Sunday, January 18, 2015

D League Showcase three days in

Annually I attend the NBA D-League Showcase, using it as a transition point in my "scouting calendar". From Summer League through the second week of January, it's all about the NBA. The D-League gets special attention at this time of year (totally due to the Showcase), and college hoops has "next" leading up to the NBA Draft. The beauty of doing it this way is the natural progression from seeing the first half of the NBA season (before losing front offices send the message to the coaching staff that wins do not matter), to the D-League, to college. My eyes and brain are NBA sharp as I enter the D-League Showcase.

It never takes long to see that the play from NBA to D-League can be easily summed up. The D-League just does NOT have the depth of quality BIGs you see from night to night in the NBA. There ARE big men in the D-League. Santa Cruz plays 7'0" 240 lb. Ognjen Kuzmic, and Hasheem Thabeet is also a D-League starter, at 7'2". But there just are not a bunch of super talented tall and wide players in the D League. Yesterday, I witnessed a Sioux Falls squad that played the majority of the game with a 6'8" guy (Shawn Jones) at Center. Meanwhile, opponent Earl Barron, a 6'11" 230 lb., veteran feasted in the paint. 

Westbrook is a "hyper-athlete"
The next obvious characteristic that separates the NBA from the D-League is the quantity of hyper-athletes.  The D-League has its fair share of athletic cats but the NBA has the THE best athletes in the world in my opinion. From Russell Westbrook to Eric Bledsoe, to Derrick Rose, to Blake Griffin, to LeBron James, and on and on and on, an elite level NBA athlete is easy to recognize. In the D-League, you can still see an athlete of that caliber but there are much fewer.   

Observations after three days: ...Jared Cunningham is a kid that should be in the NBA. He is simply too gifted to not have a chance at being a good NBA player. Yes, his shot selection can be sketchy. But a good coach can change that, or at least improve it to the point where Cunningham doesn't hurt a team by jacking an early three point shot. Cunningham is cat-quick, and he jumps with explosiveness. His creativity on the pick and roll will always give him a chance to score. ...Earl Barron is what he is. He is 33 years old. Upside is not a part of the discussion. That said, I think he could help an NBA team as a rotation BIG. ...Willie Reed and Arinze Onuaku are also ready to make NBA teams. With any NBA attrition, Reed or Onuaku should be in line to be called up. ...I STILL like Renaldo Balkman's game. He is all over the court. ...Omari Johnson (Oregon State) had an impressive game Friday. He had 26 points in 27 minutes, knocking down six threes. Johnson is now 25 years old. He was draft eligible in 2011. ...Santa Cruz as host is completely different than Reno. The plus/minus on that will be explored in a later blog.

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