Five Reasons To Watch Rio Grande Valley vs. Reno On VERSUS

by Matthew Brennan, NBA

On Saturday night, the Reno Bighorns will visit the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on VERSUS, with the action starting at 11 p.m. ET. If you are wondering why you should check out this week's NBA D-League game, here are five good reasons why you should tune in to VERSUS to see some of the NBA D-League's top prospects.

1. Hybrid-Affiliations

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are the NBA D-League's most unique team, because they are the first to play a season under the NBA D-League's hybrid-affiliation system. To explain, the Houston Rockets, the Vipers' NBA affiliate, are in charge of all basketball operations for the team. They've hired the coaching staff (Vipers coach Chris Finch is also the head coach of the British National Team) and make the decisions regarding roster moves. So far the system has been working well with the Vipers leading the way in the West Conference. There has been plenty of movement between the two teams, with NBA D-League All-Star Joey Dorsey as well as rookie guard Jermaine Taylor joining the Vipers for assignment stints, while the Rockets have granted GATORADE Call-Ups to both Mike Harris and Will Conroy (Conroy is still with the Rockets, while Harris has returned to the Vipers). Rockets point guard dynamo Aaron Brooks also spent some time in Rio Grande Valley back in the 2007-08 season. If you are a Rockets fan and want to see some players who might be joining the club at some point this season, check out the game on VERSUS Saturday night after your Rockets take on the Philadelphia 76ers.

2. The NBA D-League's Top Player?

Saturday's VERSUS contest will give you a look at one of the NBA D-League's top players, and arguably the league's top MVP candidate, in Rio Grande Valley's Mike Harris. Harris, already the recipient of a GATORADE Call-Up to the Rockets earlier this season, is a 6-6 forward who has been simply dominant for the Vipers after being allocated prior to the season. The Rice product is second in the league with 26.9 points per game and third with 10.7 rebounds. A more telling stat is that the Vipers are 18-5 this season when Harris is in the lineup. He also exploded for one of the top NBA D-League individual performances ever when he scored 48 points with 24 rebounds (both season highs for any player) against Sioux Falls on January 17. Catch Harris with the Vipers now because you are likely to see him back in the NBA in the near future.

3. Leading A Rebounding Movement

Even if you've never watched an NBA D-League game, you probably know about Reno center Rod Benson from his popular blogging at Yahoo! Sports as well as his own personal website. Saturday's game will give you a chance to get a look at Rod Benson, the basketball player. Over the past few years, Benson has been one of the NBA D-League's top rebounders and defensive players from the center position. This season he is averaging 13.2 points and 8.0 rebounds for Reno, while ranking sixth in the league with 1.7 blocks and 11th with 1.6 steals per game.

4. Farming For Points

This Saturday's game will feature one of the NBA D-League's most prolific scorers in Reno guard Desmon Farmer Farmer, one of only five players in NBA D-League history with over 2,000 career points, entered the season fifth overall on the all-time scoring ranks and has since moved up to second place with 2,843 total points. He should be ready for a big game on Saturday after getting passed over for the NBA D-League All-Star Game, despite ranking fourth in the league with 24.2 points per game. Farmer, always capable of a huge scoring performance, has topped 30 points in seven games this year, including a 41-point outing on January 16.

5. Shooting For The Top Spot

If you caught the Iowa Energy's game on VERSUS two weeks ago, you saw the best team in the East Conference in action. If you watch this week's game, you will be able to say the same about the top team in the West Conference. The Vipers started the season hot and haven't let up all year by maintaining a stranglehold on the top spot in the West. As of Friday morning, they are four games ahead of Austin with a 21-7 record, behind only Iowa among all NBA D-League teams. These are pretty exciting teams in Rio Grande Valley, as the team has not finished above .500 in either of their first two seasons of NBA D-League basketball. Barring a total collapse, it looks like the loyal fans of the Vipers will be seeing playoff basketball for the first time in 2010. Since a good amount of this year's playoff games will also be in VERSUS, Saturday is a great opportunity to get a good look at a Vipers team that should be making a big impact on the postseason.