcast

Post-Draft Prospect Podcast
It’s back! After a three-month absence (after 10 days in Vegas for Summer League, it had to go find itself), editors Kevin Scheitrum and Sam Farber got together after Friday night’s NBA D-League Draft Live Via Cisco WebEx and talked about their takeaways from Draft, the state of the league, some bold predictions for the 2012-13 season and why, now, the NBA D-League means more than it ever has to the NBA’s success. LISTEN NOW

Find out...
  • What the top trends were from this year's Draft
  • Kevin and Sam's favorite picks
  • Sleepers to watch
  • What makes this season so important to the league
  • Why assignments will come to define the 2012-13 NBA D-League season
  • If Sioux Falls could be speaking Spanish
  • ...and more
Notes From Underground

The 2012 NBA D-League Draft Live Via Cisco WebEx brought a lot of chatter from around the web. Here's a sampling...

The Ridiculous Upside editors grade the Draft.

The Asian Journal covers Japeth Aguilar's looooong waiting game on Friday night, before Aguilar heard his name in the 7th round of the Draft, becoming the first Filipino-born player to ever play under the NBA umbrella. Read More >>

Golden State of Mind takes a deeper look at the first-ever Draft haul for the Santa Cruz Warriors, including first-round pick Travis Leslie and sneaky-good third-round pick Faisel Aden. Read More >>

Iowa Energy top pick Justin Hurtt tells the Des Moines Register that he's already familiar with his new home. Read More >>

Buckets over Broadway breaks down which waived Knicks ended up with the Erie BayHawks -- and may make their way back to Gotham before too long. Read More >>
Sandy Relief

It’ll be months at the minimum for a number of places around the New York Tri-State area to climb back out of the pit that Sandy created. Some towns – and some families – may never fully. But at a time when we’re coming together, person-by-person, to determine the future of this country, we at the NBA ask you to take a minute to consider how you can help the victims of the storm. Whether it’s sending money to the Red Cross (by clicking here, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or giving a $10 donation by texting "REDCROSS" to 90999) or, for those in the area, donating what you can spare – including your time – every bit matters. Because it’s times of tragedy that best remind us of the comfort that comes in the kindness of strangers.