Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pre D-League Showcase 2014. Narrowing the focus.

It is 2:28 am Sunday morning, and in a few hours I will be off to Reno for the NBA D-League Showcase. In advance of the trip – I did a statistical audit of the D-League’s 2013-14 season to date. The results of the audit will help me focus, from the first jump ball, on players that are efficient. It also helps me sift out players that just are not producing.

By now, after their college careers, and summer league play – I have a feel for many of the prospects’ games. What I intend to gain by going on this scouting mission is to see these players in person, and to use my own feel for whether or not they are “NBA athletes”. I also like to further scrutinize their ability to defend. I observe their shot selection, their willingness to play team-ball, and their natural ability to stay enthused.

Here is a peek into a handful of players that intrigue me prior to the start of the Showcase:

Malcolm Thomas – Austin. Thomas is a member of the Spurs currently on assignment in the D-League. The former San Diego St. standout is starting to make the three-point shot with increased accuracy (18 of 37, 48% in D-League games this season). He is also making better decisions with the ball. Thomas owns a 1.44-to-1 ast-to-T.O. ratio which also strengthens his case to be looked at as a potential wing player. Thomas is an underrated shot blocker at 6’9” but a wiry 225 lbs. He is too often over-matched at PF. He doesn't rebound the ball well enough to be effective in the NBA as a FOUR. But if Thomas can defend NBA small forwards, continue to hit three-point shots,  and maintain that positive assist-to-turnover ratio, – that could be a game changer for his career.

Richard Howell – Idaho. 6’8” 257. I thought Howell was NC State’s best player on a team filled with prospects last season. He is a dependable rebounder and low post player. Howell became the fifth player in Wolfpack history to record 1,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds. He has a nice feel for the game. He can score in the low post or facing the hoop. He worked to improve each season. He raised his scoring and rebounding averages each year at N.C. St. ...Howell's standing reach is 8'9.5" (same as Paul Millsap). So far in the D-League’s young season, Howell has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (something he could not boast in college). ...Howell's overall efficiency suggests he can be a top-tier NBA reserve power forward. …On the down-side, Howell was just a 63% free throw shooter in college.  So far in the D-League, Howell is shooting 61% from the line.

Dedmon is Warriors property. 
Dewayne Dedmon – Santa Cruz. Dedmon is averaging 16 points, and 15 rebounds per game. He is the most efficient Center in the D-League. The seven-footer from USC has a solid defensive rating, and he is blocking shots and rebounding at a high level. He is property of the Golden State Warriors. 

Arinze Onuaku – Canton. Onuaku is a 6’9” BIG that has been scoring enough in the D-League to make NBA teams consider that maybe he is a bit more than just a rebounder/tough guy in the paint. The former Syracuse paint protector still can’t make his free throws with any consistency (55%).

Robert Covington – Rio Grande Valley. Covington is a productive forward that currently is shooting the long-ball at a lower rate (31.7%) than his college numbers suggested. That said, Covington IS scoring and rebounding well in the D-League. He knocks down his foul shots too (88%). Covington is a classic "late-bloomer". He changed his body during college - going from a skinny 175 lbs. out of high school to a more suitable 215 lbs. this season. His standing reach is 8'10" (equal to reach of Thaddeus Young, Kyle Singler, and Wes Johnson). Covington made the Portsmouth Invitational All-Tournament Team.

Nando De Colo – Austin. De Colo is a member of the San Antonio Spurs that has used the D-League to sharpen his combo-guard game. He’s only played in five games in the “D”, and he may not be playing in the Showcase. I’ve liked De Colo for a while now. His defensive rating in the small sample size is excellent, and he already posted NBA efficiency per-minute numbers, as a rookie last season, that have me convinced he could be a “rotation” player in the NBA right now. De Colo scores at a high rate per-minute, while maintaining a 1.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Eric Dawson – Austin. 6’9” 255. Big man is 29 years old and he is still rebounding and blocking shots at a high rate.

Thornton. Does he play any D?
Kellen Thornton – Idaho. Thornton’s efficiency per minute is the highest among players who have logged over 150 minutes in the D-League this season. He is a 6’7”, 215 lb. forward that is rebounding and scoring at a high rate. However, his defensive rating is terrible, and he’s been a “minus” in his last seven games. Is there ANY hope for his defense? If there is, he may be a player worth watching closely.

Othyus Jeffers – Iowa. I’ve always admired Jeffers’ game. He plays D, he gets to the free throw line, and he helps on the boards from the guard spot. If he could somehow shoot the long-ball better, and make better decisions with the ball, he would be a better prospect. At 6’5” 210, he physically fits right into the mold of a TWO in the NBA.  But the negative assist-to-turnover ratio and poor deep perimeter shooting are why Jeffers is in the D-League.

Manny Harris – Los Angeles. Harris is another case of a shooting guard that does not knock down the deep ball very well (25% 3-pt.). That said, Harris may be the best prospect as a “scorer” in the D-League. Harris puts pressure on defenses with his ability to penetrate. He gets to the foul line often (85% FT). He is not quite a point guard but his 1.17-to-1 ast-to-T.O. ratio is passable for a combo guard.

Jamario Moon – Los Angeles. Moon is perhaps the most versatile player in the D-League. He hits threes at an accurate percentage (44%), he blocks shots, and he has an outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3-to-1). He’s an 81% free throw shooter, and he plays defense. There is a lot to like about Moon’s game results so far this season. At age 33, is anyone willing to give him another shot?

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