D-League presents opportunity for Denver Nuggets rookie
Denver Nuggets assistant Melvin Hunt was a member of the Houston Rockets coaching staff when he heard the story of a high school player considering making the jump to the NBA.
Projected as a first-round draft pick, Ndudi Ebi had great talent, but Hunt knew it would be difficult for anyone to bypass a college scholarship for the bright lights of the pros.
As a late first-round pick, Ebi probably would land on a playoff-caliber team with limited playing opportunities for a rookie. Even in practice, his participation in five-on-five scrimmages likely would be inconsistent, at best.
“His games were going to be 3-on-3 after practice – probably with the coaches,” Hunt recalled.
Ebi later entered his name in the 2003 NBA Draft and was selected 26th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, a veteran-laden team led by All-Star forward Kevin Garnett.
In two NBA seasons, Ebi appeared in 19 games before being waived by Minnesota in 2005.
Fast-forward seven years, and Nuggets rookie Quincy Miller is going through a similar situation in Denver.
Miller went pro after his freshman year at Baylor University and was drafted 38th overall last June. Talented and eager to learn, he joined a Nuggets team loaded with options at the wing.
Miller did not appear in a preseason game or a regular-season game before being assigned to Iowa of the NBA Development League on Nov. 12.
“It’s kind of payday for him,” Hunt said. “It’s an opportunity for him to take all the things he’s worked on and put it on the floor. He gets a chance to play. For us (coaches) and his teammates, we’re all excited for him.”
Miller scored 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in his first game with Iowa. Based on texts he’s exchanged with Miller and Iowa’s coaches, Hunt believes the 20-year-old will continue to produce for the Energy.
“Some guys take it as a prison sentence,” Hunt said. “He’s pumped because he gets to play … There’s nothing like getting out there when they’re popping popcorn. He can get out there and do his thing.”
Miller and the Energy play back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. The games can be seen live on the NBA D-League YouTube Channel.