The Dev Report: Week Two

This time, in our weekly look at the top trends, stories and Prospects in the NBA D-League, we lay out the five things to watch in training camp, with the league set to be cut in half in less than two weeks.

With Opening Night just ahead, keep up with the players to watch and things to know at NBADLeague.com.
You recognize it. The fall breeze bringing a brand-new sting. Pumpkin spice giving way to peppermint. Bells jingling in early November and Mariah Carey coming back out of the cryogenic freezing process as Christmas steadily and mercilessly wins the War on Christmas. And you know what it all means?

Exactly. The start of the 12th season in NBA D-League history is closing in.

The 2012-13 NBA Development League regular season is set to start, once again, on Black Friday (which is winning its own little border war). With a record 11 single-affiliations, the league’s never come into a season with a higher profile. And after blowing up all previous highs for Call-Ups (60 total) and Assignments (64) last year, it’s never had a bigger act to follow.

But first, there are some cuts to make.

More than 140 of them, actually. With the NBA D-League Draft Live Via Cisco WebEx now a thing of the semi-distant past (it happened a whole 10 days ago now) and the start of the regular season just 11 days away, the 16 NBA D-League teams each have to shuck down their roster to 10 players by Opening Night*.
*except for Reno and L.A., both of whom get to have an extra spot because they both have players on Assignment at the moment

So, with all of this going on - not to mention an NBA season that features a first-place Knicks team, a former Sixth Man less than a point a night away from leading the league in scoring and a brand-new coach just six games into the Lakers’ season - it’s understandable not to know where to look.

Here are five places to start:
1. Early-Season Call-Ups
Few things have defined the first two weeks of the NBA as much as the undefeated and historically old Knicks’ homage to Old School. Outside of, of course, a leaguewide plague of injuries.

In L.A., Steve Nash is out with a leg fracture, Kobe Bryant’s battling through foot pain and Dwight Howard’s still shaking off the effects of offseason back surgery and the accompanying time off. In D.C., John Wall’s leg injury has the Wizards off to another crawling start. Former Laker Andrew Bynum’s surgically repaired knee has kept him out of the Sixers’ lineup all year; in Dallas, Dirk’s suffering a simliar fate. In Indy, Danny Granger might be out until the All-Star break.

So there are some needs piling up. NBA teams won’t go searching the NBA D-League for players to replace their aching All-Stars. They will, though, go looking for the kind of players who will round out rotations in need of depth with key cogs out.

By position, these look like the first five guys to go.

C: Henry Sims - The big man outta Georgetown still has years of growth (the skills and mental kind - at 7 feet tall, he’s probably done with other types) ahead of him, but he can do some damage in the lane.

PF: JaJuan Johnson - The league’s No. 1 overall prospect has size, skill and NBA experience. Still needs more strength, but has far more polish than most bigs who end up in NBA D-League.

SF: Chris Douglas-Roberts - Former star on the rise has faded over past two years, but clearly has NBA chops.

SG: Andrew Goudelock - Mini-Mamba’s working to turn himself into more of a point guard, but if you need a shooter in a pinch, you could certainly do worse than the Lakers’ former reserve firecracker.

PG: Ben Uzoh - The veteran of 44 NBA games looked good in Summer League and has the defensive prowess to harrass opponents from the start; offense still limited, but D makes up for it.

2. The Old (Mid-Major) College Try

One of the best parts about every NBA D-League season comes when a school sees its first-ever player reach the NBA. Last year, for example, Siena grad and 2011-12 NBA D-League Rookie of the Year Edwin Ubiles became the first former Saints player to ever play in an NBA regular season game when he saw a few minutes for the Wizards on Mar. 21.

This year, the highest-drafted player who could pull the same feat is High Point University’s (N.C.) Shay Shine - the Texas Legends guard and owner of a name as smooth as his game - who would become the first High Point player to ever reach the NBA. As a footnote, note, High Point grad Gene Littles was drafted by the Knicks in 1969, but opted to play his six pro seasons in the ABA, where he helped lead the Kentucky Colonels to a league championship in the year before the merger.
3. What Bigs Stand Tallest

If you’re an American standing between 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9, you’re probably extraordinarily good at any one of these things:
  • Putting the star on Christmas trees
  • Seeing over people at movies
  • Ducking

But your probability of playing in the NBA, according to TruthAboutIt.Net (a Wizards blog), sits right around .07 percent. Add three or four inches, though, and crack 7 feet, and you’ve got yourself a 17 percent chance of playing in The Association. Or, in the case of Brook Lopez, star in The Association.

And right now, the NBA D-League boasts 11 players standing seven feet tall or higher, with Idaho’s Will Foster leading the pack at 7-foot-5. But the two skyscrapers that our editors predict to reach the NBA first come in at just a meek seven feet, flat. The more obvious choice is Henry Sims, the center just out of Georgetown who spent time in Knicks camp this fall. But don’t forget about Brian Cusworth, the former Harvard center - and teammate of Jeremy Lin - who was a lightning rod in his three-plus seasons in Cambridge. Only problem is that he was shaped like one, too.

But Cusworth’s tacked on 30 pounds or so - allegedly of muscle - in the past five years, and after playing in Spain’s highest division, he’s the sleeper to watch.

For more on the league's biggest bigs, check out the work the Ridiculous Upside crew did with their big-man breakdown.
4. Can Japeth Do It?

>> CLICK HERE FOR NBADLEAGUE.COM'S EXCLUSIVE WITH AGUILAR

By the time you’re reading this, the preseason will be approximately one coffee break old, but it’s already enjoyed one of the year’s best moments. When the Draft went live on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. ET, tens of thousands of people tuned in over the course of the night. More than two-thirds came from America.

The second-biggest viewer share? The few thousand people who tuned in live from the Philippines, starting at 8 a.m. Manila Time on their Saturday morning. They came first to see if their native son, Japeth Aguilar - a bungie cord of a forward who played ball at Western Kentucky before heading back to play pro ball back home - had a chance of being selected.

Then they came to see if he’d go in the early rounds. Then, the middle rounds. Then, because they’d already sank so much time into the whole thing, they wanted to see if he’d go at all. And when the Santa Cruz Warriors selected Aguilar with the 13th pick of the 7th round, Manila went mad.

Here’s the picture:
Click on the picture above and scroll to the 9:08 mark in the chat. There's a lot more.

At 6-foot-9 with elastic quickness, Aguilar might be the best basketball player to ever come out of the Philippines - a country desperately in love with hoops and dying to find its version of Yao - but does he have the skills to stick with the Warriors, let alone make the NBA?

He barely played at WKU, and while he improved in the Philippines Professional Basketball Association (with who else but the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters!), he didn’t really qualify as an Impact Player, per se.

Earlier this year, Santa Cruz Warriors GM Kirk Lacob told NBADLeague.com that one of the hardest parts of his job is when he “had to say there are 10 of you and there are 15 roster spots on Golden State, and if we had five guys and you 10, that might not work." The pyramid gets pretty small when you get to this level, and while Aguilar may have more upside than most, the price of chasing upside is paid for in the present.
5. Winning vs. Development

As a GM, when you’re putting together an NBA D-League club - a process that some stick-figure interns and pictures graciously lay out for us here - you’ve got a couple different priorities.

With teams like Rio Grande Valley and Texas, where the Rockets and Mavericks have long tried to erase the line between their NBA and NBA D-League teams, you can bet that the NBA clubs were behind the affiliates’ trades last week. Others - especially in the world of multiple affiliations - get a little murkier. But it all means that there’ll be a few guys on every single team who pan out as legitimate, get-‘em-in-the-lineup-tonight NBA guys, a few chunks of raw material with long-term Prospects and some glue guys to tie them all together into a team.

THE TRADING FLOOR

Last Monday saw a total of 29 players (31 if you include future NBA D-League Draft picks) change clubs, as 15 of 16 teams made trades on the first day they were officially allowed to after the Draft. At least 10 of those players should spend some time in the NBA this year. Check out our gallery to find out the Top Prospects in Transit.

ALUMNI NEWSLETTER

Jamaal Tinsley leads us off this week, as the former L.A. D-Fenders point guard became the fifth player since 1985-86 to go scoreless while logging 14 or more assists in a game (per ESPN Stats & Info’s Twitter feed), when he went off for exactly that against Phoenix on Nov. 10.

Elsewhere, fellow 2011-12 D-Fender (though not at the same time, because the Jazz plucked Tinsley out of the NBA D-League like a gray hair) Gerald Green was featured on NBA.com’s home page poll over the weekend, with the .com guys asking fans their choice for the NBA’s best dunker. Because we want you to make an informed decision, here’s the last game Green played in the NBA D-League: the 2011-12 NBA Development League All-Star game, in which he brought quite a bit of thunder.

Now who wants to hear about some rebounding! Because alumnus Marcin Gortat's been doing a ton of it, pulling down 10.7 boards a game -- good for fourth in the NBA -- and averaging a double-double with 12.6 ppg for the Suns. And he might have had the game of his career last Wednesday, going for 23 points, 10 boards and seven blocks against the Bobcats.
Notes from Underground
There's chatter a-plenty on the web after the year's first two Assignments came down, and news about Japeth Aguilar went halfway around the world.

Ridiculous Upside continues its strong preseason coverage with some love thrown toward a talented-looking crew in Santa Cruz, which is set to make its NBA D-League debut in a few short weeks.

The Portland (Maine) Press Herald speaks to the various backgrounds -- from NBA veteran to career journeyman -- that make up an NBA D-League roster in its breakdown of the players that reported to Red Claws camp.

Hernando Planells, a Filipino-American basketball coach, briefs the Asian Journal on what Aguilar's about to face in his bid to make the Santa Cruz Warriors' 10-man roster.

Project Spurs takes notice of the three Austin Toros in our Prospect Watch, and celebrates a strong minor league core to back up an aging NBA corps.

Rant Sports tells the tale of Alonzo Gee, who went from an NBA D-Leaguer to a starter for the Cleveland Cavaliers.