Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Six games in. What have we learned at the D-League Showcase?

The 2014 D League Showcase is six games old and at least one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me. The crystallization is: the play of the "BIGs" in the D-League is nowhere close to how good the BIGs of the NBA are. This is obvious on the defensive end. Players that can penetrate are rewarded more in the D-League due to less resistance at the rim. This is a crucial aspect to understand when evaluating players here. It simply doesn't impress me that Manny Harris can penetrate and score against back line help from Justin Hamilton. I'm not picking on Hamilton, I'm just using him as a prime example of why you would be wise to discount (not totally dismiss, but discount) big numbers from penetrating guards. I'm also not picking on Manny Harris, who Sam Amick reported, has been the subject of inquiry from the Oklahoma City Thunder. (My take on Harris is documented in my pre D-League Showcase blog. ) ...For much of the game this evening, the Los Angeles Defenders played with Jamario Moon (a skinny, 6'8", 205 lb. small forward), as their Center.  That too speaks volumes about how easy it can be to score near the rim in the D-League.

This also is not to say that there are not any shot blocking BIGs here. Tony Mitchell, although credited with just two blocks in the official box-score, had at least four blocked shots as a power forward paint protector today. Dallas Lauderdale blocked seven shots in a game for Idaho this morning. I'm saying that, in general, it is easy to see that the defensive play in the paint is just not very good compared to the NBA.

Scouting thoughts: Trey McKinney-Jones is a better athlete than I realized he was. He is more than just a wing shooter.  ...Dewayne Dedmon is efficient but raw. He heavily favors his right hand and is very predictable when isolated low. I think he could be an NBA player just on hustle plays with his length and athleticism. But he is not ready to be a guy you run plays for (other than ally-oops at the rim in the D-League). ...I heard it said that Ron Howard reminds some of a mini Ray Allen. For me, James Nunnally fits that description better. I liked Nunnally in Summer League, and I liked him again last night in Bakersfield's romp over Sioux Falls. Nunnally just plays, and makes shots. He is a fantastic complementary teammate. ...Rudy Gobert, on assignment from the Utah Jazz, was dominant in that same Bakersfield game. Gobert and Ike Diogu looked like sixth graders playing against kindergartners. Diogu, I'm certain, is still an NBA caliber power forward. I've believed for some time that Diogu is better than at least a half-dozen guys in the NBA right now. (You want names? I'd take Diogu before Jan Vesely, Udonis Haslem, Darrell Arthur, Charlie Villanueva, Jeff Adrien, or Matt Bonner.) "Big Ike" might not look enthused but I think that is just his natural demeanor. He remains efficient on a per-minute basis whether he smiles or not. ...Josiah Turner caught my eye. The 21 year-old L.A. Defenders' point guard has had issues with immaturity but there is no denying the natural basketball playing ability he has. He is an NBA athlete and he has good vision with the ball in his hands. He has great quickness and the ability to break his man down off the dribble. His help defense, on the other hand, is, shall we say, "a work in progress."

Brownlee went HAM
My All D- League Showcase Team for the first six games:

PG: Nando De Colo, Pierre Jackson.
SG: James Nunnally, Darren White, A.J. Davis.
SF: Justin Brownlee, Jamario Moon, Kellen Thornton, James Southerland.
PF: Ike Diogu, Malcolm Thomas.
C: Rudy Gobert, Dallas Lauderdale.

NOTES: The NBA was wise to choose Reno and the Events Center as a host for the Showcase. Teams stay at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino, which is just one block from the where the basketball games are played. The entire setup is fan friendly, and team friendly. 24 hour restaurants are available without leaving the premises. The casino provides something to do during downtime.  ...Former Sacramento Kings player Conner Henry is the Head Coach of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. They showed heart in the second half of their game with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Fort Wayne rallied from a 22 point deficit to win.

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