Saturday, January 11, 2014

Post D League Showcase Report

Open 24 hours, an ideal location
for the D-League Showcase
Five days in Reno allowed time to scout and crunch numbers on the players in the NBA D-League. The annual Showcase, held at the Reno Event Center, was a basketball lover's paradise with three or four games each day. Not surprisingly, players on assignment from NBA clubs dominated the action.

I am a tough critic, and to be honest, aside from four or five guys, I didn't see much from any current non-NBA player at the Showcase that made me believe, 'this guy should be in the NBA right now!'. For what its worth, I have had that feeling only twice when it comes to the D-League. The first time was a couple years back in the D-League All-Star Game when Gerald Green went koo koo. The most recent time was the day Kendall Marshall entered the D League player pool. 

Big Ike can score.
Can he stop anybody? 
I did see glimpses of greatness in the Biggest Little City in the World. Josiah Turner has the high-ceiling ability to make plays that mirrored NBA speed. Ron Howard and James Nunnally played with the poise of true NBA players. Ike Diogu put opponents in his low-post 'torture chamber'. James Southerland shot the ball, in rhythm, like a seasoned NBA vet. 

However, the vast majority of players in the D-League are in the minors for a reason. This is not meant to be harsh. It is simply reality. The National Basketball Association is a tough player pool to break into; the toughest in the world. You can pick apart every player in the D-League's individual game in some fashion, fairly easily, when held to the NBA standard. For example, let's look quickly at the five players listed as the "Top Prospects" on the D-League website, and then tell you why they are in the D-League to begin with...
  • Pierre Jackson - He's a scoring guard in a 5'10" frame. 1.21-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is not NBA point guard worthy. At 5'10" - he'd be in big trouble guarding a position where the average NBA starter is 6'4"
  • Devin Ebanks - His poor shot selection, below average shooting percentage, and below-average decision making with the ball are as much a part of his game as the positive things he does. 
  • Dewayne Dedmon - Still raw. Not a guy you run plays for. Very predictably going to his right. Turnover prone. 
  • Jarvis Varnado - Not good offensively. He turns it over more than three times for every one assist. A center in a power forward's body. 
  • Manny Harris - A shooting guard that can't shoot from deep. He's 24% from 3-pt. Overall, only 44% FG. 
All of the above players may well be in the NBA before the 2013-14 season is complete. Or... they just as easily, in my opinion, could remain in the D-League to try to improve or maybe cash in with a big contract overseas. 

Siva is a natural leader
How about what we liked? ...After much scrutiny, and with all things considered, here is how we rate the top 15 players we witnessed in Reno. 

1. Peyton Siva -  Fort Wayne / Detroit. 6'0" PG. Age 23. ...Siva is steady. While I don't really see much upside in his game, he showed that he can run a team, defend, limit turnovers, and be a leader. His 2.23-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is solid. His poise and effort is outstanding. 

2. Nando De Colo - Austin / San Antonio. 6'5" SG. Age 26. ...De Colo is a combo guard that really needs to take better care of the ball to be called a point guard. His average athleticism is notable as well. But De Colo is also skilled, and he gives an honest effort on defense. He gained favor in my eyes with his focus and approach to the game.  

3. Rudy Gobert - Bakersfield / Utah. 7'2" C. Age 21. ...Gobert used his superior height and finesse to do just about anything he wanted to do in Reno. He has rebounded the ball at a ridiculous rate (.446 rebounds per-minute) in his time in the D-League. 

4. Dominic McGuire -  Santa Cruz. 6'9" PF. Age 28. ...McGuire remains the kind of guy you could put in an NBA game and he would fit right in. He does nothing spectacularly but he rarely makes mistakes. In Reno, he rebounded the ball well, and played a team game with nine assists and only four turnovers in 79 minutes. 

5. Gilbert Brown - Canton. 6'6" SG. Age 26. ...Brown busted 24 points in a win over Texas on Tuesday. He is an NBA athlete without question. Since being put into the Charge starting lineup four games ago, Brown is averaging 20.0 points, 5.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds. 

6. Jamario Moon - Los Angeles. 6'8" SF. Age 33. ...Moon is playing out of position most of the time for the L.A. Defenders. At Reno, he played center or power forward. I see him as an NBA small forward. He can hit the three-ball, and he makes good decisions with the ball (2.26-to-1 ast-to-turnover ratio).
7. Lorenzo Brown -  Delaware / Philadelphia. 6'5" PG. Age 23. ...I've never doubted Brown's talent or ability. He has NBA skill. It's always been, "does he bring it?". Thursday, Brown played 41 minutes in a 113-108 loss. His four turnovers were costly. 

Turner drops dimes. 
8. Josiah Turner - Los Angeles. 6'3" PG. Age 21. ...The Sacramento native is playing well in the D-League. Turner is an NBA athlete with the kind of instinctive ability that good NBA players have. His transgressions are well-documented. Can he stay on the right path and be a consistent professional? If he can, I'd expect him to be in the NBA very soon. 

9. Reggie Williams - Tulsa. 6'6" SG. Age 27. ...Williams has always had the ability to score. Nothing has changed. 

10. Jorge Gutierrez - Canton. 6'3", age 25. ...He plays the game the right way. Gutierrez is a defense-first point guard that has never been known as an offensive threat. His D-League numbers on offense are better this season than his historical track record. 

11. Jarvis Varnado - Iowa. 6'9" C/PF. Age 25. ...Varnado is the best shot-blocker that is not in the NBA. His overall game is improving as he adds a bit more offense. But mostly, Varnado is still a rebounder and shot blocker. 

12. Dewayne Dedmon -  Santa Cruz. 7'0" C. Age 24. ...Dedmon is not a guy you run plays for but his activity, rebounding, running, and blocking shots is enough to keep him efficient. He really needs to work on his off-hand (left). 

13. Ty Walker - Maine. 7'0" C. Age 24. ...Once the #2 ranked high-school player of his class by, Ty Walker is now playing well in the D-League. He is a skinny seven footer that has shot-blocking ability. Many of the shots he doesn't block, he alters. 

14. Marshon Brooks - Maine / Boston. 6'5" SG. Age 24. ...Brooks' game is still all about getting himself buckets, but he's such a good scorer that I think he could be asset to a team that needs an offensive spark. Brooks has also made strides in limiting turnovers. He owns a 1.47-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 174 minutes of D-League play this season. 

15. Othyus Jeffers - Iowa. 6'5" SG. Age 28. ...Jeffers can still get to the free throw line, putting pressure on opposing defenses. He also rebounds very well for his size. 

Bonus five with small sample size: 

Kiwi impressed us
at both ends of the floor. 
Kiwi Gardner - Santa Cruz. 5'7" PG. Age 20. ...The Manteca, CA. product is a bundle of energy that provides defensive pressure and aggressive offensive play. He was "up into" whoever he guarded. At the other end of the floor, Gardner scored like a two-guard. He's not well known at all, and not thought of as a potential call-up to the NBA. Yet. 

Kevin Murphy -  Idaho. 6'6" SG. Age 23. ...Freshly acquired by Idaho after a stint in France, Murphy showed that he is still a legitimate scorer. Murphy was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. He appeared in 17 games for Utah during the 2012-13 season. 

Shabazz Muhammad - Iowa / Minnesota. 6'6" SG. Age 21. ...He did what an NBA guy should do in a assignment down in the D-League. Muhammad scored virtually at will in two games at the Showcase. He put up 46 points in 48 minutes. He also snared 18 boards, and had five assists and only one turnover. The five assists are a revelation in his game considering his ball-hog style at UCLA (He had only 27 assists in nearly 1,000 minutes as a Bruin). 

Darius Johnson-Odom -  Springfield. 6'2" SG. Age 24. ..."D.J.O." continues to remind me of Tony Delk. The difference being that Johnson-Odom gets to the free throw line more often. "D.J.O." scored a Springfield Armour record 41 points Thursday. Johnson-Odom most recently was playing in China. 

Marquis Teague - Iowa / Chicago. PG. Age 20. ...Teague has a 1.72-to-1 assist to turnover ratio in the D League. He can "turn the corner" with great speed. He still struggles to make shots with consistency. 

No bueno. ...As always in a competitive environment, there are those at the low end of the spectrum. I only "judge" basketball players, and I'd be remiss if I didn't make a list of those who I just don't see much hope for when it comes to making the NBA. Here are five players I would advise D-League teams to cut loose. 

Abdul Gaddy - Maine. Shooting 34% FG, and puts no pressure on opposing defenses. He's never been efficient. 

Reggie Hearn - Idaho. ...Another guy shooting 34% FG. And he's 59% from the free throw line. More turnovers than assists. 

Bruce Massey - Springfield. Point guard has the good assist-to-turnover ratio but the rest of his game is below average. 

Mychel Thompson - Santa Cruz. Klay's brother can't throw it in the ocean. He's shooting 30% FG. 

Mfon Udofia - Delaware. Simply not efficient. At all. 

Notes: It was cool to meet and mingle with basketball people from all over the world during the Showcase in Reno. Dallas Mavericks international scout Luca Desta was among those curious about what I was doing, taking notes, at the games. Desta could not have been more pleasant and professional. ...USA Today, NBA writer Sam Amick was fun to watch working the room. Amick knows everybody! ...Young, aspiring scout Josh Hallman was another guy that obviously shares the same passion for basketball that I have. ...The trio of Erika Beutler, Josie Pappas, and Leonie Mendoza made the drive from Santa Cruz, where they work in the Warriors' front-office, to support their team. Beutler said she doubts Dewayne Dedmon will be in the D-League much longer with the numbers he's been posting. ...The coffee gelato at Millies24 at the El Dorado Hotel and Casino is to die for. 

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