How is it going Razzball Nation? Another week down and what a week it has been both in and out of the NBA. The nation voted, The world waited and BOOM!!………………But let us take a break from politics and let your good buddy Craig guide you through some more NBA development news.
The season is just a few weeks old but boy do I need to take stock and catch breath. We saw it rain 3’s for Stephen Curry against the Pelicans; We saw it rain assists for James Harden, putting up 72 in his last 5 games,;We have seen it rain blocks for Anthony Davis, putting up 3 or more blocks in 7 of his first 9 games; and seen the Hornets reign the East in the early part of the season with an impressive 6-1 record.
So where do we start today? Well with the D-League having started last nigh,t what better way than to highlight a few guys whose progress I will be tracking throughout the season. The D-League may seem like a glass ceiling of a graveyard for some, but often presents opportunity for players to showcase their talents in the hope of impressing for that elusive rotational run in the NBA. Back in 2014 we came across a guy called Hassan Whiteside, whom after being drafted back in 2010 by the Sacramento Kings with the 33rd overall pick, got signed with the Miami Heat after 3 seasons in the D-League……………The rest is history.
The latest former D-League star to find himself ample opportunity of late is the Timberwolves Tyus Jones. The former 1st round pick not only picked up 2016 summer league MVP honors, but also averaged 24.7 points, 5 assists, 1.5 steals whilst shooting 92% from the line and 42.6% from downtown in his time in the D-league last season. Currently with Ricky Rubio out indefinitely (although rumors are circulating that he may return today), the former Duke product has had a chance to demonstrate his big league game – much to the annoyance of Kris Dunn owners – and over the past two contests has averaged 11 points, 3.5 steals, 6 assists and 4.5 rebounds. There has been grumblings about a potential Tyus Jones trade to Philadelphia, and with the current opportunity to showcase his talents, it is difficult to bet against a potential trade sooner rather than later.
So rather than write off players from the D-League, here are some of the more recent graduations from the D-League who are currently on NBA rosters hoping to make an impact in the NBA in 2016/17 and beyond:
- Tim Frazier (New Orleans Pelicans)
- Jamychal Green (Memphis Grizzlies)
- Traveon Graham (Hornets)
- Justin Hamilton (Nets)
- DeAndre Liggins (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Rodney Mcgruder (Miam Heat)
- Jordan McRae (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Arinze Onuaku (Orlando Magic)
- Willie Reed (Miami Heat)
- Jonathan Simmons (San Antonio Spurs)
- Jarnell Stokes (Denver Nuggets)
- Christian Wood (Philadelphia 76’s)
- Semaj Christon (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Ok, so maybe not the most noteworthy of lists so let’s get to the nitty-gritty, and look at some D-League players drafted late who are worth sticking on the watch list who may be better than you think:
Abdel Nader, Forward, Maine Red Claws (Drafted by Boston):
This selection optimized everything I liked about what the Celtics did on draft day after being blasted by many for having a ‘boring draft’, and that they should have done better with all the picks they had (an opinion I did not share). With the 58th selection of the draft the Celtics selected Egyptian born Abdel Nader out of Iowa State. After showing some excellent flashes in the preseason, Nader will have an opportunity to link up with Demetrius Jackson (another Celtics 2nd round draftee) for the Red Claws in 2016/17. The former Iowa State transfer has a very versatile game and what he lacks in elite athleticism (although still a plus athlete) makes up for with his versatility and high basketball IQ. His ability to drive the lane should give him every opportunity to shine and if he can improve on his jump shooting, especially from range, then Nader has the kind of game that could well put him in contention for D-League MVP honors come seasons end. Keep Nader on the watch list, as his versatility on both ends of the floor and his maturity as a basketball player is likely to lead to the NBA down the road.
Isaiah Cousins, Guard, Reno Bighorns (Drafted by Sacramento):
One of my favorite draft day steals, Isaiah Cousins will open his 2016/17 campaign playing for the Reno Bighorns. Do not be fooled by the fact that this kid was the 2nd to last pick of the draft, this kid can play. Drafted out of Oklahoma (along with Buddy Hield) the combo guard mustered up averages of 12.6 points, 4.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds. The 6’4 guard started his college career at the 2, but adapted well to being the team’s point guard last season. The most notable headliner about Cousins at his time at Oklahoma was his ability to improve his range, ending up shooting over 40% from downtown. This tenacious, hard playing combo has every opportunity to shift the almost ‘Mr irrelevant’ tag over time what with the on/off Ben McLemore trade rumors, the Kings struggles in recent seasons from the 2, and the variety of game that Cousins has to offer. Reno will be a fun side to monitor in the early gong in the D-League, with a lineup that will consist of Cousins, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis. It is likely that we won’t see Cousins in the NBA for the duration of the season, but remember the name and keep him on your watch list.
Ben Bentil, Forward, Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Drafted by Boston):
Selected 51st overall by the Boston Celtics, the Ghana born forward will have an opportunity to light up the D-League in 2016/17 for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. After being waived by both the Celtics and Pacers post draft. The former Providence star will now showcase his talents as an affiliate player of the Pacers, hoping to demonstrate that he is one of the more talented forwards in the D-League after finishing his college career on a high. He posted 5 double doubles during his last 12 games for Providence after a somewhat slow start, and won the Big East most improved player award for 2016. An outstanding performance at the NBA combine demonstrated the athletic ability of the forward as well, and his ability to play pick and roll basketball (albeit helped by playing on the same team as Kris Dunn) left plenty of scouts intrigued by Bentil’s ability to play on the offensive end, especially as a forward capable of stretching the floor. There is a big journey ahead before Bentil is potentially ready to contribute in the NBA, needing to both learn the game on the defensive end and develop a better natural read for the game; but the offensive upside is one to monitor throughout the season in the D-League as this is a player in a couple of seasons could develop into an excellent role player in the NBA.
Join me next week for more player development news in and around the NBA.
All statistics are correct at time of writing (Friday 11th of November). You can find me on Twitter @storytelling41