The website “D-League Digest” recently sought opinions from basketball writers to try to determine which NBA franchises have most effectively used the development league since the circuit’s 2001 debut. Two of New Orleans’ divisional rivals, Houston and San Antonio, finished first and second, respectively, while the Hornets wound up near the bottom of the rankings.
Although New Orleans hasn’t relied heavily on the D-League over the past decade, based on the background of first-year Hornets general manager Dell Demps, that could quickly be changing. In a move that officially confirmed what had been reported by various media outlets last month, the Hornets signed point guard Mustafa Shakur, a D-League standout.
Demps spent the previous five seasons in the San Antonio organization and was the general manager of the Spurs’ D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros. During the 2009-10 season, Shakur was a member of the Tulsa 66ers, averaging 19.2 points and 6.9 assists. The former University of Arizona product was selected to the D-League All-Star team last winter and tallied 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals in the All-Star Game. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder was called up to the NBA by Tulsa’s NBA partner, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shakur did not appear in any Thunder games, however, so he has yet to play in an official NBA game. Incidentally, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s GM is Sam Presti, like Demps a former member of the San Antonio front office.
Shakur has appeared in a total of seven NBA preseason games, playing for Sacramento in 2007 and Minnesota in 2009. He was a highly-touted high school prospect before playing four seasons at Arizona. Now 26 years old, Shakur was chosen to appear in the 2003 McDonald’s All-America game, which coincidentally also featured current Hornets players Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza, along with eventual New Orleans second-round draft picks James Lang (2003) and Brandon Bass (2005).